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The hypocrisy of the West
Yangon (Myanmar), March 25th 2008

A spotted backpacker with a “Free Tibet” t-shirt looks condemned when we tell him that the next destination of our journey is Myanmar. He would never go to a country with a dictatorship or a country where the government violates the human rights. When we ask him if he has ever been to China, he nods affirmative ‘Yes’. It is a great country he adds, you really should go there if you have the chance. How hypocrite can you be!

But it is not only these kinds of individuals that are very hypocrite. Also the governments of many Western, often very powerful countries, conduct a ridiculous kind of politics. The main characteristic of the politics that they conduct is that the “friendly states” get carte blanche, while the less friendly states are terrorised by the zealously “political correct” governments. We are now almost ten months on the road, and Myanmar is the second boycotted country that we visit. Just like Iran, the Western countries think that they can change the regime of Myanmar by boycotting the country. A couple of months ago, we got for example a letter from our bank that as result of the boycott, it was not allowed anymore to transfer money to countries like Cuba, Iran and Myanmar. We are not hit by this kind of measures, but the often poor people that live in these boycotted countries and that are dependent on the financial support that they get from overseas family members, are the main victims of this kind of politics. At the end there is only one victim of the boycott, and that are the common people that work everyday hard to earn their living. The dictators of these countries are not hit at all. They always find their way to increase their wealth at the expense of the common people. Sometimes it is even worse, because the effect of the boycott can be contra productive, like in Iran. The negative consequences of the boycott are blown up and used by the dictators to ‘show’ the common people how bad the West is. The result is that the common people choose the side of the dictators and see in the West their common enemy. There is only one way a regime can change, and that is when the common people put pressure on the dictators. If the West wants to chance a regime, it can only be done by supporting the common people to achieve this change. And that is exactly the reason why a boycott does not work. By imposing a boycott, the West is not supporting the common people of that particular country, but they are terrorising them. That doesn’t make the West really different from the dictators. The evidence for this theory is the past. It never happened in history that a regime changed as a direct result of a boycott.

The ridiculous part of the Western politics is that they conduct different standards for different groups of countries. The “not so friendly states”, which means that they are not of economical, political or strategic importance to the West, are often treated with boycotts when they do not act in the interest of the West or their inhabitants. Friendly states however, which means that they are of economical, political or strategic importance to the West, can do what they want without any consequences. Look for example to Saudi Arabia. It is a country in where the rights of women are among the worst in the entire world, but because of its huge oil reserves and the fact that they are a military ally, they are left alone. No government in the West will even think about addressing the rights of women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Not to mention addressing a boycott. Another example is China. Everybody knows that China violates the human rights on a huge scale. The most recent example is the way how they handled the demonstrations of the people of Tibet in March 2008. Also in this case, there is no Western government that is considering a boycott against China, like the way they do with Iran or Myanmar. The reason is very simple. The political and economical consequences are simply too high. But also here it is even worse. Some Western companies that are active on the Chinese market help the Chinese government in conducting their disputable politics. The only reason: economical gain! Microsoft for example, accepted the demand of the Chinese government to make restrictions in the MySpace bloggings (restricting the rights of free speech) and Yahoo made it even worse. They gave personal information about one of its Chinese clients to the Chinese government, resulting in an imprisonment of several years.

It is true that the “political correct” Western governments boycott the countries with unwanted governments like Iran and Myanmar, but they still support these dictatorships in an indirect way. You can call it: political correctness just for their prestige. The unwanted military regime of Myanmar for example, earns the most of their money from the gas exports to China and India. Two months ago when we were in Bangladesh, we read in the newspaper that Bangladesh must take into account that it can import less gas in the future from Myanmar, because Myanmar prefers to export her gas to China and India. Even stronger, China and India are tightening their relations with Myanmar, because they are interested in the apparently huge oil reserves of Myanmar. And indeed, China and India are two countries economical powers that the West uses more and more to satisfy their increasing demand for cheap products and services. So, the West is boycotting Myanmar in a direct way, but is not ashamed to buy products and services of countries like China and India, that are using the gas of Myanmar to produce these products.

Eventually, it is all about money, power and strategic importance. If these interests are not on stake, “political correct” countries in the West feel free to show their dissatisfaction by imposing boycotts or other restrictions. However, if their interests are on stake, it is easier to turn your back and look into the other direction. How hypocrite can you be!

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