Key on Burma and East Asia Summit

November 24th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

An interesting interview with John Key by Audrey Young. Some extracts:

Who first suggested you visit Burma?

My trusty foreign policy adviser [Ben King] and it worked because of location – it is close to Cambodia – and because we as a Government genuinely do believe that the Myanmar [Burma] Government is making progress. I don’t think we are naive to that progress. We understand it is not all perfect. It’s a long way from perfection, but fairly much every country is recognising them now and taking sanctions off them and trying to encourage them. The other EAS leaders have been very strong in their personal views to me. Certainly [President Susilo Bambang] Yudhoyono of Indonesia and [Prime Minister] Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore have been very much of the view that [Burmese President] Thein Sein is quite genuine in his progress. …

You said in a press briefing with President Thein Sein that New Zealanders were passionate about human rights.

I care about people’s human rights and, as a country, we have a very proud record indeed. But I’m also realistic about what we can do … we can raise those issues with leaders and we can talk about those issues, and we do that. Moral persuasion over a period of time makes a difference, but we shouldn’t be naive to think that just because we raise it in a meeting it will make all those problems go away. It won’t and it doesn’t.

Can you have real democracy in Burma and still keep the ban on motorbikes?

You could if the voters had the chance to vote out the Government that had such a policy. But apparently the genesis of the ban was that one of the generals’ sons was killed on one so they just got rid of them.

Amazing. The madness of absolute power.

Do you think he’ll visit New Zealand as President?

My foreign policy adviser keeps reminding me to ask. I am not so confident. I hope so and he will probably come to Australia and he has obviously been before. He might. He really wants to. But the problem is that there just aren’t areas of disagreement. There’s obviously the anti-nuclear issue but that has been put behind us long ago. In a world that is so intense for him with so little … I know he personally wants to.

Ironically, you’re more likely to get a US visit if there is a dispute to help smooth over!

Was it a good trip?

I reckon really good. The thing about EAS is we got everything we wanted. We got the President saying let’s try and get a deal by the end of 2013. We said to him ‘do you want us to say this in the press because [if] you do, it will be reported and we’ll be held to account on it?’ and he said yes, absolutely. That doesn’t mean we’ll get a deal. There’s a lot of scepticism from those that aren’t involved in TPP. But he’s really serious about it. He thinks there aren’t that many levels for him to pull. It’s hard. They’ve got very low interest rates, they’re printing money, they’ve got big fiscal deficits. What things can he do to stimulate the economy? That’s one of them. It might fail but it won’t fail by want of trying.

My reading of this is the US needs the TPP more than NZ does. This doesn’t mean NZ should be unreasonable and try to screw the US over in negotiations. But it does mean that the NZ position on issues such as the proposed IP chapter shouldn’t be traded away.

Tags: , , , ,

It’s Burma again

December 3rd, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

A small but symbolically important decision from the Government:

The Government is to change its position on Myanmar and return to calling it Burma.

The Asian nation was known as Burma until 1989 when the military government changed it to Myanmar.

The Government has accepted a recommendation from Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully to use Burma. Mr McCully said the change signalled that New Zealand refused to recognise the legitimacy of the military regime.

A very good call.

Tags:

Labour on Burma

April 22nd, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Labour seem to have multiple spokespersons and policies on engagement with Burma.

The Dom Post reports:

Three government officials from Myanmar’s repressive military regime are studying English in New Zealand, funded by the taxpayer.

Why, we wonder?

Mr McCully said he had allowed the officials to study here after a review of Myanmar’s involvement in the English Language Training for Officials scheme. That was in line with an international move – led by United States President Barack Obama – to increase engagement with Myanmar in preparation for what were hoped to be democratic elections this year. …

In 2008, Mr McCully – then in opposition – criticised Labour for allowing government-owned company Kordia, formerly BCL, to work in a joint venture doing engineering work on cellphone tower installations in Myanmar. He called the Myanmar government the “Butchers of Burma”. Asked to justify his apparent change of heart, Mr McCully would only say it was “consistent with the international community”.

He said the three studying in New Zealand worked in the civil service in Myanmar. “We don’t do it for people who hold controversial roles.”

Okay – makes sense.  So what does Labour say on it. First their foreign affairs spokesperson:

Labour foreign affairs spokesman Chris Carter said it was important to show the Myanmar officials how democracy should work. “It’s about political education in a way.”

Goodness I am agreeing with Chris. Training up civil servants on how to do a good job, seems worthwhile.

But Labour MP Maryan Street disagrees:

Burma Cross-Party Parliamentary Group chairwoman Maryan Street, a Labour MP, said: “We should not be doing anything to prop up that administration.”

She said the officials – studying in Wellington, Napier, and Nelson – could spy on refugees in this country, leading to possible persecution of families in Burma.

“This is not the same as providing humanitarian support and assistance and training for people who are going back to help develop their country.”

So who speaks for Labour on this issue, and what is their policy?

Finally I wonder if this is a new initiative:

Mr McCully said each participant in the English Language Training for Officials scheme cost about $35,000 to educate over six months – paid for by the New Zealand Government. About 35 officials had visited from Myanmar since 1998.

Guess not.

Tags: , , , ,

HoS calls for Bush to invade Burma

May 18th, 2008 at 8:34 am by David Farrar

The HoS editorial calls on President Bush to lead a multinational force to move into Burma and ensure aid is delivered to those that need it.

There does come a point when a Government’s sovereignty becomes less important than the welfare of its citizens. Has this one reached that tipping point?

Tags: , ,