Time for Thein Sein to Prove the Skeptics Wrong
covering burma and southeast asia
Thursday, August 13, 2020
Opinion
EDITORIAL

Time for Thein Sein to Prove the Skeptics Wrong


By THE IRRAWADDY Friday, November 18, 2011


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While these problems will not be solved overnight, the president and his colleagues must clearly demonstrate the political will to take concrete action—rather than just making promises in speeches and meetings—to tackle Burma’s deep-seated ills that deprive its citizens of the most basic minimum human rights expected in a democratic country.

The Burmese government should immediately release all political prisoners and end human rights abuses by the military in ethnic areas, as there is absolutely no reason to continue to detain prisoners or tolerate abuses for one day longer, and doing so undercuts everything Thein Sein proclaims to be striving for. In addition, before hosting the 2014 Asean summit, the Burmese government should establish a long-lasting peace with the country’s ethnic groups, create an independent judiciary that will uphold the rule of law, pass laws to protect human rights and eliminate those that have been used in the past to suppress them, and create a level political playing field for the run-up to the 2015 election.

If these basic actions have been taken by that time, then it will prove correct those who argued that giving Burma the Asean chair would help the country make further reforms. But if the reform process now stalls and come 2014 Burma’s gulags are still stuffed with political prisoners, activists are still being detained based on politically motivated pretenses and sent to jail by kangaroo courts, and fighting and human rights abuses continue in ethnic areas, then the credibility not just of Burma, but of Asean, will have sunk to new depths.

In order to keep that from happening, all of the domestic and international players seeking to engage the new Burmese government should refrain from wearing rose-colored glasses and stick to their principles and pragmatism.

For example, the US should not abandon Obama’s dual-track combination of principled engagement and maintaining sanctions until more concrete and substantial reforms have been made. Washington has just commensurately rewarded Naypyidaw for the steps it has taken thus far by not openly opposing the Asean chair and by announcing that it will send US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Burma, the first time such a high level US official has visited the country in decades.

In his press statement, Obama said, “Last night, I spoke to Aung San Suu Kyi, directly, and confirmed that she supports American engagement to move this process forward. So today, I've asked Secretary Hillary Clinton to go to Burma. She will be the first American Secretary of State to travel to the country in over half a century, and she will explore whether the United States can empower a positive transition in Burma and begin a new chapter between our countries.”

Obama sent a strong and important signal both to Naypyidaw and the Burmese pro-democracy movement by publicly stating that he personally spoke to Aung San Suu Kyi and asked whether she supports the engagement policy and his intent to send Clinton to Burma.

The US president also said that after years of darkness in Burma, “we've seen flickers of progress in these last several weeks.” He acknowledged the importance of the dialogue that has begun between the government and Suu Kyi, the release of some political prisoners and the relaxation of some media restrictions. But Obama also pointedly said that Thein Sein and the Burmese Parliament have yet to take some of the most significant steps on the path toward democratic reform and the protection of human rights, and until that happens, the sanctions will remain in place.

“If Burma fails to move down the path of reform, it will continue to face sanctions and isolation,” Obama said. “But if it seizes this moment, then reconciliation can prevail, and millions of people may get the chance to live with a greater measure of freedom, prosperity, and dignity. And that possibility is too important to ignore.”

Finally, to cap off a week packed with significance for Burma, Suu Kyi and the NLD today decided to re-register as a political party and contest in the upcoming by-elections. This is also comes as welcome news, because the NLD and Suu Kyi are clearly supported by a majority of the Burmese people and they should therefore take part in the political process.

In addition, the presence of Suu Kyi and the NLD in Parliament will shine a spotlight on everything that happens in Naypyidaw. The NLD will be able to introduce reform bills and the government will either have to adopt them, explain to the public and international community why they refuse to do so, or suppress the opposition and be seen as a fraud. Likewise with NLD calls for transparency in government and a budget that reflects the people’s priorities.

The ball is now in Thein Sein’s court.



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WM Wrote:
24/11/2011
“Change” is not a simple thing. It is easier said than done. We need to give President U Thein Sein and others benefit of doubts, even if we have some suspicion.

If you are in Myanmar, we will notice a lot of changes you would not believe that could happen one year ago. People would not imagine Election Law would be revised so that NLD could compete. Hard to foresee one would think NLD would register and compete. I didn’t see local media would cover Daw Su a lot, and her pictures in every local printed media. Halting Myitsone dam is not a joke. These are some examples.

Yes, there are many more things to do- ethnic issues, political prisoners, human right abuses, rule of law etc. The government and all stakeholders need to make more changes.

But let’s not look from “half glass empty perspective” all the time.

kerry Wrote:
20/11/2011
Thein Sein, part of a horrendous military legacy reviled by the world, has a real chance to get it right.

So far he hasn't. So far the military are still madly stashing the assets from murder into Singapore banks, while ASEAN rewards them for non-existent 'change', and while the 'new' government does not allow post-torture 'criminals' like the comedian Zarganar to work in their own country.

As for its military run 'Human Rights Commission'... they may just as well create another fake office in Beijing, run by Hu and Wen!

Get real, Burma's 'military in new clothes'. Do you think the world cannot see? Dialogue with The Lady: she sees your potential (and compassionately your potential freedom) more than most.

Moe Aung Wrote:
20/11/2011
Skeptics would surely love to be proven wrong. Preferably irreversibly.

Zaw Htay used the term cancellation, not suspension, regarding the Myitsone dam, bigging it up and bigging his govt up. From that great launch pad, it's the green light from the US they've been waiting for, only still playing hard to get. Thant Myint-U's sales spiel for Burma's new role in Asia has probably gone to their head.

Sanctions didn't work then? So how did we get here, one wonders. It's been pressure all along that prodded the generals slowly but surely. Now they themselves reckon the time is ripe to ditch China, or at least kiss and make up with the West.

Snowfly Wrote:
20/11/2011
Good well-balanced editorial. Although the USDP have seemingly taken positive steps towards true democracy, it is far too early to consider all being well in Burma and the Western media needs to avoid being naive in its commentary. The real test will come in 2015 after the ASEAN chair has gone. If Daw Aung San Suu Kyi becomes head of state we will know that democracy has finally been achieved as this is the will of the people. If not, we will know that the Generals are up to their old tricks. After '88 the regime went to great lengths to tidy up its image, but we all know what happened in 1990. Foreign businessmen who crave access to Burmese markets and resources need to keep this in mind before the give the Generals billions. I pray history doesn't repeat itself.

Zaw Min Wrote:
19/11/2011
Dear President U Thein Sein,

I don't support you or your party in the pass but now I'm supporting you for the play back of the ball, however feeble, to start the game going. Please play back with force and pride now to be in the game strongly. I'll be cheering you. Please don't think that a cheering from a nothing like me is useless. You will hear thunderous cheers and supports from all corners of the country as well as the world. Please be strong and do what is right for the people and country. You'll earn yourself a rightful place of respect in the history of our country.

Ohn Wrote:
19/11/2011
Whatever is the reason, whatever is happening, STOP the violence. Stop killing, raping and burning down the people and property.

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