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[经济学人] [2007.03.01]Myanmar:The Isolation Ward 闭关锁国









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发表于 2010-4-29 04:45 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式

The isolation ward
闭关锁国(陈继龙 译)

Mar 1st 2007
From The Economist print edition

The River of Lost Footsteps: Histories of Burma
By Thant Myint-U

Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 361 pages; $25.

Faber and Faber; £20

Buy it at

MOST writing about the benighted land of Burma, dubbed Myanmar by the grotesque junta running it, falls into one of two traps. Either it plumps for simplification, which is pardonable given the justness of its moral outrage. The conflict does indeed come closer than almost any other to one between baddies (the junta) and the followers of a super-goody (the almost-permanently detained opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi). At the other extreme, some writers become bogged down in the bewildering complexity underneath this simple framework: the tangled skein of ethnic rivalries and grudges that have fuelled one of the world's longest running civil wars, fought by more than a dozen armed insurgencies around Myanmar's borders.

Thant Myint-U's fine book seeks the middle ground. An academic historian and a former United Nations official, Mr Thant accuses the simplifiers of an “ahistorical” approach. He argues, justifiably, that Myanmar is “seen within the prism of the past ten or 20 years, as if three Anglo-Burmese wars, a century of colonial rule, an immensely destructive Japanese invasion and occupation, and five decades of civil war, foreign intervention and Communist insurgency had never happened.”
相比上述两个极端,吴丹敏(Thant Myint-U)的优秀著作则中规中矩。吴丹敏是一位注重理论研究的历史学家,曾在联合国任职。他指责简单化者在对待缅甸历史问题上“一叶障目”。他认为,“这些人的眼里只有过去10年或20年的缅甸,三次英缅战争(Anglo-Burmese wars)、一个世纪的殖民统治、日本人侵占造成的巨大破坏以及长达五十年的内战、外国干涉内政和缅共叛乱,等等这些似乎从未发生过。”

His book is part personal memoir, part history and part polemic. He tells the history of Myanmar from ancient times in an accessible and engaging way. But this is intended also as a contribution to a debate that has raged for nearly two decades among Myanmar's exiled democrats: should the West shun, isolate and bully the generals into engaging with Ms Suu Kyi and her many supporters? Or should it encourage the junta in the hope that, through the blandishments of modernity and economic advancement, it will eventually be coaxed to reform?

Mr Thant is entitled to a hearing. The grandson of U Thant, UN secretary-general in the 1960s, he grew up in America and Thailand, with summer visits to his ancestral homeland. But when Myanmar's pro-democracy movement was brutally crushed in 1988, and thousands of young people fled to makeshift camps on the Thai border, he joined them for some months.

He has since parted company with the exile movement's pro-isolation orthodoxy. Time has moved on, he points out. Most of Myanmar's population was born after 1988. Thus, those for whom that was a life-defining moment are now in a minority. Isolation has not worked: it is “both counterproductive and dangerous”.

There is much in this argument; and it is easy to share the exasperation he seems to feel with some exiled lobbyists. Some have so lost sight of the ends in pursuing the means that each new government sanction or consumer-boycott-induced withdrawal of a foreign investor is celebrated as a triumph in itself.

Mr Thant, however, skirts three difficulties. First, it is wrong to argue, as he does, that “the difference between the Burmese military regime and its counterparts in South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia is not that [it] has been any more repressive.” Oh yes it has; though it is also true, as he goes on, that “the others trusted the advice of technocrats, presided over long periods of economic growth and allowed for the development of civil society.”
然而,有三个问题吴丹敏处理不得当。首先,他和别人一样,认为“缅甸军事政权与韩国(此处可能为North Korea之误——译者按)、泰国、印度尼西亚军事政权的差异并不在于(前者)更专制。”这种观点是不正确的,事实上缅甸军事政权就是特别专制;尽管他接下来也指出,“其他国家采纳专家政治论者的谏言,引领经济长期增长,允许公民社会发展”,确有其事。

Second, isolation has been neither complete nor entirely involuntary. The generals have excluded the world as much as it has shunned them, and have found in China, India and South-East Asia neighbours who are more than ready to deal with them.

Third, unlike many other dictatorships, Myanmar has held an election, and lost it comprehensively. That was a long time ago, in 1990. But nothing that has happened since suggests the winners—Ms Suu Kyi's party—could not repeat the feat if given the chance. So their views, which do not match Mr Thant's, also carry weight.

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