One Year Later: Bogus Election Offers Some Hope
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Sunday, June 16, 2024

One Year Later: Bogus Election Offers Some Hope

By THE IRRAWADDY Monday, November 7, 2011

(Page 2 of 2)

Last week, the government amended the Political Parties Registration Law in a manner that opened the door for both the NLD to re-register and Suu Kyi to run for Parliament, if they so choose. But for Suu Kyi and the NLD to make that decision, and for the international community to determine whether to offer the regime certain rewards for its steps toward reform, all must take a look at the reforms that have yet to be instituted, which far outweigh in number and substance those that have taken place.

In ethnic regions, fighting between ethnic and government forces has continued and in some cases escalated, and the US government and independent human rights groups continue to issue credible reports of ongoing human rights abuses in those areas. Over 1,000 political prisoners remain behind bars for no apparent reason other than to provide the government with bargaining chips for future international carrots. The Constitution remains heavily in favor of the military.

The list of needed reforms would take several editorials to name and explain thoroughly, and for many strong critics, this is enough evidence to conclude that the situation in Burma has changed only on the surface and the steps taken thus far—all of which are not full measures and are easily reversible—are only intended to gain legitimacy rather than materially change the lives of the Burmese people. “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig,” they say.

To many foreign governments and observers, however, President Thein Sein’s reform agenda counts and the steps he has taken so far are significant. They say that reforms will be gradual, but they are inevitable unless hardliners lurking in the shadows are allowed to reemerge and force a u-turn from the positive direction the country is heading. In order to keep Burma moving forward, they argue, Thein Sein needs support from the international community and should be rewarded for his efforts thus far.

Whatever the case, we are convinced that Burma is presently going through a transition, but are unsure about where it will lead. The dilemma is that if the regime is given most of what they want for what they’ve done so far, then the reform process might stop in its tracks and some of the more reversible reforms might be taken away; while on the other hand, if the regime is given no rewards then the hardliners may step in, reassert control and return the country to the dark days of repression under the previous regime. Given this, the rewards “in kind” approach advocated by both Suu Kyi and the US is the best strategy from both a political and negotiating standpoint.

The man to watch is President Thein Sein. He has been the leader in making the conciliatory gestures and small concessions to the public and opposition thus far, and has reaped praise for his efforts. The question is whether he will have the power and political will to go further and institute the serious reforms demanded by the Burmese people and the international community.

The required reforms are not only in the political field, but also in the social, economic, health and education sectors. Hopefully, Thein Sein and the rest of the government leaders will realize that the country has enormous untapped potential if it is able to make the required changes and re-integrate into the regional and world community. Therefore it is in the government leaders’ own best interests, as well as the Burmese people’s, to make the changes demanded of them.

On the occasion of the one-year anniversary of the rigged election, we recognize and appreciate the steps that have been taken by Thein Sein’s government thus far that go beyond what most thought possible when the polls had closed. But many more concrete and meaningful reforms are still needed if the president wants to demonstrate that his words are serious and he is truly listening to the opinion of the Burmese people.

When that day arrives, we will give Thein Sein our full kudos. Until that time, we will keep them in hopeful reserve.

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Ohn Wrote:
They should appreciate they lose respect by putting importance loudly about the political prisoners which are easily producible (and the prisoners did it consciously and bravely) before the above issues where the innocent people's sufferings and livelihood are involved.

In my way, these are what I meant to convey rather than the existence of people in the army ready to change side if they sense the other side is winning. I have no doubt. Such people join the army in the first place.

Ohn Wrote:
I have no idea about the psychology and politics. But the biggest failing of NLD is not being able to show consistent vision and leadership rather than to collude with the Military or not.

They should have been steadfast in denouncing violence of any sort on anybody all the time consistently as it happens rather than some esoteric philosophical abstract musings. They should be championing the cause of the largest and the most oppressed section of the population, the farmers loudly and consistently. In this example the military has consistently given the appearance of religious piety, fake but effective. They used it only yesterday.

Ohn Wrote:
Thanks for pointing that out, Erik.

I concede that even the army is not monolithic. But some sure are united by collective fear of reprisals for their own theft, cruelty and dishonesty. The new comers, like the students in military universities, of course are united in the desire to reap the benefit of the winning side ignoring the cruelty meted out by their benefactors to their own population.

I am sure when the time changes, there will be people queuing to say how they tried to stop killing the monks, for example. But go around and ask now. You will find nobody trying to stop the inhumane rape and torture of innocent people as it happens every single day. That is unity.

In my comment, I was trying to emphasize that Thein Sein and Tin Aung Myint Oo are simply left hand and right hand of Than Shwe. That's all. They each happen to say the script as they get it and as we have seen, they are doing a swell job.

Erik Wrote:
Ohn wrote: "There are no hard liner or soft liner or any liner except in pseudo-academic imagination. They are all equally cruel torturers and theives and accomplished liers."

That's about the silliest thing you could write. Even in the army there are loads of people who aren't and weren't happy with the regime, but were afraid to say so.

The army isn't a monolithic bloc. And the opposition isn't either (you have hardliners like Win Tin and soft liners like Khin Maung Shwe in the opposition, right?)

If you want to deal with the current situation efficiently you should start by understanding the composition of the regime and why they are doing stuff like they do it. And then respond in such a way that they feel it suits there aims if they give you something...

The opposition would've achieved much more the last twenty years if they operated with the psychology of the generals in mind instead of only focusing on their own demands.

A.M.O Wrote:
Well, when US President Obama was visiting India last year, he accused Gen Than Shwe's regime of stealing an election; and he was right in saying this. So Gen Than Shwe is a thief !

Consequently, Gen Thein Sein's Cabinet of ministers could be dubbed as thieves as they are the ones who had accepted a stolen property- '1990 Election' ! Isn't it ?

Myanmar Patriots Wrote:
To Erik,
We have known all along.

Ohn Wrote:

There are no hard liner or soft liner or any liner except in pseudo-academic imagination. They are all equally cruel torturers and theives and accomplished liers.

Aung San Suu Kyi well do well to remember that Thein Sein was at hand killing the monks before and there are monks currently being killed as we speak, as well as raping and destroying going on incessantly in larger area of the country than ever. How could one heaps praise on these people is beyond understanding.

Ohn Wrote:
This is a thoroughly pathetic lamentation about an invented fantasy for fear of facing the reality.

To start, Thein Sein is NOTHING. He just happens to be there and useful. He is simply the captain of the Titanic. Fortunately for Than Shwe, simply changing the deck chairs on the sinking ship is accruing kudos from the naive and the opportunists.

Than Shwe wants the chair of ASEAN which by the way is totally useless crap anyway and is prepared to throw a few bones and crumbs to the whimping puppies and wannabes. And that has been a runaway success.

Refroming government killing and raping more, stealing the public treasure more, driving more people out of their homes, producing more opium and drugs than ever. True. The list is endless. To call these criminals as reformists would be true only in the parallel universe.

Erik Wrote:
I don't get why you didn't see the reforms coming. When I discussed this whole thing in the summer of 2008 with a senior political friend in Rangoon we both agreed that what would happen was exactly this: finishing of the national convention, allow political parties, let the NLD expel itself, have bogus elections, and then 5 years of reforms to prepare electorally for somewhat freer elections in 2015, with the army (read: Than Shwe) all the while being safe from prosecution.

Another indicator that something was up were the large scale privatizations, which showed that the army expect to lose grip on the economy somewhere in the near future...

So don't act surprised now. You should've told your readers this was going to happen.

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