Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Hit Them Where It Hurts.

I'm always a little bit worried when Britain gets accused of interfering with her old colonies. Even when the allegations are completely unfounded, such as those in Iran, or so absurd they can't be true, such as those in Zimbabwe, there's always a lingering voice telling me we shouldn't be involving ourselves in other countries domestic issues. In fact the recent Iranian election provides a good example. The British media and a lot of the public were outraged at the apparently rigged election result as they have every right to. In fact Channel 4 news did a very good job of reporting the election and subsequent protests. However, what was most important was that the official representation of Britain (i.e. the government) refused to get involved with the election result and stated that it was a matter of the Iranians themselves to sort out.

I think though that there is a balance that needs to be struck. Certainly Britain is a respected country on the international scene which enjoys membership of the EU as well as a close relationship with the US. It would be somewhat pointless having this influence if we could not use it for the power of good. The problems arise when deciding upon the appropriate sanction in a situation. This is what Britain, and other countries/international organisations, have to decide upon in the upcoming weeks and months in relation to Burma.

Aung San Suu Kyi will be kept under house arrest for the next 18 months for allowing a US national into her home. The Burmese have attempted to make the sentence seem lenient in the eyes of the international community by reducing the original sentence from 3 years hard labour but this is widely recognised as a meaningless token because it still means Suu Kyi will not be allowed to stand in the election next year; the first since 1990.

So as our friend Lenin would say; What is to be Done? Well in the short term it seems that once again Labour has done the right thing. The very critical stance taken by Gordon Brown clearly establishes the British position in relation to this matter. The long-term will be more interesting. Whilst we can't jump to extremes and invade, on the other hand we can't simply let this issue drop after a week or so.

The answer, I believe, lies in economic sanctions. By isolating Burma it makes it harder for the country to function. Some would suggest that this only makes things harder for the people of Burma but cutting off economic aid and trade is a good way to strangle the military junta.

At a time when we are considering the legacy of Corazon Aquino and 'people power' in that part of the world, it would not surprise me if the Burmese dictatorship was overthrown within the next year. From the outside, we have to show our support to her people by not assisting those in power.