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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.

MPs from 8 European countries have come together to form a new Parliamentary
caucus on Burma. The new caucus is launched to coincide with the 63rd
birthday of Aung San Suu Kyi – the detained leader of Burma’s democracy
movement. They hope to recruit more than 200 MPs to the caucus before the
end of the year.

The caucus aims to raise awareness of Burma in Europe and pressure European
governments to do more to bring about democratic transition in Burma. The 7
key objectives are:

· To seek stronger action on Burma from European governments, the
European Union, the United Nations Security Council, and other governments
and international institutions.

· To foster contacts with our fellow MPs from Burma.

· To foster contacts with the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Caucus on
Myanmar, and other Asian MPs.

· To put forward motions, questions, and initiate debates on Burma in
our Parliaments.

· To provide monthly updates on the situation in Burma for European MPs.

· To cultivate links with civil society organisations knowledgeable
about Burma.

· To act as a strong public voice for democratisation in Burma.

John Bercow, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary group for Democracy in
Burma in the British Parliament said: “We are creating this European
Parliamentary Caucus on Burma because it will enable parliamentarians from
across Europe to share information and to lobby together for more effective
measures to bring the regime to heel and to speed up the progress to
democracy for the long suffering people of Burma.”

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(Reuters) – Myanmar’s junta extended the house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday, a move likely to dismay Western nations who promised millions of dollars in aid after Cyclone Nargis.

Officials drove to the Nobel laureate’s lakeside Yangon home to read out a six-month extension order in person, said a government official, who asked not to be named.

However, a Yangon-based diplomat said it was for a year.

The 62-year-old Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy (NLD) party won a 1990 election landslide only to be denied power by the army, has now spent nearly 13 of the last 18 years under some form of arrest.

Her latest period of detention started on May 30, 2003 “for her own protection” after clashes between her supporters and pro-junta thugs in the northern town of Depayin. The last of a series of year-long extensions expired on Tuesday.

Although few expected Suu Kyi to be released, the extension is a timely reminder of the ruling military’s refusal to make any concessions on the domestic political front despite its grudging acceptance of foreign help after the May 2 cyclone.

Hours before the extension, police arrested 20 NLD members trying to march to Suu Kyi’s home.

State-controlled media on Tuesday praised the United Nations for the help it has given to the 2.4 million people left destitute in the Irrawaddy delta, suggesting a thaw in the junta’s frosty relationship with the outside world.

The English-language New Light of Myanmar, the generals’ main mouthpiece, said U.N. agencies took “prompt action” to provide relief supplies after the cyclone, which left 134,000 people dead or missing.

Activists criticized U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for not speaking out about Suu Kyi’s detention during his recent visit to Myanmar, which the U.N. chief said was purely a humanitarian mission.

“It is shameful that Ban Ki-Moon went to Burma and failed even to utter her name,” Mark Farmaner, Director of the Burma Campaign UK, said.

“He is playing into the regime’s hands. The U.N. is crawling on its knees before the regime, afraid to speak the truth in case it affects aid access deals, which the regime is already breaking in any case,” he said.

Three weeks after the cyclone’s 120 mph (190 kph) winds and sea surge devastated the delta, the U.N. says fewer than one in three of those most in need have received any aid.

Thousands of beggars line the roads, with droves of children shouting “Just throw something” at passing vehicles.

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