A Parallax View
covering burma and southeast asia
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Magazine

GUEST COLUMN

A Parallax View


By Ross Dunkley MARCH, 2004 - VOLUME 12 NO.3


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I’d like to think we were doing our bit. I have been asked to comment on the roadmap. Naturally, everyone continues to speculate on its progress and the truth is we are at another juncture in Myanmar’s political history—the most engrossing I have seen in my time here. I remain optimistic that its momentum will continue. The important thing we have to acknowledge is that the government, a military administration, has finally mapped out the journey and appears committed to carrying it out. It’s their call and they appear genuine. Of course many "Burma watchers" complain that the roadmap is another ruse by the government and that it doesn’t intend to follow it through, therefore no timeframe has been set. I disagree with that because I believe the process is moving along, and that, as always, the hardest part is actually starting. Right now there is maneuvering behind the scenes. For the PM it is a most challenging time, perhaps his defining moment. He is negotiating with a range of parties prior to the start of a National Convention. The government says all political stakeholders in the country will be invited to participate in drafting a new constitution. This is no easy process. There are 135 national races and ethnic minorities in this country of 50 million. Furthermore, there are 10 registered political parties from the last election in 1990. Of these 10, the biggest are the National League for Democracy, or NLD, and the National Unity Party, or NUP. Then you have the military factions. The PM is focusing first on the national races and ethnic minorities before he moves onto substantial dialogue with the NLD and others. I want it to happen sooner; the international community wants it now; the Myanmar people are waiting. It was therefore interesting to note the visit of UN envoy Razali Ismail to Yangon just a couple of weeks ago. Some political watchers have said he is pursuing a plan for the United Nations to become more involved with the roadmap. According to an AFP report, the envoy had come to Yangon to propose that the NLD take part in a new forum with the ruling State Peace and Development Council and ethnic parties, thus paving the way for the National Convention. There is commonsense in the idea because there could be close to 1,000 delegates at the convention. I cannot imagine 1,000 people, anywhere, sitting in a room and reaching agreement. So, we should be patient for a little while longer. In the Myanmar community there has been a decade-long wait or more and there is bitterness in many quarters. Careful preparation is the key at this time. Generally, I get the feeling that the government wants to be more involved in the international community. I am optimistic about the prospects for meaningful progress towards implementing the roadmap ahead of 2006. Ross Dunkley is Editor-in-Chief of The Myanmar Times, a weekly newspaper published in Rangoon in English and Burmese. Mr Dunkley’s Burmese partner is Sonny Swe, a son of Thein Swe, a department head at the Office of the Chief of Military Intelligence.


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