Intelligent Dialogue Partners or Useful Idiots?
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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Intelligent Dialogue Partners or Useful Idiots?

By SUZANNE ROTT Friday, July 1, 2011


Germany’s federal commissioner for human rights policy, Markus Loening, recently visited Burma and published an article in The Financial Times in which he called upon European Union member states to enter into an “intelligent dialogue with all groups in Burmese society.” This sounds reasonable enough, as long as this call is not what we have seen behind closed diplomatic doors in internal EU member states' consultations about right policies toward Burma. Calls for dialogue with “all groups in Burmese society” have unfortunately too often taken the form of an effort to undermine the role of Aung San Suu Kyi as the genuine leader of the Burmese democratic movement and as a legitimate representative of many of the aspirations of the vast majority in Burmese society.

That is exactly what the generals in power want to achieve—to marginalize and delegitimize Suu Kyi and her party, the National league for Democracy (NLD). From the generals' side, it is a logical and “intelligent” aspiration. They rightly see Suu Kyi and the NLD, as well as the ethnic parties that have been banned or were discouraged from taking part in last year's elections, as the real sociopolitical force that can challenge their grip on power. But EU diplomats should under no pretext assist the generals in achieving their goal of sidelining opposition forces.
Dialogue should not lure them into the trap of becoming useful idiots with good intentions who only end up serving the core interests of Burma's military strategists.

To know what the call for dialogue “with all groups in Burmese society” looks like in practice, one need only consider the fact that the European Heads of Missions in Myanmar meeting on March 14, which brought European ambassadors together to discuss their positions regarding the EU sanctions review, the German participant argued against mentioning Suu Kyi by name in official EU communications.

German Ambassador Julius Georg Luy and other German diplomats are among those who for months have been trying to put Suu Kyi at the same level as representatives of the small democratic parties that were allowed by the military regime to enter Parliament to give legitimacy to the results of the sham elections held last November. When EU ambassadors were planning to have a joint meeting and lunch with Suu Kyi, German diplomats argued that they should not meet the NLD leader separately, but only together with representatives of other opposition parties. The German ambassador, together with his Belgian and Spanish colleagues, argued that other democrats and ethnic forces might be offended if it became public that Suu Kyi was being afforded special treatment. It was the UK ambassador who  rightly pushed for a separate meeting with Suu Kyi, because she is still the undisputed leader of the democratic opposition—a fact that EU member states should not deny. But Germany still argued that the goal of such a meeting should be to seek a wide range of views from several interlocutors, without favoring anyone in particular.

By calling for “intelligent dialogue” with all groups in Burma, German diplomats are in reality helping the generals undermine Suu Kyi's legitimacy as the opposition leader. That is very different from what German Chancellor Angela Merkel did when she singled out Suu Kyi and talked with her by phone.

If Germany wants to be right in its intention to talk with “all groups,” then they should be a bit more cautious in defining who “all” is. With their experiences with the Stasi in East Germany, they should know that representation in authoritarian and totalitarian societies is a tricky issue. Germans and Europeans should not let the Burmese military define with whom they should talk and with whom they are not allowed to talk. The ruling party and the opposition parties in the “legal fold,” and the civil society players, both local and international, that have been allowed to operate in the country, simply do not represent the full spectrum of political views in Burma.

If German diplomats want to enter into an intelligent dialogue with all groups in Burmese society, then they should talk, for example, with the families of Min Ko Naing, Nilar Thein, U Gambira and other political prisoners. Such talks could have taken place at the German Embassy in Rangoon during the visit by the federal commissioner for human rights policy. In addition, German diplomats should talk with Kachin, Karen, Shan and other ethnic representatives—not just those who have been allowed into Parliament, but also those who have been barred from even competing. That would constitute a real “dialogue with all groups.” After meeting with them, Loening would probably have been a bit less hopeful but a bit better prepared to lead an intelligent dialogue with the Burmese government.

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Nyunt Han Wrote:
Definitely useful idiots !

Myat Thu Wrote:
Whoever involve in the business of undermining and marginalizing Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD is the enemy of Burma. Don't ever forget that she is the rightful leader of Burma, not just the leader of democratic opposition.

KI Wrote:
ursus i am german...

Ursus Wrote:
Correction: Germany has in fact the worst government SINCE THE END of WW2.

KI, I did not compare the current government with the one during the War. Clear enough for you?

I still keep my opinion. Following very closely German foreign politics results not only in my opinion, but also in the opinion of the majority of unhappy Germans.

I wonder if you're close enough to German People to name that "blatant garbage"!

KI Wrote:
"Germany has in fact the worst government since WW2. "

haha... alright.

I will not discuss on such a level... Calling Germany´s government the worst since WW2 is such blatant garbage that I really cant take you serious.

Peter Ole Kvint Wrote:
The only Dialogue possible in Burma is the guns' Dialogue.

Ursus Wrote:
KI, low quality foreign policy, in this case German foreign policy has to be commented. Not only from Irrawaddy but from all medias.
Germany has in fact the worst government since WW2. Even the majority of the German population discover this fact.

Please separate German policy and Germans!

KI Wrote:
Irrawaddy has done a good job to brainwash people...

Germany is as far away from being Nazi as it gets .. anyone with some common sense can see that.

And Saw Dennis the "master race ideologues"? Are you kidding me??

Tettoe Aung Wrote:
One needs to do a bit of thorough research before one also becomes 'the other'. Why is Germany so desperate in getting a foothold in Burma? Ask yourself this question and your will find your answer. Because of Burma's strategic location 'Murky Merkel' cannot wait to poke her fingers in Burma's pie.

Saw Dennis Wrote:
The German diplomats appear like implementing the strategy of controlling our country through the master race ideologues, the military dictators of Burma, for economic and political gain. Since early 1990s, the German political NGOs have set up quietly a network of opportunist groups as their lackeys to serve their interest, inside and outside of the country, and among the democratic and ethnic forces. The lackeys have been vying with one another to defeat the effort by civilized countries to restore democracy, human rights and durable peace to the country. The German diplomats and NGOs should know that in this 21st Century, Asia is not a place for Nazism or a similar ideology as much as Europe is not. No doubt, not all Germans are power mongers and self-serving opportunists. In fact, the majority of the Germans are passionate and kind hearted people. It is earnestly hoped that the diplomats and NGOs would reform soon.

KI Wrote:
"7 July killing was said to test the effectiveness of German made G3 assault rifles by the Ne Win regim"

Sorry but are you serious?

Observer Wrote:
The article is a joke. Absolutely lacking in substance.

tocharian Wrote:
It's true. Ne Win always had dealings with Fritz Werner (he also used to see a psychiatrist in Wien, Austris, I believe).
Right now, the problem is geo-political. Germany is cosying up to China for economic and political reasons recently and China would let German companies make some deals with the junta. In any case, Germany's influence on Burma is about 5% of that of China. I am all for human rights and free speech, but China certainly does not believe in such "Western values", and democracy will never come to Burma, unless China's political system makes a radical change (unlikely). In the mean time Burma is a takeaway kitchen for China with perhaps a few left-overs for Germany!

Tettoe Aung Wrote:
I believed they are the other - idiots! Some may called it 'anti-German' propaganda but one has to know the history of relations between Burma, in particular the military regime and Germany. If telling the truth is proof of low quality, so be it. Starting with Maung Cho, Ne Win, Fritz Werner and their 'military industrial' complex things have always been a little 'murky'. Look at Wazi for example, it started with the GDR then switched to FDR but smalls arms merchants doesn't have to be either left-handed or right-handed as long as their arms kill people. 7 July killing was said to test the effectiveness of German made G3 assault rifles by the Ne Win regime. How much more can we take from that kind of German friendship?

KI Wrote:
When is this misleading Anti-German propaganda at going to stop?

Its just embarrassing and further proof of the low quality of this newspaper.

George Than Setkyar Heine Wrote:
"EU diplomats should under no pretext assist the generals in achieving their goal of sidelining opposition forces" said Ms. Rott.
And "Dialogue should not lure them into the trap of becoming useful idiots with good intentions who only end up serving the core interests of Burma's military strategists".
In case, Thein Sein is serious about the advertised change and really wants sanctions lifted, investments to flow and reduce poverty, then he has all the tools to achieve his goal: release political prisoners and take steps toward a genuine national dialogue that includes the ethnic and political opposition groups.
And Burma would soon be on the ROAD to DEMOCRACY, PEACE, PROSPERITY and POSTERITY as well, no less.

Myanmar Patriots Wrote:
it is not the function of any diplomat, German or otherwise, to engage with any Burmese groups> it is meddling in internal affairs of a state. The diplomat must engage with the foreign ministry of the host country, regardless of who which party occupies seat of government. The diplomat must not even engage with head of judiciary and speaker of parliament.

Who is SUZANNE ROTT anyway? Why should anyone agree with her? Everyone has the right to disagree with her.That is road to democracy!

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