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COMMENTARY
Breaking the 'Stagnant Embrace'
By Burma Observer Sunday, September 1, 2002


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For example, a military caretaker government might have to be agreed on, in exchange for recognition by the regime of an interim parliament—the "1990 parliament"—to oversee the transition process, to which the care-taking body would, in turn, be accountable. Or a decentralized, but not fully federal, constitutional arrangement might have to be adopted for a period of years, pending the drafting and adoption of a fully federal constitution at a later date. The above hypothetical interim arrangements would obviously not satisfy anyone, and might be challenged by outraged purist elements and by opportunist demagogues, the rabble-rousers, and others trying to outbid the mainstream leaders in both camps. Evidently, any solution arrived at will not be satisfactory to anyone—not the SPDC, the democratic opposition, or the ethnic nationalities who comprise close to 40% of the population and occupy about 60% of the total land area. The challenges facing Burma in the coming negotiation and in the politics of transition will thus be very formidable. And if the international community labors under the illusion that a settlement can be worked out among Burmese stakeholders because of certain cosmetic moves made by the regime, it will certainly be very rapidly disillusioned. The above is not to say that Burmese stakeholders, including the ethnic nationalities, are incompetent and bloody-minded. The fact of the matter is that the existence of military dictatorship in Burma since 1962 has radically knocked out of joint all functional relations and the modicum of trust that hitherto existed between the state in Burma and the broader society. What we have had in Burma since 1962 is a military-monopolized state that has no relation with broader society other than one that is harshly controlling, repressive, and predatory. Therein lies the root of mistrust among the stakeholders in Burma. Given this context, sustained international focus on Burma’s transition, as well as the involvement and even guarantees of the international community, might be very helpful, and would certainly be very positive. The author is a long-time Burma watcher and scholar, and has worked with the democratic movement in an advisory capacity for many years. The views expressed here are the author’s alone, and do not represent in any way whatsoever the views of any leaders or organizations within the democratic movement.


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