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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Tibetan Exiles' Meeting Produces Comparisons with Burma

November 26, 2008

The Irrawaddy News Magazine (Thailand)
November 25, 2008

The week-long meeting of Tibetan exiles in Dharmsala, India, has
inevitably drawn comparisons with the activities of Burma's own
exiled opposition community.

Tibet and Burma each have a government in exile. But some Burmese
exiles and Burma scholars claim that while the Tibetan opposition in
exile, led by the Dalai Lama, shows cohesion, the same cannot be said
for Burma's.

Criticism of the Burmese opposition in exile has grown recently, with
complaints that it lacks unity and a united strategy, providing for
dialogue between all groups.

One leading Burma expert, Mikael Gravers, associate professor at
Aarhus University in Denmark, said there were naturally differences
between opposition groups who have to act internally under constraint
and those who can act more freely in the diaspora.

"They literally live in very different worlds," he told The Irrawaddy
in an email interview.

"In Burma, the repression is now as massive as ever seen," said
Gravers, author of National As Political Paranoia in Burma: An Essay
on The Historical Practice of Power."Thus, I think critics should
consider if it is the failure of the opposition alone or the result
of the repression which has silenced and split those who struggle for
a change."

In the late 1990s, there was a significant change in the Burmese
exile movement with the formation of a Burmese government in exile,
the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB). Aung
San Suu Kyi's cousin, Sein Win, has led the NCGUB from the start.
Observers say the NCGUB has yet to find a leadership role for the
democracy movement in exile.

Apart from the NCGUB, there are several umbrella organizations within
Burma's exile movement, such as the National Council of the Union of
Burma (NCUB), the Forum for Democracy in Burma (FDB), the Members of
Parliamentary Union (MPU). They fall out from time to time—most
recently when the NCGUB failed to cooperate with the NCUB in its
action against the Burmese junta seat at the United Nations.

A NCUB secretary, Aung Moe Zaw, said the Burmese exile movement
played a supporting role in the pro-democracy struggle, while the
Tibetan opposition was centered in exile. "The nature of Burma's
democracy movement and Tibet's one are not the same," he said.

Although different Burmese exile groups were working under a
collective leadership for democracy, the movement as a whole had
failed to engage the participation of all Burmese exiles, Aung Moe Zaw said.

Despite the impression of unity given by the Tibetan exile movement,
the Dalai Lama's strategy for Tibet, calling for autonomy and not
independence, came in for criticism at the Dharmsala meeting.

Critics questioned this so-called "middle way." Tsewang Rigzin,
president of the Tibetan Youth Congress, told The Associated Press
ahead of the meeting: "We need to have a strategy. It's the middle
way right now. But that has been a failure.

"We have history on our side; we have truth on our side. We know the
Chinese" there's no way we can live under China."

The Dalai Lama claimed at the end of the meeting that he had majority
support for his "middle way path to the Tibetan issue."

The meeting left open, however, the options of demanding independence
or self-determination if China fails to grant Tibet autonomy.

China has occupied Tibet since 1950 and brutally suppressed a Tibetan
uprising in 1959. The Dalai Lama fled to India and formed the Tibetan
exiled government in Dharmsala.

In March this year, five months before the Beijing Olympics, Tibetan
protestors, led by Buddhist monks, challenged Chinese rule. The
uprising was crushed by Chinese troops—with the kind of brutality
employed by Burmese security forces to suppress Burma's own uprising
in September 2007.
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