An Honest Look at Obama and Thein Sein Meeting

1) What do you make of Mr Thein Sein's statements about the role of the military, the need to end communal violence and the call for a new national identity?

2) What do you make of Mr Obama's statement acknowledging Mr Thein Sein's efforts and that that Myanmar is set to release more political prisoners?

3) Do you think this visit will provide support for Mr Thein Sein against the opponents of political reform? Why or why not?

 On Thein Sein's Presidential Words and deeds

Thein Sein is a provable world class liar, and on many topics it will be downright stupid to take his presidential words at face value.

Take one concrete and fresh example: in his recent Washington Post interview, Thein Sein repeated his government's official and institutionalzied liethat the Rohingya are not an ethnic group, but Bangali migrant laborers brought to Western Burma under the British rule. He just ignored the mountain of evidence to the contrary.

Last year, Thein Sein changed his tune on the violence against the Rohingya at least 4 times in a span of 4 months, from telling the UNHCR to in effect help expel and resettle 800,000 of them to a third country or build UN-financed apartheid camps in Burma to saying most of them are NOT illegal migrants, but our people.

On the military's 'eternal' role in Burma's national politics and institutions of democratic power

On the issue of the role of the military in Burma, it isn't simply the case of lying with a straight face, unlike the Rohingya ethnocide, but a case of deluded institutional memory. The consensus view among the Burmese public of all ethnic and religious background is that the Burmese military which primarily functions as the indispensable instrument of generals' power and wealth for the last 50 years is a national disgrace and a categorical failure as nation-builders. In contrast, Thein Sein and his brothers in the military have deluded themselves into thinking that the military is a proud national institutional that has played the most positive role in the developments of Burma as a post-independence nation-state.

The most popular joke among the Burmese is that their greatest worry is not even when the next meal will come from, but that they will be 'saved' by the military, again. The last two times the generals claimed they had saved Burma on the verge of ruins in 1962 and 1988, things have gone from bad to worse.

Number one obstacle and daunting challenge Burma faces is the military's institutionalized delusions and self-perception that they are a cut above the rest of the society and that they are building a modern 'discipline flourishing' democracy.

Not even raging and/or simmering civil wars in the borderlands or not even neo-Nazi "Buddhist" violence against the Rohingya and the Burmese Muslims comes close to this major obstacle.
On the need to end communal violence

Two major problems with Thein sein's continued framing of the mass violence against the Rohingyas and Burmese Muslims is: 1) such framing shields his government from credible allegations and investigative news reports coming from independent sources such as the UN officials as well as respectable human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that the officials and state security organizations themselves are both directly and indirectly involved in the mass violence; and 2) his government which knows for a fact who really is behind these well-organized and coordinated violence against these vulnerable Muslim Rohingya and Muslim minorities, but has not identified these masterminds publicly nor have reigned in in any way, shape or form. For it is because these 'dark forces' are part of Myanmar's military-crony complex, and Thein Sein himself is powerless to touch them.

On the need for a new national identity

Burma does need a new national identity that moves away from the current blood-based Nazi view towards a view that anyone who buried their umbilical chord on Burma's soil as "Tai-yin-tha", or the Burmese equivalent of "Bumiputra". Multiculturalism and multiethnic society as both a reality and an ideal are certainly not alien to Burma, whether from our national origin 1,000 years ago when the courts officially used multiple languages and were made up of all different 'ethnic' peoples. As a matter of fact, the late Aung San considered the father of independence and the new Union of Burma defined the Burmeseness along secular, civic, all-inclusive nationalist lines. To him "Bumiputra" as anyone born in Burma and wished to live and work for the common good of the country. The deceitful Burmese politicians and generals alike butchered this multiculturalist ideal after Aung San's assassination in 1947, and since then the Burmese have been operating with a neo-Nazi "Buddhist" identity - based on blood and faith - and walking backwards towards the stone age.

On Obama's statement about Myanmar's release and plans to release more political prisoners

Well, Obama's main concerns regarding Burma and Thein Sein's visits are not political prisoners, the well-being of the Burmese public, peace in Burma or the ethnic and religious conflicts. The US foreign policy has become typically about containing China's rising power and influence, commercial interests of US corporations and American cronies on the Wall Street and the Pentagon's attempts to maintain its military dominance in the world. In a word, Obama is all about late US imperialism in the face of economic decay at home and the felt threats to American primacy from the rising alternative centers of power such as China.

Plus the Chief Authorizer of Guatenanomo Bay and CIA torture chambers around the world Obama is not the man known for his concerns for Burmese political prisoners, their freedom or well-being.

Everyone remotely familiar with the past records of Burma's military and semi-military leaderships know perfectly well that political prisoners are nothing but bargaining chips and public relations tools used by the Burmese generals and ex-generals. Nothing more, nothing less.

On the impact of Thein Sein's visit

Thein Sein is nothing but a smooth-talking figure head, a good liar among more crude and crass liars in the military's inner circle. Yes, there are elements in the inner and outer circles of Naypyidaw's ruling clique. But they are all united, more or less, in one thing: perpetuating the un-rivaled controlled over the economy, politics and society in the ways that primarily advance the military's core interests as well as that of personal interests of the military and ex-military leaders.

On most matters, Thein Sein is powerless and cannot do anything without the backing of both key military and economic players in Burma's emerging military-crony complex.

So, I don't really think his US visit makes any difference in terms of his power vis-a-vis that of his rivals in the regime's power structure. He is simply the military's propaganda facade. When he brings goodies home from important trips abroad they will all share the spoils. But if he makes promises that are against the military's designs against the ethnic peoples or the mainstream society the military, which is the real power behind the new facade, simply ignores and undermines Thein Sein's presidential powers.


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