As the military junta's crackdown begins, the U.S. calls for use of "diplomatic and economic leverage to help the Burmese people reclaim their freedom"
Burma's military junta, which is known for its human rights violations—including the restriction of basic freedoms, the persecution of ethnic minorities, and forced child labor—is clashing with Buddhist monks and other peaceful demonstrators. In a scene reminiscent of Burma's student uprising of 1988, which ultimately resulted in bloodshed at the hands of the military, thousands of individuals have taken to the streets to protest the repressive regime.
While there were no reports of violence in the initial weeks of the current protests, the military government announced on Tuesday that a curfew would be imposed. They have since cracked down on protesters, with reported use of tear gas, clubs, and bullets, killing several protesters and arresting hundreds more.
In his speech this week to the United Nations General Assembly, President Bush announced that the United States is placing tighter sanctions on the military junta in Burma, also known as Myanmar, and he called upon other countries to "use their diplomatic and economic leverage to help the Burmese people reclaim their freedom."
In Worst of the Worst: Dealing with Repressive and Rogue Nations, a new Brookings book edited by Robert I. Rotberg, the authors present an innovative, transparent approach to identifying the world’s most repressive regimes, and setting policy priorities in order to address the injustice that the repressive nations inflict. In her chapter on Burma, Priscilla Clapp, former chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Burma, describes the country as the "poster child for entrenched repression." She explains that "the creation of a stable democracy in Burma will require a total overhaul of government and the development of civil society and the institutions of pluralistic democracy" rather than an abrupt or violent transition, which would ultimately lead to the continuation of authoritative military rule.
For a more detailed analysis of Burma's history and politics, check out Burma: Prospects for a Democratic Future, also edited by Rotberg. This book examines the origins and consequences of Burma's policies from military, political, social, and economic perspectives.