The ongoing battle for moral and discursive supremacy on Burma issues has now made it to the pages of Foreign Policy In Focus. It has recently carried a three-part debate between David I. Steinberg, Director of the Asian Studies Program, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, and Kyi May Kaung ”a Burmese dissident, artist, poet, and political analyst living in exile”.
Their arguments need to be read more widely. Each provides a position statement:
David I. Steinberg, “Minimizing the Miasma in Myanmar”
Kyi May Kaung, “Sanctions and Burma: Shades of Grey”
They then launch some final volleys in “Burma Strategic Dialogue: Responses“.
It is simple hubris to maintain that only expatriate Burmese can be the forum through which conditions in, and progress on, Burma/Myanmar can take place, or that they alone can act as the arbiters or explainers of internal Burmese conditions. Indeed, because conditions are so controlled there, the case for direct access is enhanced. Expatriates are important, but are not sufficient.
And Kyi May Kaung counters:
In the end, whatever Steinberg says, he remains an armchair academic, afflicted with Rangoonitis.
Read the full articles: it is relatively rare that such opposing points-of-view on Burma “engagement” are put so forcefully and with such passion. If anybody wants to weigh in to this debate, please send me an e-mail – I am more than happy to devote a post to any reader’s thoughts or arguments.
Thanks to Cheri, from Burma Gateway, for drawing my attention to this important exchange. New Mandala readers keen to keep up-to-date with Burma events and activities (particularly from an Australian perspective) should bookmark her site and return often. It is a treasure-trove of useful information.