Wednesday, March 4, 2009

10-10-2007 India should back democracy demands in Myanmar

India should back democracy demands in Myanmar, says leader

Wednesday October 10, 10:09 AM

New Delhi, Oct 10 (IANS) A Myanmar opposition leader living in India in exile after being sentenced to 25 years in jail in absentia wants New Delhi to actively support pro-democracy forces in his country.

Tint Swe of the National League for Democracy (NLD) said that Myanmar rulers were cleverly playing the Sino-Indian card to their advantage and that India's economic and military aid to the junta was of no benefit to the people at large.
'I am not afraid to say that we are not pleased with India's response (to the Myanmar crisis),' Swe told IANS in an interview. 'India is a unique nation. Why is India following the footsteps of China when it comes to Burma?

'India should engage not only with the government in power but also with NLD. The Indian ambassador never attended NLD functions. India has never sponsored the Burma resolutions at the UN. India gave soft loans and sold arms to the regime.
'I don't understand why Indian policy makers do not seek our views,' he added, referring to the country by its traditional name Burma.
A government officer for 15 years, Swe, 60, joined NLD in 1988 during massive student protests that the authorities crushed leaving some 3,000 people dead.
Two years later, Swe was elected to parliament with many others opposed to the military. But the junta spiked the election results and jailed democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Swe then fled to India, after narrowly escaping arrest. India at that time openly came out against the military rulers.
Swe soon became a member of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), which functions as a government-in-exile. He has lived here since then articulating the aspirations of the opposition forces in Myanmar.
After 1990, New Delhi did a U-turn and reached out to the regime on the plea that alienating the military in Myanmar, a country of 54 million with which it shares a long border, would harm its strategic interests since Yangon was supporting its fight against anti-India rebels on the India-Myanmar border. China is another close ally of Myanmar.
Now, following international criticism that it was embracing a military out to crush democratic forces, India has said that it wants the junta to talk to Aung Suu Kyi as part of a broader dialogue process that should include Buddhist monks, who have played a major role in the current anti-government protests.
According to Swe, who functions as a minister in the Prime Minister's Office of the government-in-exile, Indian leaders have studiously avoided him even as he gets to meet government figures in Western countries.
'The largest democracy (India) offered democracy training to the military officials. The exiled MPs got such training from Sweden. My colleagues in the US have access to State Department and Congress.
'During my 17 years (in India), I was honoured to meet the leader of the opposition (in the Rajya Sabha) only once, on Aug 3 this year,' he said. 'My 'prime minister' was received by the French president. But despite repeated requests he was not granted visa to visit India even for pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya.'
India is home to some 40,000 Myanmar nationals, many of who fled to this country following the 1988 uprising. This includes four MPs elected in 1990. Swe says he is not comfortable in New Delhi 'because of weather and culture, but being a member of NLD, I keep staying here as long-term investment for Indo-Burma relations'.
After he escaped to India, a military court sentenced Swe to 25 years in prison for his role in the formation of the parallel government whose members now live around the world.
A doctor by training, Swe said 'people are frightened' in Myanmar after the military crushed the street protests leaving, according to him, about 200 people dead and 4,000 in jails. 'But this is not the end of the war... The flame cannot be put out with bullets. I am confident the movement will go on.'
He said that Aung Suu Kyi was the only person who could unite Myanmar, where some of the ethnic groups have been waging war against the central government for decades.
'It is a kind of stalemate in Burma today,' he said. 'The regime can't control (the people) and we are yet to achieve (victory). If the international community joins with either side, (the battle) will prove decisive. It is up to the international community.'

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