Stand with the Burmese protesters, “a community of global citizens who take action on the major issues facing the world today” (from their website), is urging people to sign a petition addressed at Chinese President Hu Jintao and the UN Security Council, asking for opposition to a violent crackdown against the demonstrators and for support of a genuine democracy in Burma. While it won’t hurt to sign, I doubt that the demonstrations in front of Burmese and Chinese embassies will do much good; neither will the visit of UN special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, for that matter. The Chinese government may have some concerns about bad press because of the Olympic Games in Beijing next year. They want to gain acceptance as a modern economic superpower, and the world’s democracies could use this fact to put pressure on China concerning its human rights abuses.

But change the status quo in Burma? Quite unlikely, given the huge profits the Chinese collect. The Guardian reports about “Chinese jade and heroin dealers in partnership with the Burmese junta and individual generals”, and in an interview with the SPIEGEL, Soe Aung, spokesman for the National Council of the Union of Burma (an exile group based in Bangkok), mentions the huge natural gas fields in western Burma that China as well as India and South Korea seek to profit from.

One can only hope that in a predominantly Buddhist nation, more and more soldiers will refuse to shoot at unarmed monks, and that a dialogue between the junta and pro-democracy forces within the society will begin.


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