Editorial_May 2006
covering burma and southeast asia
Wednesday, September 23, 2020
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EDITOR'S PERSPECTIVE

Editorial_May 2006


By The Irrawaddy MAY, 2006 - VOLUME 14 NO.5


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It seems sympathetic whispers and handshakes from the international community are all they will get when trade deals worth billions are up for grabs.

 

 

NLD’s Time Not Yet Up

 

Burma’s military rulers are well-versed in sidelining the opposition National League for Democracy, but Information Minister Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan’s combative performance in April linking the party to terrorism is unlikely to spell the end of the NLD. The junta has always made survival its number one priority, closely followed by face-saving. Last month’s stage-managed outburst against the NLD was no different.

 

With the deadline for a response to the NLD’s proposal to hold a dialogue and reconvene parliament fast approaching before April’s Water Festival, the junta’s propaganda machine went into overdrive. The state-run press ran regular articles saying why the proposal, which also included the NLD’s recognition of the regime as a de jure government, was not acceptable. The Burmese people were made aware that the offer would not lead to anything. But having lived under the regime for 18 years, they already knew what would happen. The only question was how the military would officially decline the NLD’s offer.

 

Predictably the junta chose to combine its usual method of attack, with its more recent approach of holding a press conference with lots of “evidence.” Out came the photographs and the colorful diagrams linking various “terrorist groups” to the NLD, with foreign diplomats thrown in to add more weight to proceedings.

 

Photographers snapped the “evidence” while their reporter colleagues eagerly wrote down all that was being fed to them. About a week later, the same information was repackaged by the private press and sent to the chief censor. Everyone could read it for himself—the NLD was rubbing shoulders with terrorists. Only in the real outside world did the claim receive any scrutiny.

 

Now that the junta feels that it has successfully cast aside the unwanted questions of a dialogue with the NLD and convening a parliament—although it will continue to harass the NLD—threats that Aung San Suu Kyi’s party will be outlawed are unlikely to come to much. New state-sponsored reports of mass resignations from the NLD are similar to past propaganda about mass enrolment in the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Association.

 

Although the junta has a predisposition to self-delusion, it must be aware that the slow demise of the NLD remains a more subtle option than sudden death. With the international spotlight on the Burmese regime more than ever these days, obliteration of the opposition would not look good.

 

The question, though, is can the NLD overcome its latest setback and remain in the fray, thus disproving the junta’s recent claim to visiting Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar that it is now “irrelevant.” The party’s most recent offer to the junta—while more realistic and reasonable than anything the government has ever suggested to overcome the political stalemate—was never likely to be accepted. Now that it has been dismissed, it remains to be seen whether the party will be able to come up with an offer which the junta will find more difficult to ignore.


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