FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Memories of another Myanmar
Posted:Apr 9, 2012
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

By V. Jayanth

“There has been no real change. Except that I have been released, nothing else has happened. More than the interest in me as an individual, I would like them to think of all Burmese people. Have the investments that have come in really helped the people in any way or are they only superficial?” That was Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi speaking to the media on July 14, 1995, after her release from six years of house arrest.

A year later, asked by The Hindu if the process of restoration of democracy had progressed since her release, she said: “Yes, somewhat. We have looked at the organisation of the National League for Democracy and this has now been reorganised. We want to work with the people more closely and towards that end we are bringing about some change. But the problem is, a lot of people are still subject to harassment.”

Twin objectives
The context in 2012 is her election to a military dominated Parliament. The NLD might have swept the by-elections to some 45 seats in a House of over 600 members but there is nothing to suggest that the situation has changed on the ground. The military-run party that rules Myanmar has two main objectives — to be seen as pushing reforms on the political arena as demanded by the international community, and to help its friends in Asia step up their campaign for the withdrawal of sanctions against the country..

True enough, at the recent Phnon Penh summit, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Myanmar is a member, called upon the international community to lift the sanctions. How the government treats a real opposition in the House will, however, become clear only after the results are declared officially and the newly elected members assume office as Members of Parliament. Will Ms Suu Kyi and her NLD be allowed to play a genuine political role?

Unfortunately, before opening the doors to parliamentary democracy — if that is Myanmar's system of governance — the state's Peace and Development Council, as the military junta once called itself, enacted a new Constitution. In that Constitution, enacted after a decade, the rulers gave the military a pre-eminent place in governance. with Parliament dominated by representatives of the armed forces. In the elections held under the new system, the military also formed a political party, which naturally won the polls — but only after disenfranchasing Ms Suu Kyi and derecognising the NLD.

Why the change of heart now? How were the NLD and Ms Suu Kyi allowed to contest the by-elections? Political analysts say that the regime in Myanmar has realised the need to open the doors to not just the opposition but also the international community and foreign investments. The ASEAN has been gently but steadily nudging the generals in Myanmar to resume a dialogue with the opposition and start the reforms process. With Myanmar slated to assume the Chairmanship of ASEAN before long, when it would host not just the regional member-states but also the Dialogue Partners and Asean Regional Forum members including the U.S. and the EU, some progress became imperative.

Although the international community has welcomed the latest move, it is not in any hurry to hail the change of heart. Much will depend on what happens in Parliament with Ms Suu Kyi and her NLD, and the future of the democratic process.

When the generals chose to hold a general election in 1990, the NLD under Ms Suu Kyi swept the polls, winning a huge majority in the Central Assembly. Unable to accept the people's verdict, the junta set aside the elections and assumed dictatorial powers. The people's leader was detained under house arrest till 1995. But she has also been intermittently detained since then to prevent her from mobilising people and overthrowing the regime.

Ms Suu Kyi, past 65 now, continues to be immensely popular. Daughter of the national icon, General Aug Sen, Ms Suu Kyi returned to her homeland in 1988, in time to see the birth of democracy in her country. The popular uprising that year ended in bloodshed and hundreds of ordinary citizens lost their lives in battles on the streets. Ms Suu Kyi did not even attend the funeral of her British husband Michael Aris, fearing that she would not be allowed to return to her country.

Influence of Gandhi and Mandela

Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela have been strong influences on her. She said in a interview in 1995: “I have very nice and happy memories of India. The influence of my mother was as strong as that of my father. She was very strong and disciplined. I was not a very brave person and was quite timid. My mother never encouraged that, she did not want me to be that way.” She spent long years in India, where her mother was posted as Ambassador, and grew up learning about Mahatma Gandhi. This explains her commitment to non-violence. She has consciously avoided arousing people, urging them instead to remain calm but brave. She believes that India can do a lot more to help further democracy in Myanmar.

Her election to parliament may be just a small step. It remains to be seen if the government in Myanmar will hold a genuine general election and restore full democracy. When it does become a full-fledged democracy, Myanmar, located strategically between India and China, will be able to play a major role in building bridges in a troubled region. India and ASEAN must help Myanmar in this endeavour.

Source: The Hindu, 9 April 2012

 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
India is not participating in the conference on negotiations for a total ban on nuclear weapons. India was expected later this week to issue a comprehensive statement at the United Nations laying out its stance on the meeting that is officially called the Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons,
 
read-more
Therefore, there is an urgent need for the Modi government to re-define its “Make in India” policy so that India can beat China in its own game and get rid of perennial trade deficits writes Susmit Kumar
 
read-more
 India should not hesitate in using both overt and covert means to bring its policies to successful fruition. Indian policy makers must be guided by the dictum that there is no permanent friend or enemy but only permanent interests, writes Adarsh Singh for South Asia Monitor.
 
read-more
Society for Policy Studies in association with India Habitat Centre invites you to a lecture in the Changing Asia Series by by Prof. K. Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India on Health And Development: India Must Bridge The Disconnect Chair: C Uday Bhaskar, Director, Soci...
 
read-more
spotlight image Shaida Mohammad Abdali is the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to India since 2012 and the non-resident  Afghan Ambassador to Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal.
 
read-more
In Dutch politics, alliances are imperative to construct an administration. The post-election government formation is, therefore, a slightly time-consuming process. In due course, a coalition led by the incumbent Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, will surface.  
 
read-more
Japan is a special country in several ways. For centuries, it remained isolated and disconnected with the outside world. But once it opened itself up to the West with the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854 by the use of force by Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry of the United States Navy, Japan has never looked back. Japan is a spe
 
read-more
Recently, under the leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, and earlier under the late Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdallah bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia has rolled out a series of women-friendly initiatives.  Recently, under the leadership of Custodian of the
 
read-more
spotlight image It is time for India to undertake a comprehensive review of its nuclear doctrine and kill the unnecessary speculation
 
read-more
Column-image

Over the Years, a collection of 106 short articles, offers us interesting sidelights on the currents and cross- currents in the public life of India during two distinctive periods: (I) 1987 to 1991 and (II ) 2010 to the present.

 
Column-image

India remians the inflexible bête-noir for Pakistan, yet there are few books by Indian authors that have sought to interpret the prodigal neighbour in a holistic, informed and empathetic manner.

 
Column-image

The line that Mortimer Durand drew across a small map in 1893 has bled the Pashtun heart ever since. More than a century later both sides of that line remain restless. But the mystery behind what actually happened on 12 November 1893 has never ...

 
Column-image

What went wrong for the West in Afghanistan? Why couldn't a global coalition led by the world's preeminent military and economic power defeat "a bunch of farmers in plastic sandals on dirt bikes" in a conflict that outlasted b...

 
Column-image

What will be Pakistan's fate? Acts of commission or omission by itself, in/by neighbours, and superpowers far and near have led the nuclear-armed country at a strategic Asian crossroads to emerge as a serious regional and global concern whi...

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive