Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Naypyidaw Option

After you have read the post, have your say about whether the Naypyidaw Option should be on the table.

The international reaction to the crackdown in Burma is looking more and more like Darfur revisited, where China dithers, blocking any meaningful action at the UN Security Council while innocents get slaughtered.

With China holding a veto at the Security Council, the UN isn't likely to threaten anything strong enough to deter Burma's junta from continuing to oppress its long-suffering people. Burma is rather isolated already.

Moreover, to the extent the West has stayed out of Burma, China's geopolitical interests have been advanced and Burma's junta has profited. Other major beneficiaries of sanctions by the West against the Burmese junta include India and Russia.

Many countries are eager to exploit Burma' rich natural resources. China, Russia, and India would be likely be delighted if the crackdown in Burma led Western countries to impose more severe sanctions against Burma, because this reduces competition for Burma's resources. These countries seek continued privileged access to Burma's resources at bargain prices.

Last week, Burma's junta decisively chose violence over civility. It's soldiers fired automatic weapons at unarmed civilians. This obviously isn't Gorbachev that Burma's peaceful protestors are up against. The junta crossed a line.

What to do about it?

For one thing, the free peoples of the world ought to start "thinking out of the box" on Burma. Certainly, we should get creative about our approach to China. What about other options?

Recently, Burma's junta built a new capital out in the jungle called Naypyidaw (also spelled Naypyitaw or Nay Pyi Taw, it means “Abode of Kings"). You can read more about the new capital here (BBC), and examine rare photos taken by a foreign traveler who visited Naypyidaw in June 2007 here. Interestingly, even China has criticized its ally for building this fortified city in the middle of nowhere. Some analysts speculate the new capital was constructed by the junta to keep itself safe from the protests of its civilian population.

However, by moving into this new, still mostly uninhabited capital, the regime may have rendered itself strategically vulnerable -- to an air strike.*

Can you imagine circumstances in which this -- call it the "Naypyidaw Option" -- should be put on the table? **

*Perhaps that's why China criticized the regime for building it.

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