Voces clamantes in deserto
Di seguito un articolo scritto a quattro mani da Amartya Sen e Desmond Tutu, apparso sulla copia dell’International Herald Tribune del 21 dicembre scorso. Cosa penseremo di noi fra qualche anno allorché riguarderemo indietro, cosa diremo di noi stessi quali eravamo e siamo…
Myanmar is the best example of what can go wrong when authoritarian leaders spearhead economic development. For decades, a brutal military junta has created a modern-day national nightmare, locking up more than 1,100 political prisoners, virtually destroying the country’s education system, crushing any independent media, and carrying out a brutal pogrom against ethnic groups in which more than 3,000 of their villages have been destroyed. Not only are villages wiped out, but these areas are mined to prevent anyone from returning.
The Burmese people have firmly rejected authoritarian rule in their country at every possible opportunity. In their last election, the National League for Democracy, or NLD, the political party of Aung San Suu Kyi, the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient, won 82 percent of the seats in Parliament. In the face of this overwhelming vote for change, the military annulled the results.
In 2003, during one of the brief times when she was not under arrest, Suu Kyi toured the country and spoke of freedom and democracy to huge crowds. The regime, feeling threatened, unleashed their thugs. In what has become known as the May 30th massacre, more than 100 NLD members were murdered and scores of others were brutally beaten.
Over the past 15 years, the United Nations has been ineffective in dealing with Myanmar’s regime despite its efforts. The UN General Assembly has passed 16 consecutive resolutions calling for change in Myanmar; all have been ignored by the regime. The UN Commission on Human Rights passed 13 consecutive resolutions, similarly ignored.
In order to engage with the regime, the Commission on Human Rights appointed four representatives to Myanmar. Each has made many trips to meet with the regime. The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, appointed two special envoys to negotiate political change in Myanmar, who have made repeated visits to the country only to be dismissed by the junta.
The slew of diplomats has been expertly managed by the regime. They used the meetings to curry international favor for “engaging” with the UN while tightening their grip on power and refusing to make any real concessions.
The latest UN envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, Annan’s political chief, was given the same treatment when he recently traveled to Myanmar. Like previous UN envoys, he came away empty handed. Indeed, at the very time he was meeting with Myanmar’s generals, the military was engaged in fresh attacks against ethnic minorities and sentenced two NLD supporters to 14 years in prison.
Just weeks after Gambari’s departure, the International Committee of the Red Cross’s Myanmar operations remain severely restricted; the International Labor Organization referred Myanmar to the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court for malfeasance in respect to forced labor matters.
The twin failures of authoritarian-led development and traditional diplomacy over the past 16 years must be acknowledged before progress can be made. Myanmar has not only failed to develop, it is in the grip of a gigantic humanitarian crisis, because of its governance.
Myanmar has at last been put on the permanent agenda of the Security Council. This has to be followed up. The council has previously acted in situations less severe than Myanmar’s.
The junta is wreaking havoc not only within Myanmar but throughout the region, by causing massive refugee flows, by acquiescing to the trade in methamphetamines and heroin that is spilling across neighbors’ borders, and by its pernicious (some would say deliberate) lack of attention to dealing with the AIDS crisis that has made Myanmar ground zero for new, resistant strains of this horrible disease. These threats were outlined in a report presented to the Security Council in September of last year.
Now that Myanmar is on the council’s agenda, we urge the passage of a nonpunitive resolution that will serve as a baseline for freeing political prisoners, ceasing attacks against Myanmar’s ethnic minorities, and promoting a political dialogue that will lead to the peace and freedom the overwhelming majority of the Burmese people have demanded. The Burmese people deserve our unequivocal support and effective action, which has been postponed far too long.
Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. Amartya Sen received the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economic Science in 1998.