After decades of brutal military rule, Myanmar’s people have taken to the streets to demand democracy, and they are being mowed down. China, India and Russia have the means — but apparently not the will — to stop Myanmar’s vicious junta from murdering more of its citizens. The three countries regularly proclaim themselves world powers, yet they refuse to accept the moral responsibility that must come with that position.
China is Myanmar’s chief trading partner and protector. Many other countries, including the United States, refuse to do business with the regime, but India and Russia are comfortably making money off the generals and helping keep them in power, with arms and energy deals. So far, they all have refused to use that leverage — a shocking demonstration of greed and political cowardice.
On Wednesday, Beijing ruled out calls for international sanctions and stopped the Security Council even from condemning the junta’s indiscriminate use of force against pro-democracy protests. On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed sanctions as premature and said he “assumed” the violence will stop.
China is an authoritarian state, and Russia is increasingly anti-democratic. Officials in both fear internal dissent and fear setting a precedent that would allow others to criticize their own repressive ways. As in the case of North Korea — another client state — Beijing disingenuously argues its influence with Myanmar only goes so far. And despite that claim, Beijing managed to persuade the junta to allow a visit by a special United Nations envoy.
The response of India, the democracy on which the United States hopes to build a key security and economic relationship for the 21st century, also has been weak and pathetic. New Delhi issued a carefully nuanced call for political reform and said nothing about sanctions.
We are heartened that the normally supercautious Association of Southeast Asian Nations, whose members are Myanmar’s immediate neighbors, expressed revulsion with the junta’s crackdown. But we fear that so long as the three major regional partners refuse to get tough with the generals, such outrage will make little difference.
China will host the 2008 Olympics, which it sees as a coming out party for its rising international power. Beijing’s rulers need to know that the world is watching to see whether it will now use its influence to stop the killing in Myanmar — or again abdicate the responsibilities that come with real world leadership.
Source: New York Times