Home / Publications / Putting Democracy Out of Reach: How Myanmar’s New Government Violates the Law of Nations and Threatens Global Peace and Security, January 2012

Putting Democracy Out of Reach: How Myanmar’s New Government Violates the Law of Nations and Threatens Global Peace and Security, January 2012

Recent political moves by President U Thein Sein, representing the new “civilian” government in Burma, must be taken with a grain of salt; the President has no more power to “shift to democracy” than he had in his old job as Burma’s Prime Minister. The world’s parsing of President U Thein Sein’s words is a distraction from examining what the military is now doing within its new “law free zone” and from the fact that the President can do nothing about it.

Senior General Than Shwe and his military cohorts successfully pulled off setting up a “sovereign state,” the Union of the Republic of Myanmar, which lacks the sovereign powers of a state. Under the new constitution, the “Defense Services,” ruled solely by the military Commander-in-Chief, is a legally autonomous entity outside of the sovereign state. The new “civilian” government has no authority to enforce any domestic law or international treaty against the military, including the Genocide or Geneva Conventions, the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, nor, for that matter, the UN Charter. Only a new constitution, not political rhetoric, can put Burma on the road to change.

The situation “post-election” in Burma is dangerous. The military is flourishing under its new protected status, reinforced by constitutional guarantees of impunity for past and future crimes. Burma’s long-running civil war has exploded with renewed military attacks on ethnic armies and civilians, including the use of rape as a weapon of war. Evidence of the military’s use of chemical weapons against the Shan and Kachin armies is mounting. The military’s purchase of weapons and nuclear technology from North Korea continues unabated. Burma’s relationship with Iran, reinforced with several senior level exchanges, resulted in an ‘economic’ agreement on October 10, 2011, when Deputy Foreign Minister last visited Tehran.

Until Burma is held accountable for its serious breaches of the law of nations, including specific aspects of its new constitution, the risks to global security will increase. No amount of investment in Burma’s natural gas can be worth supporting the resulting income going for the acquisition of nuclear weapons by war criminals who have perpetrated genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

This briefing paper examines Burma’s “post election” breaches of international law and how they undermine our global legal order:
1. Burma’s constitution, providing for a bifurcated “sovereign state,” is an internationally wrongful act and therefore null and void.
2. Post-election military crimes are escalating in Burma, fueled by guarantees of impunity and a complicit judiciary.
3. Burma’s laundering of war criminals through a sham election process does not create a new “civilian” government.
4. Economic development in any true sense is not possible in Burma given the military’s control of the economy through crimes and corruption.
5. The constitutional guarantee of a “law free zone” for the military, including shielding its nuclear weapons development program, threatens global peace and security.

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