15 DECEMBER 2009


Gradually and discreetly, Myanmar disappeared from the radar screen. No more headlines on the oppressive Junta and the authoritative Senior General, no more quotations from peaceful activists in the opposition, no more purported wisecracks from a comedian critical of the regime, no more demands for the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Instead, there was a visit to Yangoon by a U.S. congressman (A Democrat) ostensibly on a humanitarian yet exploratory mission who indeed met with the Senior General, an "honour" withheld from the U.N. Special Envoy. It was soon followed by an official visit by the new U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific, Kurt Campbell, who instead of applying the usual open pressure, urged "more frequent interaction." He met the Minister of Science and Technology (!) and proclaimed that he expected Myanmar "to live up to its obligations" on the proliferation of nuclear energy (!). He was impressed that the military had announced elections for next year, as if already rubber-stamping it.

Until recently, the U.S. government was the last big power to pressure the Myanmar dictator. Campaigns by civic groups found support in the White House of President George W. Bush and the State Department of Dr. Condoleezza Rice. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had to go through the motions in order to ease off that pressure. In fact, immediately after his visit, business relations between South Korea and Myanmar were intensified and officialized into trade agreements. The Chinese already have a substantive interest there. So does India. Hence those futile visits by the U.N. Special Envoy to Beijing and Delhi. French companies were also invited. The British have been very instrumental in encouraging the Secretary General to "keep talking" to the Generals. Now, the U.S. government is joining the "deal" group. The U.N. envoy is now sent to Darfur without even the pretention of announcing an immediate replacement.

Meanwhile, a freedom fighter, Nobel Laureate, daughter of the Burmese independence leader, and winner of the most popular vote, has been languishing in solitary confinement.

What did you say her name was?!