Leading article: Human rights and nuclear arms

Share
Related Topics

Reports by two defectors from Burma that the secretive military regime is collaborating with North Korea to build nuclear weapons should send a shudder down everyone's spines. These are, admittedly, only reports. Moreover, even if the defectors' claims prove accurate, Burma is still a long way behind North Korea, Libya or even Iran when it comes to acquiring this technology. The target date appears to be 2014.

Nevertheless it is depressing, as well as worrying from a strategic point of view, to conceive of these generals getting their hands on such an important prize in the not-too-distant future.

It is, firstly, a grotesque joke to think of a regime that cannot properly feed, or provide electricity for, its citizens spending millions of pounds on obtaining nuclear technology. The point made by many foreign-based Burmese rights groups is equally important: past experience shows that the acquisition of nuclear arms gives even the most anti-democratic regimes a new aura of legitimacy in the international arena.

North Korea has been an example of this. If ever a country was a candidate for externally imposed "regime change", this brutal prison camp was it. But, as the Burma Campaign UK group points out, since Pyongyang acquired nuclear weapons, the emphasis has been on "effectively bribing the regime to give up nuclear weapons, while ignoring human rights".

They also point out that pandering to these paranoid regimes rarely gets the West far. If North Korea's response to such wooing is anything to go by, the tendency is only to up the ante and demand more concessions.

It would be a pity if the West went down this road with Burma too. The regime may well shrug off Western pressure about the lack of democracy there. But the moral sympathy that the outside world has lent Burma's imprisoned pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has at least kept the issue of Burmese human rights alive.

Another question is whether the Burmese generals can be trusted to use nuclear technology safely or whether, as some experts fear, the likely result is another Chernobyl. The world needs to watch Burma closely, and not make the same errors it has made with North Korea.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Yvette Cooper campaigning in London at the launch of Labour’s women’s manifesto  

I want the Labour Party to lead a revolution in family support

Yvette Cooper
Liz Kendall  

Labour leadership contest: 'Moderniser' is just a vague and overused label

Steve Richards
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine