Burma: How to help?

I usually complain that the Australian media (and Australians in general) pay little attention to elections and other political events in nations nearby to us in the south-east Asian region.  It is somewhat ironic that the ‘election’ which seems to be getting a lot of coverage is one which is so unfair and rigged as to barely justify being called an election at all.  None the less, it is good that people are being regularly reminded of the enormity of the injustices and human rights abuses that are continuing to occur in Burma.

I hope the least we can do is make sure those refugees who have had to flee the oppression and violence are supported and not forced back to danger. Already there are reports that the Thai government is sending back people who have fled the fighting. Along with expressing concern about that possibility, we should look at how we could encourage and support countries in the region who face the main impact of refugees fleeing from Burma.

You can read a post I have written about this on the Asian Correspondent website at this link.

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  1. Andrew

    Is your insistence on referring to Myanmar by its former colonial title an implied comment on the legitimacy of the current regime or a general refusal to accept the right of nation states to determine their own name?

    Should we offering assistance to Siam in dealing with the influx of people fleeing the fighting?


  2. Is your insistence on referring to Myanmar by its former colonial title an implied comment on the legitimacy of the current regime or a general refusal to accept the right of nation states to determine their own name?

    Thanks for your constructive contribution on this difficult topic Bob. I am neither implying nor refusing either of the things you suggest. I use the title of Burma because every refugee from that country I have ever met has used the title of Burma, and I have never heard any of them suggest it would be preferable to call call it Myanmar.

  3. I have a friend who came from Myanmar to Australia in May this year. He has made application for asylum as an ethnic minority person who is persecuted under the current regime. He always refers to his country as Myanmar. When i questioned this he said that Myanmar is an inclusive name encompassing all ethnic groups in his country where as Burma concentrates on the Burmese group and definitely excludes such ethnic groups such as the Chen, Karen and Shan. 10/11/10

  4. In the last couple of years, I have heard a lot of terrible things about Burma. What can be done to stop this particularly abusive regime dead in its tracks?

  5. Looks like no-one knows what to do.And nothing strong in condemnation comes from our near neighbours.Perhaps ,Australians should be asking the following countries for a bit of initiative.Mainland China,Japan Russia and North and South Korea and Vietnam.Why! Because they need to find a common interest so they can like each other… in action.Rather than endless Territorial disputes,which in themselves make freer human rights impossible.If these countries focused together,then the U.S.A. is locked out..not required,and in that itself would make for happier neighbours.Australian Ports could be where the joint move meet…Welcoming different countries then to proceed to Burma.Non Mainland China could be on call to relieve effort,so the Mainland Chinese feel they are OK.If Japan didn’t have a problem with us re whales then that shipping could be used in the effort.The whale fleet could be positioned in a Port in Australia now readied.Idealistic!?Nope!? The chance of death and injury are great! And so is countries deciding that each other are really OK!Forget about trade previously,and use it as pressure.Make them feel exploited everytime Burma thinks it is winning the propoganda stakes.

  6. Phil:

    I’m not sure that ANYONE thinks Burma is winning in the propaganda stakes, except that they have been doing an excellent job of driving dissenters out, to sit for years in camps on the Thai/Burma border.

    I’m sure I read that China is now abducting women from Burma to service the sexual needs of their many excess millions of unpartnered men, a situation brought about by gender selection in abortion clinics.

    Months ago, I saw a television report of Chinese soldiers rounding up young girls from the back blocks of China to work as prostitutes in city brothels, with older women screaming for their release.

    To my knowledge, Vietnam, North Korea and Russia are all communist countries too.

    I’m not sure what makes you think any of them give a rat’s backside about anyone else’s problems, except if they see a chance to benefit from the chaos and take over.

    I don’t think the USA is likely to be “locked out” any time soon. Those who have worked for decades towards the development of an Asia/Pacific Economic Union have included the USA in the mix because they are a very powerful nation, albeit going broke at the hands of manipulative bankers. The USA may even be the driving force behind an APEU.

    I’m not sure how much interest anyone has in allowing Kevin-O-Lemon-O-Mandarin to be its leader. My guess is that he will be peeled off the political spectrum like a worn out orchard sticker when his usefulness has been outgrown.

    The United Nations should be sorting out the conflict in Burma. My guess is that the various member states are about as cohesive as the modern Australian society … coming unstuck over conflicting interests … and then being abused by anyone interested.

  7. Lorikeet- you might want to check on recent events in Russia. They are no longer a communist country, if they ever were. The Soviet Union fell in 1991, and since then there has existed a number of disparate automnomous states, of which one is Russia. The Soviet Union had a single-party political system dominated by the Communist Party. The various states the used ot make up that union are governed in different ways, and although there are many things that Russia could be called now, “Communist” is hardly one of them.

  8. Togret:

    I think the USSR was a totalitarian communist state. I’m not sure what could possibly make you wonder if Russia was ever communist. To my knowledge, pretty much everything was owned, run and controlled by the government. I’m not sure about now.

    It isn’t all that long ago that Russia tried to regain its former states and made incursions into Georgia, and a short civil war followed. This was reported in the media.

    At the time, I was knitting for children in the Caucasus, and beginning to wonder if there would be any kids left to wear the garments. Then during the GFC, the aid agencies said they were too broke to send clothing overseas.

    Now I am knitting in support of our own homeless and destitute people, and the Royal Children’s Hospital in Brisbane, which is being reduced to a “bandaids and crutches” operation, despite burgeoning population. We have been feeding our own people for 6 months out of the last 12, which is a sad indictment on our own government.

    Not long ago, I met a woman from the Ukraine who had come to Australia to visit her daughter and grandchildren. She told me the Ukraine is still a communist state.

    Although she thought Australia was beautiful, she said various commodities were too expensive and the weather was too hot. She said she preferred the Ukraine to Australia (where it is freezing!), but when it was a member state of the USSR, she liked it even better!

    Since viewing “Mao’s Last Dancer”, I cannot say that I like either communism or capitalism very much. The former is too steeped in authoritarianism and poverty, and the other is much too greedy, selfish and wasteful.

  9. Dear Andrew,
    Just for once it might be expedient to address some issues directly coming down on heads in Australia.

    It is not that the depredations caused those overseas need be ignored but while you and everyone else in the world of touchy feely politics keeps concentrating on that – not much happens to cause the advancement of the situation for Australians.

    I’d put the case that we need to put our own house in order before we take in many more refugees.
    Put it this way. Most people I know tend to ignore their own circumstances.
    My own home needs heaps of maintenance which cannot be accomplished while the bills come in endlessly from local and state government.

    I have a friend who has a tremendous canefarm but lives in a reworked WW11 barrack. He pays his income to the bloody bank.

    If you have qualms about addressing this matter I might publish an open letter to you on my own blog – http://calligulashorse.blogspot.com/

    Now there’s a bit of a challenge for you.
    Best regards.

  10. Lorikeet – it comes down to how you define ‘communist’. In my opinion, totalitarian does not equal comunism, and nor does the name of the ruling party mean that they do what they say. The conservative party here is called the Liberal Party, but in many ways they were anything but liberal in their outlook, except for the way they helped themselves liberally to the spoils of office when in power. In my opinon the Labor Party is no loner truly that: despite the name, they are just another bunch of aparatchiks now.

    The USSR was ruled by something called the communist party, and it was inddeed more egalitarian that its predecessors, and I can understand why some people yearn for the old days with stability and a guaranteed job, education, etc.

    Sadly, Burma is ruled by a military junta that currently calls itself the “State Peace and Development Council” (SPDC). This does not mean automatically that those are their aims, nor that those are the conditions that apply nowadays in Burma. Indeed, its harsh rule and systematic human rights abuses are having the opposite effects.

    As for how to help … well it seems to me that those who call for urging our government, those of the region and that of UK and China to lead the international community to put pressure on Burma’s generals are right. The juntamust be led to see that their own long-term interests lie in dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and with ethnic groups. When they hold sham elections, we must continue to expose the truth. We must use every avenue, such as Amnesty International, to call for the release Aung SAn Suu Kyi and the many thousands of other political prisoners. Those who call for invasion apparently have no idea how difficult it would be to 1. organise for it to happen (who will push for it in the Security Council? The USA? China? In your dreams) and 2. actually prevail in such a conflict. Does the name “Vietnam” ring any bells? That’s leaving aside any moral questions.

  11. Calligula, I’m afraid I can’t agree that being concerned about human rights abuses perpetrated by one one of the most oppressive regimes on the planet is “touchy feely”

    (not the worst regime on the planet, but probably in the Top 10, and certainly worse than any other country closer to us)

    I also don’t accept that my being concerned about human rights abuses or absolute poverty inflicted on billions of our fellow humans should somehow mean that I don’t care about or advocate on issues and problems facing Australians.

    It is possible to act on more than one issue or area at a time, and I think I have shown that I can and do do that – as I am sure you do as well.

  12. Calligula:

    Why can’t we show concern for Australians, and for those in other countries at the same time?

    I think it is true that we need to do more to house and feed our own homeless people. This would certainly hose down the growing racist, anti-refugee feelings in this country.

    Red Crab has made a good point on another post regarding a woman living in her car with her kids. I think she should get priority over newcomers, whether they are visa holders, asylum seekers or refugees.

    Please help us all to push for the building of more public housing, hospitals and schools. The power of one is greater than most people think.


    I agree wholeheartedly with what you have said about the Liberal Party. They are certainly very liberal about helping their wealthy supporters to money.

    What is an aparatchik? Do you mean that men from the Labor Party are using women such as Julia Gillard, Anna Bligh and Kristina Keneally as the mechanisms of societal destruction? If so, I’d say that is true.

    John Howard certainly used Bronwyn Bishop and Amanda Vanstone to victimise women, children and the elderly.

    I think the only way to deal with the military junta in Burma is to give them a wholesale thumping, put their leaders behind bars, and bring in peacekeeping forces.

    A State Peace and Development Council sounds like a communist regime to me. They reign in peace, while giving everyone else a thumping.

  13. A parable – might take some headscratching to work it out –
    Put it this way Andrew – if you were driving up bush in your sedan with the family on board and came across a complete stranger hitchhiking you may decide to give that person a lift.
    You’d be going against the advice of the authorities and you’d most likely exercise caution by stopping a fair distance away and sizing the person up as they approached your car.
    That’d give you time to recall, say, any bulletins about fugitives and gain an appreciation about the person’s demeanour and pick up clues about their state of being.

    But I doubt whether you would stop for a group of people, order your own family out of your vehicle and give it to that mob of strangers trusting them to stop at the next settlement to send help back for you.

    Of course if you were driving a large, unloaded, flatbed truck you could stop and give them a lift but in most Australian jurisdictions by doing that you’d be breaking law.

    Some years back when you were a senator one of your staff told me we lived under a ‘punitive’ regime. I didn’t disagree with her but, then again, I wasn’t the senator.

  14. My point exactly about the name, though Lorikeet.

    As for giving Burma a thumping – who do you tink would do so? As I’ve already said, I doubt it would get through the Securuty Cuncil? Do you think ASEAN should? Who would pay for it?

    Members are: Brunei Darussalam Cambodia Indonesia Laos Malaysia Myanmar Philippines Singapore Thailand and VietNam

    None of them rolling in money. Maybe they’d say “We need to put the needs of our own people first.”

  15. But to apply my parable – Australia might be that flatbed truck with plenty of room for stacks of hitchhikers – but until something changes law-wise we can all be taken to task for giving a hitchhiker a ride, aiding a refugee or interfering with the affairs of a foreign state.

    Then Burma – is not the only amoral nation state by a long shot.
    If we are to have any influence there we must stop our hypocracy here in Australia.
    We must do so well here that we are nothing less than the gold-standard of decency and correctness.

    I know someone who has effectively been under house arrest in Queensland for the last several years. He can’t find work nor can his son despite having a proven track record in his industry and keeping the family business name registered there.

    He made the mistake of accepting a design/manufacturing project signed off by a certain minister of the last national party government.
    The record is in Hansard of the Beattie gov. attempting to discredit this minister’s projects. When that couldn’t be achieved with my bloke’s successful project they sent the goons in to close him down.

    Don’t misunderstand me; he and his family aren’t behind locked doors. It’s economic arrest – the Aussie way, no guards needed but just as effective.
    But you were a Qld senator then, Andrew.
    I’m sure he tried to bend your ear about this back then.

  16. Togret:

    I don’t know who could give Burma a thumping. Should we not be able to expect the United Nations to do it?

    It seems you and I could both be in agreement with Calligula on at least some points. I think it is essential that the housing needs of Australians are met before others. Anything else would be ignoring the government’s primary responsibility … to its own citizens.

    I was about to have another guess regarding an “apparatchik”. It sounds a bit like a woman being used by men in a brothel, or a “kept woman” outside of a marriage.


    I don’t think it is illegal to aid a refugee, so I don’t see a direct comparison with taking passengers on a flat bed truck.

  17. Lorikeet:
    I went to a dictionary – a humorous but derogatory term for an official of a large organization (especially a political organization); “Democratic apparatchiks” . It is derived from Apparatchik (Russian: аппара́тчик, plural apparatchiki) – a Russian colloquial term for a full-time, professional functionary of the Communist Party or government; i.e., an agent of the governmental or party “apparat” (apparatus) that held any position of bureaucratic or political responsibility …

    In other words someone who is a functionary of the party rather than a person who has worked in industry, in law, in education, on the land .. where we used to get politicians from.

    You might also look up the way the UN works. It is an organisation whose Security COuncil decided whether or not certain actions are taken … do you kow who is on the Security COuncil? China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States — and ten non-permament members (with year of term’s end):

    Austria (2010) Japan (2010) Turkey (2010)
    Bosnia and Herzegovina (2011)
    Lebanon (2011) Uganda (2010)
    Brazil (2011) Mexico (2010)
    Gabon (2011) Nigeria (2011)

    … now, you tell me why the UN would “thump” Burma. Maybe, having learned their lesson in Korea, they would be not so inclined to take China on again, even if we got around the awkward bit where CHina can veto any action to declare war on Burma.

    I fin it richly, though grimly, amusing that someone who calls the UN some kind of agency instituted to bring about a notional globalisation agenda would then call upon it to act as a force for what she thinks of as good. Personally, and I’m pretty sure Aung San Suu Kyi agrees to some extent, I don’t feel that killing a lot of Burmese wold be such a great improvment in their circumstances.

  18. Lorikeet –
    You reply, mine –


    “I don’t think it is illegal to aid a refugee, so I don’t see a direct comparison with taking passengers on a flat bed truck.”

    Lori –
    That doesn’t surprise me in the least.
    Try both. You’d find out soon enough.
    Try thinking it through please.

  19. Calligula:

    In case you didn’t know, there is a difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee. A refugee has already been through an evaluation process to determine suitability for citizenship based on his/her criminal record, & whether or not he/she is genuinely in need of protection.

    A woman whose family escaped Cuba & spent 3 years in a refugee camp in Guantanamo Bay was relocated to Australia.

    So I am guessing that you really meant an unprocessed asylum seeker, or possibly a visa overstayer, which in the end amounts to the same thing.

    But I have found a degree of commonality between a refugee/asylum seeker & a visa holder who has been brought here as a permanent resident. They all make excellent slave labour for large corporations in Aged Care, Agriculture and the Meat Industry, and are being used to hold wages down.

  20. Actually, Alligula, your analogy was a bit obscure for me too. I also see no direct comparison between an illegal act (the truck thing) and a non-illegal act (claiming asylum in Australia by a genuine refugee) .. you might perhaps consider unpacking taht?
    Thank you, Togret

  21. Well people,
    I confess that I’m dim but I know that our authorities frown on people skating about on the beds of speeding trucks.
    I know it involves a penalty.
    I know that aiding and abetting the landing of an illegal alien also involves a penalty.

    It is a fact that perfectly decent people become incarcerated in concentration camps if they arrive here without the correct paperwork.
    That, by my lights, is a penalty.
    I mightn’t agree with it but it does amount to a penalty.
    Except, of course, that penalty may be luxury compared to what they left behind.
    I choose, though, not to make value judgements about that.

    And I’m not sure why you have a problem with accepting that at face value other than you might want to argue the toss about matters incontrovertible?

    In the meantime I’d like to hear from Andrew.

  22. Calligula:

    So you are really talking about “people smugglers”. In Australia they certainly go before the courts.

    I think it is important to keep asylum seekers separate from the general community until they have been fully checked out. Otherwise, how are we to know that a serial psychopath isn’t being let loose on the society?

    My understanding of concentration camps is that they are generally about slave labour, physical and emotional abuse, starvation and death. If these abhorrent practices are not in place, it can hardly be considered a penalty.

    However, if you keep people in camps for years without resettlement, I would definitely consider that to be incarceration and being left to hang in limbo.

    I think you are right to be very concerned about banks and the enormous toll they are taking on the Australian and international communities through every possible avenue, with ripoffs happening everywhere, and the real value of wages being lost.

    I think it is essential that we take a great interest in human rights issues affecting every nation on Earth, both individually and interactively.

  23. Calligula – given that this thread is about Burma and we have just had the news of Aung San Suu Kyi’s release, I’ll just express joy at that, and concern for her continued safety … and wonder why you drag in something that’s not only unrelated to the main thread, but also to the ohter under-thread about refugees, given that as far as I know people in Australia helping asylum seekers to travel to Australia is a non-issue. Or ware you referring to people smugglers when you talk about people on the back of the truck? When my relatives escaped Nazi Germany they paid people smugglers, and think of them to this day with gratitude.

  24. I thought a Lorikeet was an ‘a-parat-chik”, Andrew was / used to be an aparatchik, only a soft warm Democrat one not a nromla ALP right member of parliament one.

    I don’t think “thumping” countries to achieve regime change has shown a great track record in making any real chnage, other than killing a whole lot of innocent people, certainly of late. Although the other world options of sanctions, takes longer but does just about the same thing in harming the innocent. South Africa and Zimbabwe cases in point.

    Although perhaps on behalf of the great green global corproatist communist conspiracy deep dark plans to nuke half the world will solve these and other pressing problems suhc as overpopulation and sustainability.

  25. Ken:

    Are you calling Andrew a girl?

    Can you give us your list of suggestions as to how to fix the problems in Burma?

    I can hardly wait for the day when you are wearing a whole omelette on your face, after the world as we know it has come crashing down around us all.

    Your final paragraph contains more than a modicum of truth. We are inching ever closer to the type of situation you mock.

  26. Put it this way.
    I don’t give a continental about nitpicking, Togret.

    What I care about is what is happening to the poor bloody sods who cannot speak for themselves.
    I don’t give a stuff whether they are new arrivals or whether they are 1000th generation Australians.
    I don’t give a fig whether they are black, white, or brindle.

    I would submit that a fair few third fourth fifth sixth seventh – etc generation WASP Australians are being ‘shit’ on from high but Mr. Bartlett an all his ilk pretends otherwise.
    “Ooohhh, It’ll all be worked out sometime in the future –
    I do concede that Andrew probably doesn’t deserve the nausea I’m dropping on him here.
    But someone has to say it.

    Is that easy enough for you to understand?

    Can you get your head past that?
    Is there some way you can accept that poms irish scots channel islanders hebrideans yanks Canadians afghanis Chinese malays Indonesians islanders from everywhere Indians more stupid Indians africans americans Papuans frenchmen Italians germans scandinavians russians and more greedy Russians japs new zealanders bloody south Americans Mexicans middle Europeans arabs levanters Persians southeast Asians inuits pygmies deviants last but not least the original people – maybe followed in the white man’s eyes by the useless and the completely goddamned stateless – all made it to Australia or were here roundabout federation already – when once it was Great.

    There is a world out there. Most of this sort came here or were here in the past to create a nation.

    I expect that I won’t last much longer because I’m entirely sick of the useless bloody show coughed up by arseholes these days.
    There comes a time that things need be said.

    In the meantime I want Mr Blog here to come up with some of his wisdom here and now.
    Otherwise he’s perfectly welcome to ream me out at – http://calligulashorse.blogspot.com/

    I’ve quite had enough of distractions; I’ve made it plain I want his answer.
    If he can’t provide any satisfactory answer on this page – I’m waiting here in the wings to provide mine.

    It is as easy as that.

  27. I think it is pretty clear that Calligula wants:

    (a) an answer from Andrew.

    (b) equality for all persons on Australian terra firma, with an emphasis on everyone having a roof over his/her head.

    The fulfilment of item (b) would require immediate co-operation from people currently sitting in the parliament.

    How about doing some significant lobbying there?

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