Master of arts in international politics
the case of Burma/Myanmar.
Dissertation supervised by Dr. willem van der geest
This dissertation is dedicated to a Shan woman, gang-raped and beaten by Burmese troops in front of her husband, when she was 16 and 7 months pregnant. She never saw again her husband, forcefully taken by the troops for to be a porter. He must have died. The young women has now cross the border to Thailand, and her baby, born few days after she was attacked, is gravely ill. Her aggressors have not been punished.
Her story is one of 625 rapes committed between 1996 and 2001 in the Shan state, is related in the following report under the case n˚160.
Human Right Foundation, Shan Women Action Network, License to Rape, May 2002, available on:
Table of contents
Most papers related to the Burma/Myanmar’s issue start with a
justification for the use of certain names. Indeed, the complexity of Burma/Myanmar’s
political history, especially in the light of the country’s ethnic composition,
confuses the author in the use of some terms. The territory of the former
British colony of
However, the term
Therefore, this paper uses the term
The use of these terms do not reflect any bias against the country’s government, but merely a means to preserve the impartiality of this document, accordingly to the polemic brought by such an issue.
Article 11 of the Treaty on the European Union establishes that the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy should seek to “develop and consolidate democracy and the rule of law, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
Accordingly, the European Commission has pledged to undertake a more “pro-active approach” of human rights issue and to pay a special attention to the coherence between the European Union policies and the imperatives of human rights’ spread in third countries.
The situation of human rights in Burma/Myanmar provides a practical case to assess the “pro-active” character and the “coherency” of the European Union human rights policy.
Burma/Myanmar is a 50 million people South East Asian country, ruled
by an army of half a million soldiers.
Former colony of the
Since 1962, Burmese political records are indeed one of the worst in
the world, as the armed forced built their power on repression, arbitrary
detentions and executions, torture, rape, forced labour, use of child soldiers,
use of civilians as porters and mines sweepers,
on a widespread basis. As
As a result, Burma/Myanmar accounts for a million of internally displaced people and more than a million refugees in neighbouring countries. Those are mainly people issued from ethnic minority groups, who flee the “Burmanisation” program of the junta. Such program, besides violating ethnic minorities’ political, social and economic rights, has turned into a widespread ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the Tatmadaw, the armed forces, mainly composed of Burmans. The growing number of refugees, added to the spread of HIV/AIDS virus, menaces the entire region.
Economic and social mismanagement led to an acute humanitarian
crisis and the spoiling of the country abundant natural resources, bargained to
foreign firms by the government to compensate the critical lack of foreign
reserves. To finance its huge spending in defence and security goods, the
military regime had been keen to cooperate with opium warlords. Burma/Myanmar
is the second “exporter” of illicit drugs, after
All these issue attest the international character of the Burma/Myanmar case.
Departing from the practical case of European Union’ sanction on Burma/Myanmar, this report will focus on the consistency and coherency of the European Union actions, relatively to its own aspirations, the gravity of the Burmese situation and the other international actors’ positions.
Therefore, we will first briefly review the main objectives of the European Union’s human right policy and the instruments available for their implementation.
Then, we will go through the political history of Burma/Myanmar, from the colonial period to nowadays, which provides the necessary background to understand of the Burmese issue’s severity.
The two following chapters will examine the positions undertaken by the European Union and other international actors on Burma/Myanmar.
Finally, the last section will present the assessment of the European Union policies toward Burma/Myanmar, in the light of available theoretical support.
the 2001 European Union Report on Human Rights, the European Union is committed
to human rights, both inside the union’s frontiers and in its relations with
third countries. “The European Union
seeks to uphold the universality, interdependence and indivisibility of all
human rights – civil and political as well as economic, social and cultural.
Along these lines, the Amsterdam Treaty attributes human rights a core role in the European Union Common Foreign and Security Policy. Indeed, Article 11 of the Treaty on the European Union places, among the objectives of the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy, efforts to “develop and consolidate democracy and the rule of law, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”. This policy is pursued through cooperation, partnership and dialogue in bilateral contacts with third countries, and within the United Nations and other international organisations.
In 2001, replying to the critics of the European Parliament and several human rights- related nongovernmental organisations, the European Commission released the Communication on the European Union’s role in the promotion of Human Rights in third countries. In this document, the European Commission engaged itself to promote “coherent and consistent policies in support of human rights and democratisation”, and to take “a more pro-active approach, in particular by using the opportunities offered by political dialogue, trade and external assistance”.
Consequently, the European Union decided to include, systematically, human rights and democratisation issues into its political dialogue with third countries and its assistance programmes.
Nevertheless, as far as the Burma/Myanmar case is concerned, the coherence the Commission agued for, especially between its different policies and the Common Foreign and Security Policy, seems far to be achieved. In its report on human rights, the European Council expresses its particular attention on political freedom, arbitrary detention and execution, torture, rights of the women, rights of the child, and respect of the political, social and economic rights of the people especially of the minorities.
The Burmese case includes all the European Council’s concerns, but this report will demonstrate that the approach of the European Union is not as “pro-active” as the later intends to show when it claims: “The EU champions the promotion and consolidation of democracy”.
1.2. Legal base of sanctions in the European
As indicated by Articles 13, 14 and 15 of the Treaty on European Union, the main legal instruments of the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy are common strategies, common positions and joint actions.
In the case of Burma/Myanmar, the EU
did not adopt any common strategies aimed “to set
objectives and increase effectiveness of EU actions through enhancing the
overall coherence of the
However, the European Union adopted
several common positions on Burma/Myanmar, the latest being Common Position
The role of common positions is to “define the approach of the
In addition, the European Union undertook several Démarches on human rights to the Burmese military regime. In other words, the European Union sent representatives’ delegations, sometimes in a confidential or informal manner, to Burma/Myanmar.
The European Union also made public declarations to welcome positive developments, like in May 2002 when the junta released Aung San Suu Kyi, or call on the junta to comply with internationally recognized human rights’ standards, like recently, when she was arrested again in May 2003.
Another tool available is “the Community's own instrument in the “social incentive arrangements” of the Generalised System of Preferences [which] provides for additional preferences to be extended to countries effectively applying certain International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards”. In December 2001, the Council adopted a revised Generalised System of Preferences’ scheme, which enables the European Union to suspend the accessibility to these privileges to “countries that seriously and systematically violate any standards referred to in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, as [it] was the case for Burma/Myanmar”.
In addition, in July 2001, the Commission released a Green Paper “Promoting a European Framework for Corporate Social Responsibility” , in which it underlined “the strong human rights dimension of Corporate Social Responsibility, particularly in relation to international operations and global supply chains”. The Commission stressed that European firms should adopt codes of conduct, addressing working conditions, human rights and environmental issues, which would cover their subcontractors and suppliers. They should be based on the ILO fundamental conventions and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines for multinational enterprises, and involve the local social partners.
Of course, the opinion addressed in this Green Paper does not constitute binding obligations for European companies. In fact, the Treaty on the European Union limits the possibility of autonomous actions at the community level. The European Commission, in charge of the executive, does not have access to so many tools, and is highly dependant on members States good will as it cannot unilaterally initiate the measures that it thought to be right. Furthermore, despite the good will pretended by the European Union, human rights issues are not the predominant interest of EU policies, as an economic gains-oriented rationality prevails.
The ethnic diversity of Burma/Myanmar is an explosive issue and the ground of most problems encountered by the country.
The Burman majority accounts for 65% of a 50 millions population.
The remaining inhabitants are divided in seven major ethnic groups who occupy
half of the territory. Those ethnic groups are the Chin, the Kachin, the
The military junta distinguishes 135 sub-ethnic groups among the eight major ones (cf. Appendix 2). However, most people are not aware of such classification, and one can suspect the government to use this nomenclature for discriminative purposes.
In the eleventh century, the Burman had conquered most of the actual territory. However, prior to the arrival of the British, Burman kings were often overthrown by the Mon, the Arakanese, and the Shan. Moreover, many communities living in remote places were rarely brought under central domination. Thus, “groups (…) remained relatively distinct from each other in such matters as language, culture, patterns of production, and political traditions”.
When the British took over the country in the 19th
century, they divided the country in two main areas: Ministerial Burma mainly
populated by the Burman majority, and the Frontier area. Ministerial
As we will see, territorial repartition of ethnic groups echoed an ethnically-based social division of labour. This is true for indigenous peoples but also for Chinese and Indians immigrants appointed to trade-related and administrative occupations in Ministerial Burma. Such colonial practices generated a strong resentment among Burman people, against the British, the foreigners, but also against the other indigenous ethnic minorities more favoured than they did.
The cleavage between ethnic groups was reinforced with the arrival
of the Japanese during World War II, as some peoples remained faithful to the British,
while the nationalists, particularly the Burman, joined the Japanese. According
to an ICG report, exactions committed on the
Nowadays, the ethnic issue is more than ever a critical one as the policies and practices of the dominant Burman armed considerably the basic rights of the non-Burman inhabitants. Furthermore, the discrimination on racial ground is reinforced by religious consideration as Christians, Hindus and above all Muslims communities are often the target of many human rights’ abuses. Christianity is often associated with the Chin, Kachin and Karen, Hinduism with Indians, and Islam, accounting for about 13% of the population, is mainly represented in Arakanese, Indian and Pakistanis communities.
Ethnic minority groups are not excluded in cities populated by Burmans, but they faced severe discriminations. Indeed, the junta carries out a program of “Burmanisation”, which denies social, cultural and religious rights of ethnic minority people and hence, marginalises them. They cannot access certain jobs, mainly in administration and in the army. Those living in remote zones are subjected to atrocities committed by unleashed military group. The junta propaganda portrayed ethnic minorities as troublemakers, and ordinary Burmans, besides the Tatmadaw (armed forces), progressively share this view.
Defeated in 1826,
by the British,
The British occupation did provide certain stability to the country’s political history as it unified the diverse indigenous ethnic groups under the colonial rule. However, the colonial system armed considerably the Burmese social structure.
The precolonial social organisation largely rest on the authority of
local chieftains and Buddhists monks. This common faith shared among the Burman
majority, the Arakanese and most Shan and
However, the British wanted to establish law and order through a costless central administration and secure their economic interest by the rationalisation and the commercialisation of agriculture. Authority was thus territorialized as the personal authority of village headmen was replaced by the weak influence of “salaried officials responsible to the local government rather than to the local community”.
In addition, the end of the monarchy removed the authoritative council in charge of the monks. Thus, the order’s discipline weakens and monks were soon deprived of their main social function. At the same time, English commercial schools flourished.
Indeed, in order to protect the interests of the minorities, the
British attributed them some key functions of which the Burmans, the dominant
ethnic group, were deprived. For example, the British mainly recruited
More important, the British divided ethnic group “along occupations lines”:
indigenous peoples worked on the land in the Frontier area, and Indians and
Chinese immigrants dealt with urban activities in Ministerial Burma, largely
populated by Burmans. This division was seriously challenge by the spillover
effects of others British policy. For instance, in order to take
Therefore, according to
The Japanese occupation, during the Pacific war, allowed the
appearance of two crucial phenomena. Throughout their four years of control
Under this transitional period to democracy, a Burmese government in
charge of most administrative matters was created. In the words of
However, when the Allies finally won the war in August 1945, the
Burmese feared a regression to the British colonial economic order. Strikes and
negotiations led in January 1947 to the
As expected, the AFPFL won the elections, and Aung San presided the writing of the constitution, preaching for “unity in diversity” that could be achieved by a federal system.
However, his and other officials’ assassination in July 1947
undoubtedly affected the democratisation process, and the declaration of
From the assassination of Aung San in 1948 to the formation of
military caretaker government in 1958,
Indeed, after the death of the architect of
The main reason for insurgency was that the 1947 Constitution, intended to reflect the plurality of interests of the population and to distribute fairly the nation’s wealth, was in fact quite discriminating: “the 1947 Constitution further deepened the emerging fault lines by giving unequal rights to different ethnic groups”.
By 1958, rebellion movement lessened, but power struggle between
AFPFL leaders and revelations of corruption and crime involving the later
created another source of unrest as the party split. According to
Therefore, in April 1960, a section of the AFPFL led by U Nu acceded to power. However part of its program did not fit to the some minorities, and especially to all non-Buddhist people as the new government wanted to establish Buddhism as the state religion. Moreover, “The return of civil government brought with it a relaxation of internal security measures, and as a result crime and lawlessness increased”.
Nevertheless, in order to restore harmony between Burmese peoples, U Nu call on all minority groups representatives to meet in Rangoon and find “permanent and lasting solutions to the political causes of disunity and political unrest”, that is to say discuss the modality of a federal Burma.
However, before the negotiations ended, General Ne Win and the army seized power arrested all minorities’ leaders and dismissed the parliament.
Following the coup, Ne Win and a
Revolutionary Council, composed of seventeen army’s leaders, reorganized the
state in order to centralize all power under military rule. According to
In spite of this, this event signed the end of
“Since, 1962, the government has mercilessly crushed every manifestation of dissent; it has obsessively monitored the conversations, individual behaviour, and social interactions of the population; and it has attempted to deny its peoples the exercise of any political freedom.”
For instance, student’s political activity was severely constrained, universities closed several time and each demonstration led to violent repression and hundred of detentions.
The new government followed on the socialist orientation of the AFPFL, and initiate The Burmese Way to Socialism, an ideological base for its policies involving “(…) the nationalisation of the economy and an inward-looking strategy for national self-renewal”. Accordingly, in 1974, the Revolutionary Council renamed itself the Burma Socialist Program Party.
The army had finally arisen as a powerful political force that eroded the diversity of the Burmese political scene by muzzling all forms of opposition and imposing a one-party rule. The 1974 Constitution restricted the rights of the people to the ones of the citizen, which were not absolute. “They were limited by the goals of the state and tied to duties”.
The government policy toward the ethnic issue was to “de-politicized ethnicity by promoting equal rights and equal status for all ethnic groups within a common nation”. Hence, the military rejected claims of political autonomy, and increased its control on minorities’ regions. Even more critical, the government eliminated minorities’ special councils and ministries. Moreover, within the army, Burman gradually replaced members originated from ethnic minority groups.
This mismanagement of ethnic minority groups’ claims led to the resume of wars in the mid-1960s. The communist forces, helped by the Chinese Communist Party, took control of part of the Shan state, and absorbed local armies. In 1976, eleven ethnic pro-federalism organisations formed the National Democratic Front. According to the ICG, the history of ethnic struggles is highly complex, as groups formed loose alliances, fights each other for territories and resources, and in this attempt even cooperate with the military. Some groups, claiming to share ethnic nationalist motives, benefited from the CPB or major ethnic organisation’s provision of arm and training and then turned into “criminal gangs raised by warlords for personal gains”. Finally, many groups took up position in the mountains, and lived on taxation, smuggling and opium production. Counter-insurgency operations had harmful effects on civilians as the army destroyed plantations and livestock to weaken ethnic nationalist armies. Many Chinese were forced to exodus, and Arakanese Muslims, trapped between the military and ethnic armies, experienced several pogroms.
Growing discontentment and opposition to centralised power, repression and economic mismanagement finally erupted in massive pro-democratic demonstrations in summer 1988. The movement was actually launched by students, who organized pacific protests in September 1987, March and June 1988.
In the country’s political life, since the 1930s, students represented an influential pressure group, due to “the respect and deference” paid to them by the population. United trough the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, headed by the Rangoon University Student Union, student union provided a platform where “most future political and social leaders, such as Aung San, gained their first real political experiences”. In 1962, students protested against the restriction put on their political activity by the military regime. This resulted in the destruction of the Rangoon University Student Union’s building, the outlaw of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, hundreds of arrests, and the closure of universities.
In autumn 1987 and spring 1988, revolted by the military mismanagement of the economy, the student federation emerged again and organized several protests, but failed to induce a general uprising.
“During violent clashes with the Burmese riot police, unarmed students were fired upon, beaten, and clubbed to death. Hundreds were murdered, arrested, tortured, and gang raped in state prison”.
The brutal crackdown of the student’s initiative added to the
imposition of curfew in major cities and martial law, pushed hundreds of
thousands of protestors in the street on
They also demanded the removal of
Loyal to its reputation
Despite of the violent crackdown of the uprising movement, the protest did not subside. According to Frederico Ferrara, the people’s uncompromising attitude, was encouraged by the prevalent view spread by foreign media, that the military regime was “weak, incompetent and even stupid” and more than ever falling apart
Accordingly, the junta freed criminals, and even paid them, to sabotage demonstration, poison water supplies, and pillage private warehouse. Lawlessness added to the shortage of food, medicines and fuel, promptly gave way to paranoia and crime: people retreat to their home, abandoning the streets where lynching and public executions arose.
On September the 18th, the army “decided to resume the supply of social order”.
The junta, with
Between, the 18th and the 21st, the junta
massacred thousands of dissidents to re-establish control. Many students fled
finally set up elections for May 1990, and nearly 200 political parties were
registered. It is in this context that Aung San Suu Kyi and other opposition
leaders formed the National League for Democracy (NLD). During their campaign,
they opened offices all over the country and attracted two millions members.
The NLD quickly emerged as the leading opposition party, attracting large
crowds in meeting despite the SLORC decree against public gatherings of more
than four people. In July 1989, after an interview where she argue in favour of
a full economic boycott on Burma/Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, and U Tin Oo, both
leaders of the NLD, are placed under house arrest and disqualified for the
elections. Nevertheless, on
The United Nationalities League for Democracy (UNLD) established in
1989 as an umbrella political organization for the non-Burman nationalities in
The junta never acknowledged the elections’ results.
“It refused to allow the
Instead, the armed forces jailed many NLD members, including elected members of the Parliament, and closed the NLD offices. Likewise, they unilaterally dissolved the UNLD, and declared it illegal.
The pressure exerted on those elected by the Burmese people, and on their families, pushed some to abandon political activism. As an International Crisis Group’s report underlines it, “while those who joined the NLD in the election campaign surely hoped for restoration of democracy, many were not prepared for such a lengthy and personally costly struggle. The regime is well aware of this, and its goal is to gradually compel enough resignations that the party can lose its legal status” .
However, if all kind of political action is prevented in
Burma/Myanmar, the elected members of Parliament, from the NLD and other
political formations, including ethnic minority elected representatives are
still active outside the country, mainly in free areas on the Thai-Burma
border. In December 1990, they formed the National Coalition Government of the
Union of Burma (NCGBU) and tried to get international support. One of the
declared principles was that the NCGBU would be dissolved once democracy and
human rights are restored in
In 1988, when the SLORC ended the 1974 constitution,
However, the military institution, still in power since 1962, seems determined to keep power. The country is run under martial law since the 1988 events, and the absence of constitution serves as a justification for the military regime to stay in power.
Only ten parties, including the NLD, are still authorised by the SPDC.
In 1993, SLORC convoked a National Convention aimed to determine the basic principles of a new constitution’s draft. The convention assembled less than 15% of the representatives elected in 1990, and principles discussed by the delegates had to conform to the objectives of the convention, pre-defined by the SLORC. The junta is indeed particularly concerned about the political role of the Tatmadaw (armed forces) in the future constitution.
The United Nations have passed many resolutions to encourage the junta to give a timetable for the convention. However, there is no sign of its near conclusion, and the NLD, which has left the Convention in 1995 due to undemocratic procedures, has been banned permanently from the convention by the SLORC.
At the end of 1997, the junta renamed itself the State Peace and
Development Council (SPDC). Despite new nomination in the government, SPDC
leaders remained the same as the SLORC. According to the NCGBU, “[such] cosmetic changes to improve the
regime’s image have been prompted by the military regime’s desire to quell
If Burma/Myanmar do not seems to be of any strategically importance for the
West, the ongoing process of political oppression, the drug issue, and some key
events such as the death of a European embassor, finally attracted the attention
of Western government, who revised their attitude toward
On that year, Aung San Suu Kyi called for economic sanctions against the junta to “make it quite clear that economic change is not possible without political change”.
The government had ended the socialist orientation of the pre-1988 regime, and moved from economic isolation, to free-market economy. In order to attract foreign investments, liberal investment laws were passed, and highly profitable concession’s rights over Burma/Myanmar’s abundant natural resources were granted to foreign firms, especially Thai ones, to rebuilt foreign exchanges reserves.
Nevertheless, no political changes occurred, as for the government “(…) the overwhelming majority of the people in Myanmar as natural as are elsewhere in the third world countries are not obsessed with politics. They do not see freedom solely in terms of the right to vote periodically and demonstrate and express political views publicly”.
In the junta’s logic, “the
Armed Forces of
Armed struggle continue between the junta and non-ceasefire groups, and take the form of guerrilla warfare. Nevertheless, the later are in a defensive position, and it is worthy to note that “even if all the ethnic armies, including the ceasefire groups, were to unite, they would lack the military capacity to take the capital, and the Burman population no doubt would rise up behind the national army to protect their dominant position.”
Yet, the junta keep justifying the lack of individual freedom by security imperatives:
In the same way, the “Burmanisation” program implemented by the junta, fit in the security argument. The denial of specific cultural, religious or political rights to the ethnic minority groups is explained by the necessity of unity, under the “Burman way of life”. As a result, Burmese language is imposed as the national language. None of the ethnic minority language is available in education, even as a second language, publication in minority language is rare, and Burmese signboards even replace the traditional ones indicating the names of ethnic minority villages. Minority traditional celebrations are proscribed, and any sign of cultural or religious specificity have to be removed. Civil or military key jobs are reserved to Burmans, or sometimes to the “Burmanised”.
More critically, ethnic minorities have to face forced relocation, forced labour to make their sites attractive for the tourist in line with a “beautification” program. When a village is relocated, people have very little time to pack their belonging and leave. They have to walk long distance in the jungle, with hungered children. They lost their houses, their fields, and their livestock. Sometimes the parents returned to the village to find food. If they are caught, they are killed by the military.
Forced labour is widespread in the country, and when requisitioned, people cannot avoid it unless they have enough money to pay the fines. Forced labour also imply the military, as new recruits often enrol forcibly, are obliged to built civil infrastructures, under as bad conditions as the civilians. The junta response to forced labour’s allegations refers to the Buddhist tradition according to which people have to serve the community. However, the junta betrayed herself when retorting:
“As the much needed assistance and cooperation for her nation rebuilding process are being denied and prevented by the same countries accusing her of forced labour, Myanmar has no choice but to employ whatever means available to bring development so that the people of Myanmar will be able to enjoy a better and a fuller life”.
Even if not involved in political activity, the all population is living under the threat of torture, arbitrary execution, detention and rapes. Those who can no longer stand the abuses they suffer, or the ones forced to move to relocation sites, formed the category of internally displaced people. According to the NCGBU, the country accounts for approximately two millions of internally displaced people. Moreover, around 332, 000 refugees from Burma/Myanmar live in the neighbouring countries. Internally displaced people and refugees live in extremely precarious conditions and if discovered, or send back to Burma/Myanmar, endanger to be killed or tortured. This issue threatens the South-East Asian stability and security, and along with the drug production issue and the HIV/AIDS virus spread, contributes to the internationalisation the Burma/Myanmar case.
The European Union made its position toward the military regime official in 1996, when it adopted a Common Position on Burma/Myanmar.
The change, which occurred on this particular year, was actually the
aftermath of a dramatic diplomatic incident between
In April 1996, the consul in Burma/Myanmar for
Soon after, the European Union, alongside
Actually, the Common Position introduced “soft sanctions”, taken two week before by the US government, namely, a visa ban on members of the military regime, members of the government, senior military and security officers and their families. It also suspended all high-level governmental visits to Burma/Myanmar.
Facing both American and European disagreement, the junta finally resumed political dialogue with the NLD in November, but did not put an end to tyranny. In fact, Amnesty International reported in February 1997 the highest level of political repression and human rights violations since 1989.
In 1997, further to a complaint by the International Confederation Free Trade Union (ICFTU) and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), the European Commission launched an investigation, which asserted the widespread use of forced labour in Burma/Myanmar. Consequently, the European Union took a further step in removing the access of Burma/Myanmar to General System of Preferences’ privileges, and to the “Everything but Arms” initiative. The financial press largely reported the European Union decision, as it represented its first case of trade-sanctions related to labour practices.
However, according to Mr. Pit Cannen, in charge of the General System of Preference issues at the European Commission General Direction of External Trade, no other case of this type had been reported since. This is quite surprising, when one knows that unacceptable labour practices happened in many other countries, such as Bangladesh, Cambodia or Pakistan, all pressured by the International Labour Organisation for child labour’s widespread use. Therefore, one can wonder why Burma/Myanmar had been on the spot while its Asian neighbours did not.
Renewed every six months, the EU position was finally strengthened
in April 2000 further to the relentless call for further sanctions by the NLD
and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Council regulation (EC) No 1081/2000
Yet, the European Union started to send Regional Director’ level
troika to Burma/Myanmar, and in April 2003 the Council decided that “an exception to the ban on high-level
visits will be made in the common position and a troika mission at political
will be send to Burma/Myanmar”.
In fact, in January 2003, the European Union had breached their own policy by
allowing the junta’s officials to attend the 14th EU-ASEAN
Ministerial (ASEM) meeting held in
Further to the harder behaviour of the military regime, who arrested Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the NLD in May 2003, the European Union expanded its sanctions on Burma/Myanmar by amending Common position 2003/297/CFSP adopted in April, through Council decision 2003/461/CFSP of 20 June 2003 (cf. both documents in Appendix 3)
The primary concerns of the European Union are humanitarian. In accordance with the Common Position, there is no bilateral co-operation programme with the military regime.
3.2.1. EU community aid related to up-rooted people.
According to the Burmese government in exile, the NCGBU, there is
approximately 136,000 refugees in
Once they manage to leave their country, Burmese refugees have to face many others difficulties. In fact, many are sent back by local authorities directly to their tormenters, in SPDC military camps, where they are tortured, raped, taken to long portering task, or executed.
Yet, as the NCGBU underlines it:
“The Refugee Convention states that refugee
protection rests on the principle of non-refoulement, which dictates that no
refugee should be returned to any country where he or she is likely to face
persecution on grounds of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or
membership of a particular social group. This principle has been repeatedly
violated by the governments of
Among the refugees in
According to the NCGBU, a 2000 Human Rights Watch Report criticized both the UNHCR and the
Malaysian Government for the treatment of Muslim Rohingya refugees in
“The Malaysian police and immigration officers (…) are ignorant of what it is to be a refugee and that because detainees are kept out of the view of international monitors, they are beaten, robbed, inadequately fed and denied medical care in detention camps. Rohingya children are often not allowed to go to school and have been detained with adult non-relatives and deported alone.” 
The Chin refugees in
Nevertheless, once in a camp, their personal security increased.
camps are highly affected by HIV/AIDS and drug addiction. Births rates are
extremely high: in
EU funds allocated to the refugees’ issue are channelled through United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) programmes, and through the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO).
UNHCR programmes are funded by voluntary donations. The European
Union has decided to focus its participation on the UNHCR Programme of Assistance
to Rohingya returnees in Burma-Myanmar and Rohingya refugees in
Through ECHO, the European Union is primarily active in
Since 1995, ECHO works with major NGOs, whose main action is the provision of health services both on preventive and curative grounds, and of basic food products. NGOs also try to improve camps’ installation such as water supply systems.
In 2001, the ECHO budget allocated to Burmese refugees living on
Thai border camps was €4.5 million. It doubled in 2002, to €8.965 millions.
According to the Delegation of the European Commission to
It is worthwhile to note that in 2001, ECHO also funded NGOs actions for internally displaced people, that is to say people living in precarious situation inside Burma/Myanmar, who had to leave their house, either due to forced relocation to SDPC relocation sites, or voluntarily to escape the military cruelty. Moreover, “ECHO finances a number of NGO projects working primarily in ethnic minority areas and townships. These focus on water, sanitation and medical care, reproductive health and HIV/AIDS.” In March 2003, the United Nations estimated at one million people being internally displaced.
This raise the issue of to which extend the European Union and other
foreign actors legitimise the military regime by such actions. Indeed, when
Western governments provide ex-post aid packages to offset disasters caused by
their own negligence to take coercive measures against the junta, it is as if
they were closing their eyes on such violations. The NLD, considered by many
states as the voice of the Burmese people had taken strong position for
sanctions and against any kind of help. It argues that what is needed in
Burma/Myanmar is a real change. Hence, on this perspective one can fear that the
3.2.2. EU community aid related to the spread of the HIV/AIDS virus
On the word of the International Crisis Group (ICG), “
In June 2000, Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS estimated
that the virus infected more than 530,000 people, i.e. one adult over fifty.
Furthermore, infection rates in sub-populations with risky behaviour, such as
drug users and sex workers, are among the highest in
Actually, Burma/Myanmar experiences the second worst HIV/AIDS
- The first one is the official denial of the expansion of the virus, by the most part of the ruling junta. Actually, the military regime rejects foreign estimations and accuses the responsible organisations of conspiracy against Burma/Myanmar.
- Accordingly, the lack of political will is reflected in the collapse of the health sector. Government expenditures for civilian health care in 1998-99 accounted for only 0.3 percent of GDP, with a national HIV prevention budget for 1998 estimated at $ 50,000 for a population of 48 million people.
- The third element of the problem is an unclean blood supply. For example, the WHO reveals that “prisoners are sometimes bribed with the promise of extra food (such as a single egg) to donate blood, and the equipment used is rarely cleaned or sterilized.” Considering the cruel lack of hygiene in Burmese prison, and the fact that a needle is served for many people, blood transfusions constitute a serious channel of HIV/AIDS transmission.
- Another issue of particular importance is the existence of a large poorly educated and unpaid army. When troops are allocated to the so-called black area, i.e. the remote ethnic minorities’ regions, they are allowed to “help themselves” as a compensation for insufficient earnings. As a result, they seize local population’s belonging, take them to force portering expeditions, and rape and torture women. For instance, SPDC soldiers have raped 623 women in the Shan state between 1996 and 2001. As in former-Yugoslavia, rape is used by the Tatmadaw as a weapon of war against ethnic minority groups.
The report also underlines that
some states in
The European Union’s involvement in the fighting of HIV/AIDS crisis is less significant than the aid to up-rooted people. Funds are also directed to the relevant UN program, the United Nations Joint Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and NGOs projects.
In 2001, further to the EU
Troika’s visit, two teams of experts representing the European Union visited
According to the ICG, “the combined budget of all national and international organizations in 2000 was approximately U.S.$ 3 millions, or just 2.5 percent of the budget in Thailand, which as similar epidemic”. People of Burma/Myanmar are also affected by malaria, which kills 30 000 people per year, and malnutrition, which caused severe damages to children mental and physical health.
The extent and gravity of Burma/Myanmar’s humanitarian crisis is thus far to be counterbalanced by both current national and international interventions. Some states are sensible to the position of the pro-democratic opposition against aid. However, SPDC policies have reduced the mental and physical faculties of a whole generation of future adults’ faculties. Children issued from ethnic minority groups are the most harmed, as they are actually targeted by the military.
In other words, if political imperatives have to be considered, the sluggish path of reforms should not overshadow the basic human needs of the population. On the contrary, international community should use the urgent character of the crisis to put the junta in front of its responsibilities, both national and international. International law provides specific tools that fit with the Burma/Myanmar case, related to crimes against humanity and genocide, and both HIV/AIDS spread and influx of refugees threaten the international peace and security, and as such should be handled by the UN Security Council.
The role of non-states actors in the management of the Burmese issue is controversial. In fact, one distinguishes between international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) which aimed to lessen the effect of the Burmese humanitarian crisis and works inside Burma/Myanmar or in bordering countries, and INGOs or NGOs, acting as lobbies on influential governments, including the junta itself.
As affirmed earlier, the NLD is opposed to international assistance in Burma/Myanmar, as it undermines the urgent need for political change by rendering the situation acceptable, or at least less detrimental. Moreover, the NLD asserts that international aid legitimised the military regime, as NGOs are obliged to cooperate with it, at least to get the permission to operate, and sometimes more substantially.
However, the pressure on governments and international bodies, such as the UN or the ILO, exerted by “off-site” NGOs has been decisive in the internationalisation’s process of the Burmese case. These organisations act as audit groups for the European Union, which base its bi-annual decisions principally on their reports.
Indeed, the International Confederation Free Trade Union (ICFTU) and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), instigate the only-trade related sanctions adopted by the European Union in 1997. Further to their complaint, an investigation requested by the Commission asserted the widespread use of forced labour in Burma/Myanmar. Consequently, the Commission removed Burma/Myanmar’s eligibility to General System of Preferences’ privileges, and to the “Everything but Arms” initiative. More recently, the release by two Shan NGOs of Licence to rape, a report on the use of rape as an ethnic cleansing’s weapon against the Shan ethnic group, provided a fundamental basis for states and international bodies to undertake further critics or measures against the Burmese armed forces.
Similarly, the Euro-Burma Office, based in
One of the major INGO committed on Burma/Myanmar, Amnesty International, contributes to the worldwide diffusion of human rights violations performed by the military regime. With more than 1 300 000 members all over the world, Amnesty International as been given a “high-ranking status” by many states and notably by the United Nations, and is deemed to represent the so-called “civil society”. In Burma/Myanmar, Amnesty International is mainly concerned by political prisoners, the use of torture, including rape, and the forced labour issue.
The international notoriety of the association permitted it to undertake an official visit in winter 2003, and meet senior officials, NLD representatives, and the local population. The UN Commission on Human Rights welcomed the visit, which and provided a fresh assessment of the situation, especially related to the administration of justice in Burma/Myanmar.
Therefore, NGOs’ involvement is critical as they channel information through worldwide networks, including influential officials and institutions, and constitute a fundamental means of keeping governments and international bodies conscious of the role they have to play in the Burmese issue.
The United States broadly share the European Union view of the
situation in Burma/Myanmar. However, they carry on a stronger policy toward
In 1989, the United States decertified the country from the list of
cooperating’ states in counter-narcotics programs, stopped development aid and
removed Burma/Myanmar’s eligibility for General System of Preferences’
In 1994, the US Congress placed Burma/Myanmar alongside
Recently, in June 2003, US Senate passes the “Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act” that would ban all imports from
Burma/Myanmar, freeze the assets of Burmese government and individuals
associated with it, and codify the existing visa ban and
Lastly, it is useful to put emphasis on an evocative attitude of US
officials, who repeatedly use the former name
Japanese attitude towards Burma/Myanmar is in many respects softer
than western powers. The experience of Japanese occupation during World War II
has created strong diplomatic and economic links between the two countries.
Since the Ne Win era,
Military and commercials ties between the two states let some imply
that Burma/Myanmar had become the new “client
Both countries face international criticism for their democracy and human rights records, and share the same argument of “the distinctness of Asian values and the need for developing countries to give priority to economic growth over political liberalisation”.
However, the International Crisis Group (ICG) claim that ties
between Burma/Myanmar and
On the Burmese perspective, the junta is actually concerned about a
too high dependence on
4.2.4. Association of South East Asian Nations.
The ASEAN, which grouped
The organization is a significant economic partner of the European Union. Under the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), which provides an arena for political dialogue between the two entities, the European Union has frequently expressed its indignation against the military regime, and even used to prevent Burma/Myanmar’s representatives to attend ministerial meetings when Burma/Myanmar became a member of the ASEAN in 1997.
However, the ASEAN does not share the European policy against
Moreover, according to
“The ASEAN emphasis on the non-interference
principle is questionable due to its inconsistent application. In 1990, when
the military junta launched an ethnic cleansing operation against the Rohingya
Muslims in the western border region, some ASEAN states not only condemned the
action but also lent moral and humanitarian support to the Rohingya resistance
Indeed, ASEAN is also concerned by South East Asian security, and actually
accepted Burma/Myanmar in order to balance
Nevertheless, as an Asian association and major trade partner of
Burma/Myanmar, the ASEAN is likely to influence
During the last ASEM meeting, EU and ASEAN foreign ministers, both “recognized that the process of national reconciliation was fragile and required a shared commitment by all to an intensified dialogue aimed at national unity, a restoration of democracy and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Moreover, the ASEAN plan to send a troika mission to Rangoon and both Thailand, which is the most affected by the junta’s mismanagement, and Malaysia, which hold presidency, press for rapid and effective changes.
4.3.1. The International Labour Internationalisation.
The actual globalisation process exposes industrialized workers to the competition of low-waged country’s ones, and renders sharper the contest between states to attract multinational firms. Increasingly, Northern trade unions, and human rights organisations raise the issue of human rights abuses related to working conditions, and call for the imposition of core labour standards in trade agreements. Such a will can be apprehended from both an altruist and a more self-motivated perspective, but nevertheless, it permitts to the International Labour Organisation to play a greater role in international trade relations.
In 1996, ILO workers delegates, including the ICFTU, filed a complaint regarding the use of forced labour in Burma/Myanmar. The complaint was made under Article 26 of the ILO Constitution, which provides the ILO to send a mission to the member state implicated, with the approval of the later. The Commission Inquiry, appointed in March 1997, delivered its report in July 1998, which attested the “widespread and systematic” use for forced labour in Burma/Myanmar.
Consequently, the ILO called the military regime to bring its laws and practices in compliance with its obligation under the 1930 ILO Convention n˚29 by May 1999. In June 1999, facing the junta’s disregard, the ILO approved a resolution which condemned the non-compliance of Burma/Myanmar, prohibited technical assistance to the country, except the one needed to implement the recommendation, and banned it from most ILO meetings. The resolution also called for further action under Article 33, never ever used since the ILO creation, if the junta continued to ignore ILO requirements. It was the first time in the ILO history that such a decision was undertaken, and even if in fact a member cannot be excluded from governing bodies and ILO meetings, the symbolic impact was considerable.
The ILO kept its promise as in March 2000, it invoked Article 33 of its Convention in order to recommend to the ILO Conference, scheduled for June, to take the suitable actions to ensure Burma/Myanmar’s obedience and if needed, to call other international organisations to revise their relationship with this country. Few days before the Conference, Burma/Myanmar ensured that the ILO could send a mission to testify its obligations’ fulfilment. Further to the negative conclusions of the ILO delegation’s investigation in October, the ILO, in an unprecedented move in November 2000, urged its member’s governments, trade unions and employer groups, to impose sanctions and review their dealings with Burma/Myanmar to ensure they are not abetting forced labour.
The ILO tough line showed rapidly its results. In January 2001, the junta alleged that it has been holding secret talks with the Aung San Suu Kyi since October, albeit there was no political dialogue between the government and the opposition movement for several years. According to the Institute for International Economics “many international observers argue[d] that international economic pressure, including from the ILO, [were] partly responsible for the military conciliatory attitude”.
4.3.2. The United Nations.
In its last resolution, on
Western and Asian powers have ensured the United Nations commitment to the Burma/Myanmar case, and the UN General Assembly has undertaken many resolutions addressing this issue. Each resolution condemns the junta’ mismanagement of the country and calls for quick and effective policies to offset the humanitarian crisis it engendered. Moreover, the UN strongly argues for substantial negotiations between the NLD and the government, under a process of national reconciliation, the dissemination of human rights standards and a faster path toward the restoration of democracy.
Accordingly, the United Nations appointed a Special Envoy of the
Secretary-General on Burma/Myanmar,
In addition, the UN Commission on Human Right sent a Special
If UN interventions initiated some encouraging changes, the
association is lacking of a much persuasive request, which should be expressed
by the Security Council, as part of the Burma/Myanmar issue constitute a treat
to the international peace and security. One could state that
4.3.3. The World trade Organisation.
Any labour-related matter brought to the World Trade
Organisation (WTO) generates stormy debates. Indeed, many are opposed to the
incorporation of labour standard in trade agreements, and argue that only the
ILO should deal with such issues. In 1997, a polemic arose during a WTO meeting
when the European Union and
From 1996 to 2000, 23 other states, cities and counties followed the
In April 1998, further to the rejection of its negotiation’s offer by the European Union, the State of Massachusetts provided that large contracts, above the threshold in the General Procurement Agreement, which would be signed by the governor, will be exempted from the 1996 selective purchasing law.
Nevertheless, a month later, the US “National Foreign Trade Council file[d] a constitutional challenge in federal district court against the Massachusetts’ selective purchasing law and [sought] an injunction to halt implementation of the law while the cases proceeds. The law is challenged on the ground that it violates constitutional provisions giving the federal government supremacy over foreign policy and international commerce”.
If one disregards a simplistic explanation related to the acute
competition between the entities of the Triad, which is completely unlashed
within the WTO dispute settlement’s arena, the other rational justification of
the EU attitude is the protection of its economic interest. Indeed, British,
French and even Danish firms have considerable investments in Burma/Myanmar.
The spread among US States, cities and counties of selective purchasing
legislation against firms trading with Burma/Myanmar would have seriously
challenges European and Japanese companies’ opportunities in the
Once again, economical considerations prevailed over political aims.
in international relations: analysis of the European
The main motive of sanctioning states is to signal their disapproval of a breach of international rules. Indeed, sanctions do not aim at damaging the economy of the targeted country, but have merely a symbolic weight. “They are primarily intended to dramatize and articulate the condemnation of a certain form of behaviour and, by the same token (…) to prove to the world public opinion that the responsible State was wrong inasmuch as it had acted contrary to internationally accepted standards.”
In fact, the history of sanctions genuinely attests the ineffectiveness of economic sanctions as a means to affect a targeted State, and thereby bringing about the political change wished. However, by signalling to the other international players that this particular State does not fulfil its international duties, sanctions provide a good method of bargaining.
Along these lines, economists and lawyers have become increasingly aware of the impact of sanctions upon vulnerable members of targeted countries’ civilian population in. In 1997, the United Nations Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Right, reminded the international community to ensure, when imposing sanctions, that: “the inhabitants of a given country do not forfeit their basic economic, social and cultural rights by virtue of any determination that their leaders have violated norms relating to international peace and security”.
The sanctions impose on Burma/Myanmar by the European Union respect this requirement. Actually, they fall into the category of “smart sanctions”, which target only the ruling elite responsible of the violation.
Further to the
The visa ban do not concern the SPDC foreign minister, as the European Union is keen to establish a “meaningful political dialogue” with the government, and Regional Director’ level troika has been sent to Burma/Myanmar. Thus, the European Union progressively loosened diplomatic sanctions on the junta.
In 2000, the arm embargo was expanded to items that might be used for internal repression or international terrorism. In addition, cooperation between members States for the implementation of the visa ban was strengthened, and more important, a freeze on funds held abroad by the persons named on the visa ban list was instigated. This list was extended in 2003.
According to Mr Straver, from the European Commission, such sanctions are really targeted ones, and their impact on trade and thus on the civilian population, is minimal. However, their effective application is quite problematic. Further to the Common Position taken by the European Council, the European Commission issues basic guidelines and recommendations for the member states to follow. From then on, no inspection procedure is envisaged. Such a task would actually be too costly to be implemented by the Commission, and contrary to the principle of subsidiarity. This renders the appraisal of the execution’s righteousness quite delicate.
Actually, serious doubt could be expressed, as the practical
application of the determined sanctions is not as easy and automatic as it
could be. For example,
Consequently, targeted European Union sanctions do not seems to be that smart.
“The question of the efficacy of international pressure mechanisms cannot be
measured on the sole criterion of impact on the target regime’s policies.” As suggested earlier, the assessment of the sanctions effectiveness on the Burmese regime is not clear-cut.
On an economic point of view, sanctions are generally known to be ineffective. If the European Union has not taken any offensive trade sanctions against Burma/Myanmar, the removal of the General System of Preferences’ privileges, is considered as a trade-related measure. Indeed, such a policy increased the price of Burmese exports relatively to other low-incomes economies countries’ exports, which benefit from preferential treatments. The actual economic impact of the benefits’ withdrawal accounts for less than 5% of the EU-Burma/Myanmar trade, due to the absence of trade restrictions.
In fact, when the European Union took this decision in 1997, European imports represented only 5% of Burmese total exports, that is to say US$ 30 million. Since this then, trade between the European Union and Burma/Myanmar significantly increased.
For instance, Burmese exports to the European Union increased by 300% between 1999 and 2001, accounting in value for more than 220 millions US$ in 2001.
Actually, according to the European Commission, its imports from Burma/Myanmar totalled € 489 million (for only € 81 millions of exports) and € 438 millions in 2002.
Therefore, the removal of Burmese privileges under the General System of Preferences in 1997, had only a symbolic value, and did not provide a means of pressure on the junta as its prejudicial effect on trade was marginal.
On an operative approach, the embargo on arms and equipments likely
to be used for internal repression as very little value. Obviously, without the
co-operation of the international community and especially of the main trade
partners of Burma/Myanmar, the cessation of member states’ sale of these items
to the junta, do not prevent the later from buying elsewhere. Actually, the military
“has been greatly assisted by a range of
soft loans and others special sales arrangements provided by its new arms
Since the arrival of the SPDC to power in 1988, most of the gains from the
economic liberalisation had been put in the modernisation of the Tatmadaw (the armed forces). The main arms supplier of the dictatorship is
Therefore, the security or defence-related sanctions of the European Union are critically challenged by the foreign availability of the targeted items. If, alongside the others European measures, they bear the merit of cleansing members states’ conscience, they are definitely insufficient.
As highlighted earlier, no move toward sanctions is envisaged by the
main trade partners of Burma/Myanmar,
If isolated from the position of rest of the world’s major players, the European Union’s sanctions have little weight. The junta “is locked in an adversarial relationship with Western governments” , and its sole interest in the West are commercial, as it is “keenly aware of the importance of Western capital and technology to support military and national development”. Indeed, in Burma/Myanmar, the trauma of colonialism and the failure of governments to induce a positive economic and social environment, gave rise to xenophobia and suspicion toward the outside world. More problematically, “the stress caused by external and internal pressures, compounded by policy failures and growing alienation from the world, has pushed many senior officers into a siege mentality bordering paranoia”. The consequent misinterpretation of foreign intentions and world politics by the military government render diplomatic relations very complex. The problem is actually reinforced by the SPDC determination to stay in power, impervious to international or internal pressure. For the International Crisis Group, “the military regime stands largely alone in the world by choice as much as necessity”.
According to the xenophobic bias of the junta, and the inherent stronger influence of the ASEAN over Burma/Myanmar, the European Union should provide a strong and irreproachable support for democratisation, and assist the Southeast Asian organisation in this demarche. If the Asian partners of Burma/Myanmar harder their attitude toward the junta, and even, threaten it with ASEAN concerted sanctions, such as the suspension of certain economic privileges, there is hope that the military regime will accelerate the democratisation process they claim to follow. This case would be similar to the European Union’s role in backing the democratisation process in former-Yugoslavia.
In the light of what have been said, many would have come to think that the European Union policy toward Burma/Myanmar is driven more by a desire to show to the international community that something is being done, than to genuinely address particularity of the Burmese issue.
Indeed, the European Union is trading with many countries with
questionable human rights records. Few of them are actually sanctioned by the
European Union. This could be explained by their relative geo-strategic
importance for the European Union, as it is the case for
On the contrary, Burma/Myanmar does not bear any particular value of this kind. Thus, it represents an easy means for the European Union to attest its “pro-active” attitude towards those who violate human rights.
Nonetheless, the Burmese democratic movement is pushing for sanctions. Therefore, their interest could match those of the European Union. However, the sanctions implemented are by far too soft to provide and do not provide the strong incentive needed to persuade the junta to give up power.
The European Union explains its weak attitude by humanitarian considerations: soft sanctions are thought to spare civilians, already affected by the junta’s mismanagement.
However, as the NLD and some organisations, such as the Euro-Burma
Office, suggest that the people cannot be affected by tougher economic sanctions,
such as the import ban proposed by the
The European Union is well aware of these elements. Therefore, one could argue that the main reason for maintaining soft sanctions is related to trade considerations. We have showed indeed that imports from Burma/Myanmar to the European Union have sharply increased over the past years.
Economic imperatives are thus the chief justification for the
European Union inconsistent policy toward
Dealing with Burma/Myanmar democratic process entails more than lips-services.
“Although most pro-sanction policies have a
consistent objective in demanding a move towards democratic change, the exact
mechanism for attaining these goals is less clear. The objectives of enhancing
human rights and democracy are clearly enunciated in the
Conclusively, the European Union policy is lacking of coherence and clarity, as far as the objectives of promoting democracy and human rights in Burma/Myanmar are concerned. The European Union did not shape its policy relatively to the specificity of the Burmese regime, held by a cohesive military elite who have been carried out a stable dictatorship for more than four decades.
However, if the real aim of the European Union was to signal its own humanistic behaviour, the consequent instrumentalisation of the Burmese issue is a success.
The European Union bears a significant potential of action on the junta, through trade and international bodies’ fora. One can therefore hope that the Community is soon going to use its influence with more determination.
council of the european union, European Union Annual Report on Human rights,
council of the european union, European Union Annual Report on Human rights,
HOUTMAN Gustaaf, Mental culture in Burmese crisis politics Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy, Tokyo : Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, 1999.
LINTNER Bertil, « the internationalization of
Internationalization of ethnic conflict, edited by
National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, Human rights yearbook Burma 2001-2002, Published by the Human Rights Documentation Unit, First Edition: September 2002. (CD-Rom version provided by the Euro-Burma Office.)
NAIR Sheila, “Human rights
and postcoloniality”: representing
On-line Articles and reports :
AmNesty International, Fundamental Rights
At Work : Amnesty International's Concerns
to the International Labour Conference (4-20 June 2002,
INTERNATIONAL, Official statement, Amnesty
International's first visit to
Boucaud André et BOUCAUD Louis, “La Birmanie feint le changement”, Le monde diplomatique, janvier 2003, p. 23. http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2003/01/BOUCAUD/9859
Frederico, Why regimes create disorder:
INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS, Case studies in sanctions and terrorism, Case 88-1:
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the military regime?, ICG Asia Report N°11, Bangkok/Brussels,
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Role in the Region, (no date provided ), electronic version (last checked
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Patten Christopher, “European Union Foreign
Policy & the Challenges of Globalisation”, speech at the Asia-Europe
Foundation - IPS Public Lectures, Singapore. Electronic version (last checked
SILVERSTEIN Josef, “Prospects for the
democratic transition in
Josef, “Is there another way to deal with
COUNCIL OF THE
EUROPEAN UNION, Council decision 2003/461/CFSP of
COUNCIL OF THE
EUROPEAN UNION, Common position 2003/297/CFSP of
COUNCIL OF THE
EUROPEAN UNION, Council regulation 1211/2003 of
COMMISSION OF THE EUROPEAN UNION, Commission regulation, (EC) No 1070/2003 of 20 June 2003 amending, for the third time, Council regulation (EC) No 1081/2000 of 22 May 2000 prohibiting the sale, supply and export to Burma/Myanmar of equipment which might be used for internal repression or terrorism, and freezing the funds of certain persons related to important governmental functions in that country, Official Journal of the European Communities, L 154/61 21.6.2003.
INTERNATIONAL LABOUR OFFICE, Developments concerning the question of the observance by the Government of Myanmar of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), 280th Session Governing Body Geneva, March 2001.
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arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi in
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the Situation of human rights in
UNITED NATIONS, General Assembly Resolution 56/231 on
the Situation of human rights in
Mr. Van AMERSFOORT Philippe, European Commission, DG External relations-Multilateral relations and Human rights Department.
Mr. STRAVER Alberto, European Commission, DG External relations- Sanctions Department.
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Web site consulted For daily press release on Burma/Myanmar:
I would first like to thank my parents, Maryse
Then, I would like to express my gratitude to my supervisor, Dr Willem van der GEEST, for his commitment to his students, both during the year through seminars and concerning the present work, and for having attracted my curiosity on issues, such as the Burmese one, he made me discover.
I also address a special thank to Mr ZAWMIN, from the Euro-Burma Office, for his precious help and express him my deep admiration for his devotion to the Burmese democratic movement.
Moreover, I would like to thanks the people I met during this year who offer me their friendship, support and beyond.
Last but not least, I address my gratefulness to Charles GREGORY for his unhoped patient and understanding attitude.
Appendix 1: Map of Burma/Myanmar.
Appendix 2: Ethnic composition of Burma/Myanmar.
- Council of the European Union, Common position 2003/297/CFSP of
- Council of the European Union, Council regulation (EC) No 1081/2000 of 22 May 2000 prohibiting the sale, supply and export to Burma/Myanmar of equipment which might be used for internal repression or terrorism, and freezing the funds of certain persons related to important governmental functions in that country.
- Council of the European Union, Council regulation 1211/2003 of 7 July 2003 amending regulation (EC) No 1081/2000 of 22 May 2000.
- Comission of the European Union,
Commission regulation, (EC) No 1070/2003 of
Appendix 4: United Nations’ Officials Documents.
- General Assembly, Resolution 57/231 on the Situation of human
- Commission on Human Rights, Resolution 1993/19, Situation of human
 Derived from myan, which
means “quick” and mar, “hardy”. The
actual full name is
 Ibid., p.2.
 There are indeed 400 000 soldiers, excluding the paramilitary forces. The later, the police (72 000 people), the fire brigade, and the Myanmar Red Cross, march with the military in the annual Armed Forces Day parade, and account for another 100 000 people. International Crisis Group, Asia Briefing, 2002 p.3.
 If the first aim of this paper is not to testify on the violations committed in this country, we invite readers to keep themselves inform on the Burmese situation’s evolution.
 Council of the European Union, 2001, p.7. (My emphases).
 An evident example of the European Union’s
new attitude is the
 Council of the European Union, 2001, p. 39.
 Council of the European Union, 2002, p. 39.
 Ibid., p. 40.
 Ibid., p. 33.
 Ibid., p. 34
 Ibid., p.39.
 International Crisis Group,
 In fact, actual Burma/Myanmar was fully annexed by the British in
1886, further to a third defeat of the Burmese army and the capturing of the
 SILVERSTEIN Josef, “
 Ibid., p.80.
 NAIR Sheila, 2002, p.262.
 SILVERSTEIN Josef, “
 Ibid., p.83.
 Ibid., 1965, p.81.
 Ibid., p.79.
 Ibid., 1965, p.83.
 Ibid., p.84.
 The Panglong agreement was actually required by the British as a condition for independence. As a “quick fix”, it bears many weaknesses, which created opportunities for rivalry among ethnic groups and armed struggle with central government.
 International Crisis Group,
 SILVERSTEIN Josef, “
 Moreover, General Ne Win was one of the “Thirty Heroes” of the fight for independence, alongside General Aung San.
 FERRARA Frederico, 2003, p.2.
 NAIR Sheila, 2002, p.264.
 SILVERSTEIN Josef, 2002, p.13.
 International crisis Group,
 Ibid., p.4.
 In September 1987, the government demonetized all bank notes
superior to $2.50 in value to fight inflation and black market. Hence, 60 to
80% of the money in circulation became worthless. Source: Aun-Thwin
 SILVERSTEIN Josef, “
 SILVERTEIN Josef, 2002, p.8.
 FERRARA Frederico, 2003, p.3.
 Ibid., p.7.
 AUN-THWIN Maureen, Burmese days, Foreign affairs n˚68, 1989, p.153, quoted by the Institute for International Economics’ web site: http://www.iie.com/research/topics/sanctions/myanmar.htm
 FERRARA Frederico, 2003, p.4.
 Ibid., p.5.
 Ibid., p.6. The author refers to the New York Times which had “prematurely discussed the imminent victory
of the rebels, the transition and the beginning of a new era for
 Ibid., p.11.
 Ibid., p.11-17.
 Ibid., p.17.
 International Crisis Group, Asia Report n˚27, 2001, p.13.
 National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGBU), 2002, CD-Rom version, Historical Background.
 International Crisis Group, Asia Report n˚27, 2001, p.14.
 NCGBU, 2002, CD-Rom version, Historical Background.
 International Herald Tribune,
 Document of the
Burma/Myanmar’s embassy in
 Ibid., p. 16
 In the words of the junta, Burma/Myanmar facing external threats as “It is (…) strategically located between South Asia and South East Asia. More interestingly, Myanmar is sandwiched between the two most populous nations in the World-- China and India. Bangladesh, 5 times smaller in size with a population 3 times larger than Myanmar, is another of her neighbors. The former, unlike Myanmar is not blessed with abundant natural resources, in addition to which she has the misfortune to be battered by natural disasters almost every year.” Ibid., p. 3.
 International Crisis Group, Asia Report n˚52, 2003, p.7.
 The junta also argued that Western democracy cannot be implemented in Asia, due a difference of tradition and culture.
 Document of the Burma/Myanmar’s embassy in
 For the Human rights Documentation Unit: “Education is thereby used as a weapon rather than as a tool for individual and national development. By consciously denying ethnic minorities equal educational opportunities today, the military government is setting the stage for discrimination for years to come”. National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, 2002, CD-Rom version, chap 8
 For example, Burmese soldiers repainted the pagodas of Shan villages, as their colour did not fit with Burman tradition.
 This issue will be discussed further in part 4.
 Document of the
Burma/Myanmar’s embassy in
 There is approximately 136,000 refugees in
 In 1989, the Bush administration decertifies Burma/Myanmar from the
list of country cooperating in efforts against narcotics, and by this means
denied access to
 i.e. higher level than previously.
 General Affairs and External relations Council’s conclusions,
 NCGBU, 2002, CD-Rom version chap. 14.
 Delegation of the European Commission to
 Besides ECHO, the European Commission possesses also an independent budget line for its "Aid to uprooted people" project.
 European Commission’s General Affairs and External relations, “The EU’s relation with Myanmar/Burma-Overview”: http://www.europa.eu.int/external_relations/myanmar/intro/index.htm
 United Nations Commission on human rights, 59th session,
 International Crisis Group report n˚28, p.ii.
 International Crisis Group, Myanmar Briefing,
 Ibid., quoting the Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS.
 The NCGBU is referring to an article from The Washington Quarterly. This article cites the 2000 World Health Report (Performance of ASEAN Health Care Systems given the level of resources from WHO).
The reference of this article is The
Washington Quarterly ,“the Regional Impact of HIV
and Aids Accelerating and Disseminating across
One can also refer to the op-cited NCGBU, 2002, CD-Rom version chap. 9.3.
 US State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2001, quoted by the NCGBU, 2002, CD-Rom version chap 9.3.
 On this particular issue, one as to read the well document report
of the Shan Human Rights Foundation and the Shan Women’s Action Network called License to Rape. The report covers rapes
committed from 1996 until 2001 by SPDC soldiers against ethnic nationalities
 International Crisis Group,
 Ibid, p.9.
 Malnutrition, lack of sodium for example, has sharply and irreversibly damaged Burmese children’s brains. Moreover, according to the ICG, only 30% on Burmese children get proper primary schooling (Ibid.). On top of this, widespread insecurity, forced relocation, forced enrolment of child soldiers, rapes, torture and killings, create a environment devastating psychological health of children and of the all population.
 Burmese NGOs are all SPDC-backed and direct by either Generals or
their wives, apart from one exception, the Metta
Development Foundation. (International Crisis Group,
 Shan Human Rights Foundation and the Shan Women’s Action Network, License to Rape, 2002.
 The Euro-Burma office is also active in the strengthening and empowering of the Burmese democracy movement, mainly through training for Burmese democratic activists, researchers’ seminars and meeting between the later and European political leaders.
 Amnesty International estimates that approximately 1300 political prisoners, mainly prisoners of conscience, that is to say imprisoned for their political or religious beliefs, remain in jail.
International, “Amnesty international first visit to
 Most of the historical facts related to the
 According to the NCGBU, the Burmese supply accounts for 70% of the
 Under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (Section 307).
 This visa ban had been extended in June 2003 to managers of state-run companies and organisations associated with the junta.
 Institute for International Economics, quoting BRAY John, 1995, Burma the Politics of Constructive Engagement, discussion paper 58, London: The Royal Institute of International Affairs, p.52-53. http://www.iie.com/research/topics/sanctions/myanmar2.htm
 Institute for International Economics, quoting the Financial Times,
 International Crisis Group,
 Ibid., p.21.
 Ibid., p.22.
 Ibid., p.21.
 Ibid., p.24.
 European Union’ statement, June 1991, quoted by
 Joint Co-Chairmen’s Statement of the 14th EU-ASEAN Ministerial,
 As facts cannot be invented, I am indebted to the International Economics Policy Briefs of July 2000, published by the Institute for International Economics (cf. Bibliography) for this part of my dissertation.
 Institute for International Economics, quoting the
 United Nations Commission on Human rights, resolution 2003/12,
 SILVERSTEIN Josef, 2002, p.5.
 International Crisis Group,
 Institute for International Economics’ web site, Chronology of Key events, http://www.iie.com/research/topics/sanctions/myanmar.htm
 The 24 States, cities and counties that implemented a selective purchasing legislation concerning trade with Burma/Myanmar are: Alameda county, CA; Ann Arbor, MI; Berkeley, CA; Boulder, CO; Brookline, MA; Carrboro, NC; Chapel Hill, NC; Los Angeles, CA; Madison, WI; Massachusetts; New York, NY; Newton, MA; Oakland, CA; Pablo Alto, CA, Portland, OR; Quincy, MA; San Francisco, CA; San Cruz, CA; San Monica, CA; Somerville, MA; Takoma Park, MD; Vermont ; and West Hollywood, CA. (Ibid.)
 Ibid., p.242.
 UNITED NATIONS, Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, General
Comment n˚8: collective sanctions, para.16, 1997; quoted by CASSESE
 Data suggested by
 Institute for International Economics’ web site: http://www.iie.com/research/topics/sanctions/myanmar.htm
 European Commission’s General Affairs and External relations’ web site, “The EU’s relation with Myanmar/Burma-Overview”, http://www.europa.eu.int/external_relations/myanmar/intro/index.htm
 International Crisis Group,
 Information provided by the Euro-Burma office.
 International Crisis Group, Asia Report n˚28, 2001, p.ii.
 Ibid., p.5. The report gives us as an example the declaration of
General Than Shwe in 2001: “Some big
countries, who want to dominate and manipulate
 For example, western data on HIV/AIDS are thought by the junta to be insulting and defaming.
 For more convenience, only the last resolutions or regulations released by the relevant international bodies are listed. Indeed, most of them have adopted at least one resolution on Burma/Myanmar a year, since the mid-1990s, and each new resolution amends or annihilates the precedent one.