Friday, June 06, 2003

Is Aung San Suu Kyi dead?

Unless the Burmese government rapidly allows American or European diplomats access to her person, it may be increasingly probable that Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Laureate of Burma, is dead. The Washington Post reports:

"A week has passed since one of the world's most courageous women, Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, came under attack by goons controlled by the military regime in her Southeast Asian nation of Burma. No credible source has seen her since. She is reported to be injured and in custody at a military facility. Many of her supporters also were attacked, in many cases reportedly killed or seriously injured."

Injured in a deliberate ambush, according to the US Government sources quoted by the Associated Press.

The US official said the two diplomats who visited the scene of the attack found signs of ''great violence,'' including bloody clothing. The official would not detail all the information suggesting a premeditated attack but said it included photographs and physical evidence.

''What they found corroborates eyewitness reports circulating of a premeditated ambush on Aung San Suu Kyi's motorcade,'' the official said on condition of anonymity.

... Exile opposition groups have also claimed that Suu Kyi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, was hurt in the violence, perhaps suffering severe head injuries. The junta insists that Suu Kyi and colleagues detained with her are fine -- although it refuses to divulge where they are held.

US Government interest in Burma is driven primarily by it's concern over drugs, and not altruistic concern over the welfare of the Burmans. The Burmese dictatorship, created by Ne Win, is almost wholly dependent on illegal drug trafficking for income. Senior Tatmadaw  (Burmese Army) officers are paid in tablets, a divisional commander's stipend being 200,000 amphetamine tablets per month, according to the Daily Telegraph. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, Burma's internal organization is on the brink of collapse. Ordinary Burmese Army footsoldiers are not being paid at all. The New York Times reported mass rapes by Tatmadaw troopers in central Shan Province, which suggest a terminal breakdown in unit discipline and cohesion.

But while the European Union and the United Nations have spared no effort to safeguard the welfare of Yasser Arafat, it has paid scant attention to to the fate of fellow Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, possibly because, as the Wall Street Journal caustically observed, Arafat had more in common with Suu Kyi's jailors than with Suu Kyi. Nor was Burma, renamed Myanmar by its rulers, unwelcome by its Asian neighbors who admitted it to membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1997, a fact that may have less to do with any sort of Asian nonconfrontationalism than a desire to preserve an important center for money laundering -- and drugs. And there was no shortage of businessmen willing to defy the embargoes of their own government in order to take advantage of the unique advantages in slave labor that a country like Burma could provide. During the Clinton era, some military contractors were caught importing clothing from Burma.

If Suu Kyi has been killed or seriously injured, the problem will be finding an appropriate response. Certainly the United Nations will do nothing and ASEAN even less. In the past, the US foreign policy tool of choice in situations where US national security did not seem directly threatened was the application of sanctions. But sanctions, as the Cato Institute pointed out, have neither toppled the regime nor improved human rights, while impoverishing Burma. And now we may be thrown, in our puzzlement, back upon the dictum of Sherlock Homes who said: "that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth" -- that sanctions having proved impossible, we should now consider whether action is all that remains. Burma does in fact constitute a threat to the security of the United States and of the region. For surely drugs like amphetamines are an assault not just upon the youth of America, but the youth of the world.

Aung San Suu Kyi was America's proxy soldier in the War on Drugs in Burma. She was, in her own brave way, an entirely for her own reasons, an army of one set against a pack of socialist drug lords. And her death, which God pray may not have transpired, will be a mark of shame upon so great a nation as the United States of America, who in her power, chose to wage war against so mean an enemy with so slender a force.

On August 21, 1983, the murder of another brave man in a strategic backwater finally provoked a rethinking of American policy. In the crisis following the death of Benigno Aquino at the hands of the Marcos dictatorship, Paul Wolfowitz persuaded then President Reagan that the time had come to actively topple the dictator of the Philippines. "'I actually thought it probably was the high point of my career,' Wolfowitz said. 'I never expected to do anything as interesting or as important' again."

Ralph Peters argued that "the Shah always falls"; that dictators are always toppled in the end, and that therefore, it was in America's interest to support the forces of freedom whatever the temporary inconvenience. The Burmese dictators sure could use some toppling.

Breaking ...

June 6, 2003 22:00 GMT

David Adesnik of Oxblog is calling for bloggers to flood the zone on the issue of Aung San Suu Kyi's disappearance. You might have to scroll around, his permalinks aren't working.

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit seconds the motion.

Andrew Sullivan, who is wired in Washington, says that John McCain is proposing targeted sanctions aimed at the business cronies of the regime. Sullivan says the destruction and impoverishment of Burma is "a lesson in how destructive authoritarian politics can be."

The Belmont Club has argued that sanctions are not enough. In common with all self-appointed dictators of the proletariat, the socialist generals in Burma are impervious to pleas and appeals to reason. But where the kumbaya chorus of Chirac and Annan fails, the persuasions of Smith and Wesson may yet be effective.


The UN is calling for the Burmese junta to release Aun Aun San Suu Kyi, but the United States has already started punitive action against the dictatorial generals by imposing visa restrictions on the managers and families of Burma's state-run enterprises and seeking to freeze assets held within America jurisdiction, according to the Washington Post. The Post goes on to say that a bipartisan bill imposing trade sanctions which could cut off up to a quarter of Burma's foreign trade is making its way through Congress, with President Bush likely to approve.

June 7, 2003 02:27 GMT