Comments by Harn Yawnghwe, Director, Euro-Burma Office, regarding -
"Supporting Burma/Myanmar's national reconciliation process:
Challenges and Opportunities"
A Report by Robert Taylor and Morten Pedersen.
First, I would like to state that I support my colleagues outside whom you may have noticed protesting this meeting. Unlike Burma Day 2003, they have not been invited nor allowed to participate. I believe it is wrong in a democratic society and in a democratic institution like the European Union to exclude people who might have a different viewpoint.
Second, in spite of the circumstances, I would like
to thank the European Commission for belatedly inviting me to speak on this
panel. This is because I know that the European Union is serious about
facilitating political reconciliation and a transition to democracy in
Third, I would like to state from the onset that I
am very disappointed that a valuable opportunity to help the people of
Having made my position clear, I would like to comment on the report itself - both the process and the content:
1. The process is flawed. I am
not sure what compelled the Commission to engage Robert Taylor and Morten
Pedersen to write the report. Rightly or wrongly, Robert is well known as an
apologist for the Burmese military regime. The New Light of Myanmar regularly
quotes him to justify their position.
The Commission should have known that any report by
2. According to the report, one
of the authors' job was to analyze the challenges and prospects for national
reconciliation. The authors met with 72 people, 21 of them were Burmese and 5
were cabinet ministers (Agriculture, Health, Education, Foreign Affairs, and
Science & Technology).
3. The second task of the
authors was to assess the EU's approach towards
4. The third task of the
authors was to discuss how EU assistance can be used effectively. While the
authors may have consulted the international NGO community, they have not
consulted potential Burmese partners and those who are in fact delivering
humanitarian assistance in
5. Another point is that the report seems to imply that people the authors met agree with them. A number I have spoken to are quite upset. They feel they have been used.
6. The Commission asked the
authors to provide a draft agenda for Burma Day 2005 with suggestions for
speakers and stakeholders to be invited. It is unusual to have somebody write a
report and at the same time determine who should review their work. Given the
authors' background and how arrangements were handled, the general impression
is that Burma Day 2005 is being stage managed to support the conclusions of the
report. the Panels do not include anyone from the Burmese democracy movement
who might disagree with the report. I was only invited after a protest was
lodged. Legitimate stakeholders like non-government organization and
development agencies concerned about
1. The arguments used by the authors - that sanctions have not worked in Burma; that failed policy approaches have exacerbated the crisis in Burma; and that sanctions should be lifted; etc, are old arguments. I will not respond in detail except to say that a much better job could have been done. The report wasted a valuable opportunity.
2. Another problem with the authors' arguments is that their claims are not substantiated. They are also contradictory. Example - they claim that sanctions are ineffective but at the same time, blame EU sanctions for the Burmese regime's inability to implement reforms.
3. The authors' analyses are
simplistic. They listed
4. The report writes off the
National League for Democracy as being irrelevant
and implies that only military rule can bring about development in
5. The report also writes off
the ethnic nationalities,
and is overly optimistic about the outcome of the National Convention.
Recent events in
6. To inconsistencies in the report are too numerous to deal with individually. The most glaring have to do with the Burmese military. For example -
a) The next generation of military leaders will bring about reforms, and
b) There is no room for negotiating political reforms with the military.
a) The Burmese military is undefeatable unless the army splits. This will not happen, and
b) The recent upheaval within the military is the biggest challenge to the military leadership.
The report also does not deal with the removal of
Prime Minister General Khin Nyunt except in passing.
This is the biggest most significant event in
Having critiqued the report, the question is where
do we go from here? Do we accept the report uncritically, throw it out, or
debate the report? I do not think it will be beneficial to do any of the above.
Having made my point, I would like to suggest that we use the day to focus on
what can be done in
My own recommendations would be -
1. Continue with the current EU Common policy of sanctions and dialogue, and refine it;
2. Develop a comprehensive
a) Supporting 'process' versus 'product'. The process of building trust between the antagonists, dialogue, participation and inclusion must be actively pursued. This very important because development models tend to focus on 'output', not process;
b) Over the long term, make a conscious effort in all aid programmes to build the capacity of Burmese organizations - formal and informal. Again most development models tend to focus on efficiency and effectiveness. Building the capacity of Burmese organizations may be less efficient in the delivery of aid but it is crucial to do so. Efforts must also be made to overcome the existing rigid hierarchical client-patronage systems. Democratic norms of inclusiveness and participation - of women, ethnic and religious minorities - must be encouraged.
c) Provide educational support - informal and formal, locally and internationally, basic literacy and more technically advanced - to the populace at large and to officials.
d) Humanitarian - serious health issues already identified by many agencies.
3. Appoint a high-level EU Envoy (preferably a
former head of state) for
a) Dialogue with the generals;
b) Develop EU Burma policy with the 25 member states;
c) Coordinate political and humanitarian initiatives of member states;
Coordinate policy with ASEAN,
"Global Scholars Do Not Accept
Economic Sanctions on
Dr Ang Cheng Guan,
B) Dr Anne Booth, Department of Economics,
C) Dr David Tegenfeldt, Hope International
 Appendix: List of People Met, EU Report by Robert Taylor and Morten Pedersen, January 2005.
March 2004 - "Reconciling Burma/Myanmar: Essays on US Relations with
B) November 2002 - Conference on "
Page 1 - "Fifteen years of Western censure and sanctions have had no
visible impact on the will or the capacity of the military rulers (of
 Page 15 - "… Western pressure… have only reinforced the military leaders' seige mentality… It may also have contributed to the back-tracking since the mid-1990s onmarket oriented, open-door economic reforms…," Taylor & Pedersen.
 UNDP 1998, IMF 1999 - The four main factors: high defence expenditures, low tax mobilization, a weak (and corrupt) public administration, and an uncertain policy environment (created by inept economic management and ad hoc decision-making).
Anne Booth (reference 2B) concludes -
"The problem in
 Page 17: "There is no doubt that the military is hostile to economic and administrative reforms that would directly weaken its hold on power, and less than enthusiastic about community development and other programmes that contravene their notions of development. Meanwhile, their concept of the development process lags several decades behind current international development thinking", Taylor & Pedersen.
 Page 5: "…the conflict between the government and its civilian opponents looks set to resolve itself throgh a process of attrition rather than reconciliation… the decision by the NLD not to participate in the National Convention, has left the party marginalised and in serious disarray", Taylor & Pedersen.
 Page 16 "…it is questionable whether a civilian government would have the capacity to deal with the immense structural obstacles to peace and development, even with international support", Taylor & Pedersen.
 Page 4 - "…the ultimate compliance of these (ethnic ceasefire and peace) groups with the constitutional process seems assured as they have no other viable options and little appetite for resuming armed struggle", Taylor & Pedersen
 Page 2 - "The agreement by the military government with some twenty former ethnic insurgent groups to halt fighting after half a century of continuous warefare constitutes a political watershed, and the outlook for establishing a constitutional, though only nominal democratic government in the near future is positive", Taylor & Pedersen
 Page 3 - "Yet, the sustainability of this embryonic peace will remain open to question unless long-standing grievances of ethnic nationalists ….are dealt with effectively", Taylor & Pedersen.
 Page 17 - "The next generation of military leaders … once in charge … will want to make their mark and improve … Thus there will be an important window of opportunity for reviving the reform drive", Taylor & Pedersen.
 Page 14 - "When adding the obvious corporate and personal interests that they have in maintaining power, this perspective leaves very little room for negotiating political reform, at least not in any form that might undermine the military ultimate control of the government", Taylor & Pedersen.
 Page 15
 Page 4 - The sudden and largely unexpected removal in October 2004 of the Prime Minister General Khin Nyunt and his military intelligence coterie…