One of the many naive questions I asked when I started learning about the atrocities of the Burmese military regime was, “Why hasn’t the UN stepped in and done anything about this?”
I later learned that the UN’s relative silence on Burma was actually the result of one of the more brilliant moves made by the junta. Apparently to placate its citizens after throwing out the results of the 1990 election, the SLORC announced that it would be opening up the country to foreign investment. Soon money started pouring in from several countries, like Japan, India, and especially China, mostly to fund resource extraction and energy projects. As China’s ties with Burma have gotten stronger, China has threatened to use its veto power on the UN Security Council to block any resolutions that would censure or discipline the Burmese regime.
Fast forward almost 20 years, the SPDC has recently announced the laws that will govern the country’s first election since 1990. Nobody I know around here was surprised when the first peek at the rules revealed that the election would be a farce, without much semblance of an attempt at fairness or openness. However, there is one common hope that I’ve heard expressed, which is that at least this election will force the international community to finally start paying attention. There are numerous signs that this is starting to happen, with bold statements from Canada, the UK, and the Philippines. And now a group of 150 dissident groups from around the world has called for action by the UN, which has prompted a meeting today of the Group of Friends of Burma to be followed by a report to the UN Security Council. Hopefully China will do the right thing.