There’s Something Happening Here
By KYAW ZWA MOE Friday, September 16, 2011


Both inside and outside of Burma, people are debating whether the country has changed since the new government was sworn in. So has Burma changed? Inarguably, in some ways it has. But the next question is whether the change is substantive and meaningful, or superficial and transient.

On Wednesday, Aung San Suu Kyi watched a football match between Burma and Laos. This in and of itself has never been seen before in Burma. But what was more shocking was that the pro-democracy leader sat sandwiched between a Burmese army colonel in uniform and Zaw Zaw, one of the richest men in Burma and a full-fledged crony of the country’s rulers, who invited her to attend the match.

Not only was this something the people of Burma had never seen before, it is something that virtually everyone would have bet would never happen, especially in 2011. After all, it was only 10 months ago that Suu Kyi was released from seven years of house arrest, and Zaw Zaw, whose Max Myanmar Group of Companies is on the US and EU sanctions lists, is said to be close to the grandson of ex-junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe, the man who imprisoned her.

Kyaw Zwa Moe is managing editor of the Irrawaddy magazine. He can be reached at [email protected].

This unexpected scene came on the heels of Suu Kyi’s Aug. 19 meeting with President Thein Sein in Naypyidaw, where the two were all smiles during their photo session with the media—with the press coverage also marking another change. Suu Kyi traveled to Naypyidaw to attend a meeting on poverty alleviation and was greeted as a VIP by many high-level government officials. Afterwards, she said she was “happy and satisfied” with her historic face to face meeting with the president, and this gave the people of Burma reason for cautious optimism.

The level of optimism was raised last week, when the new government formed the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission and charged it with promoting and safeguarding the fundamental rights of citizens in accordance with the 2008 Constitution. This was an unprecedented move, despite the fact that all of the members of the commission served under the previous military regime, which was named one of the worst human rights violators in the world.

Moreover, international diplomats are now being allowed to roam more freely in Rangoon than was possible under the old regime. This week, the US special envoy and policy coordinator to Burma, Derek Mitchell, not only met with high profile pro-democracy leaders like Suu Kyi as well as top ethnic leaders, he also visited civic organizations like the office of the Free Funeral Service Society and an HIV/Aids clinic run by Phyu Phyu Thin, a member of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD).  

Then on Thursday, another historic first occurred when Naypyidaw's government not only allowed the observance of the International Day of Democracy for the first time ever, it actually held its own ceremony. Ex-Gen Shwe Mann, the speaker of the Lower House of Parliament, and ex-Maj-Gen Khin Aung Myint, the speaker of the Upper House, each gave speeches. Khin Aung Myint, known as a hard-liner in the previous authoritarian regime, actually said, "Democracy is a practice that can protect and uplift individual integrity and fundamental rights.”

He didn’t mention, of course, that the previous day the government slapped ten more years onto the initial eight year prison sentence of Sithu Zeya, a 21-year-old video journalist secretly working for the Democratic Voice of Burma, an exiled media group, who was arrested after photographing the aftermath of the bombings that occurred at the 2010 water festival in Rangoon and charged with violating the draconian Electronics Act.

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bwanyunt Wrote:
Be positive and let's do it collectively for the sake of country. DASSK is more matured her approaches are wise and cautious now. The ball is on the both sides of court to bring the peaceful changes for the interest of country. If anyone wants to oppose DASSK's current approach, he/ she shall be blamed for undemocratic and selfish. No one other then DASSK in entire opposition groups is acceptable for Junta as well as by West. We exclude China as it will be dealt by Junta. DASSK bravely said that she does not mind people used her for any reasons/ any purpose (as in the past), she expected/ prepared for the sake of people. It's important that both sides must not dig the past for real progress. People likes to talk about Pan Long agreement, 1962 coup, 1988 coup, Saffron revolt and so on. If talk about the past, what are we going to do with Aung San's killer, British and imperialist Japanese? Can we just forgive or take action to them now? Let's hope for better, I too want to go home!!

Moe Aung Wrote:
It is certainly an opportunity to build up organizational networks and resources in preparation for the next phase of the popular struggle.

ASSK must be mindful of using this 'space' wisely and not dropping her guard. Depayin right on the heels of a somewhat similar phase must be in her thoughts.

Strive to strengthen People Power aiming for pole position to negotiate when it comes to the crunch.

zulumango Wrote:
Looks like Satan-in-disguise is letting see what the people want to see, and letting them hear what they want to hear while sitting on the altar of hell. After all, Burma has long lived in a world of illusion where nothing could be taken for granted.

More Articles in This Section

bullet Sizing Up an Icon

bullet Fighting Corruption Begins at Home

bullet Future of Exiled Burmese Media

bullet How Much Freedom Does Burmese Media Enjoy?

bullet Five Days in Burma

bullet Turning Burma into Next Asian Tiger No Simple Task

bullet With Suu Kyi On Board, Is Burma Finally Moving Toward Real Change?

bullet The ‘Rule of Law’ in Burma

bullet New Doors are Opening in Burma

bullet A Good Beginning to the New Year

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