Mizzima News - These days everybody is talking about Aung San Suu Kyi and the US-Burma relationship with high and low hopes. Most of them are favourably optimistic hoping that America will bring about a miracle in Burma.
But one should remember the days when Aung San Suu Kyi was treated as a VIP by allowing her to inspect the government development projects and shown on the state-run newspapers and television. Because it has been over a decade and as nothing positive came out, it turned out to be propaganda for international consumption.
American diplomats, who personally had a two-hour dialogue session with Aung San Suu Kyi seem to be realistic as they do not expect much. The Americans spoke correctly that the 2010 election must be comprehensive. They said America wanted not superficial but real progress. It was said that the elections could be an opportunity. But the opportunity, which Ban Ki-moon termed during his visit to Burma May 2008 was not utilized by the junta. For the junta opportunity means how to stay in power.
The debate on whether pressure or engagement is the right approach to deal with the junta has been widely debated. Each side defends and advocates its own stand. So far the American new approach seems rational. In the eyes of Burmese people the countries on the engagement side are looking only at their own interest without an honest desire for democratic change in Burma. The people realize that those countries do not care for human rights or democracy.
Only sanctions and outside as well as domestic pressure brought about regime changes in South Africa, Philippines and Nepal. Use of sanctions as an effective tool is definitely wise.
US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Kurt Campbell and Scot Marciel Marciel who is also the US ambassador to Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) said the new administration is not lifting sanctions right away. Accordingly the junta supremo Than Shwe did not provide audience to them.
Election is the basic element in a democracy and the promise of holding an election can woo many countries. Even the Rangoon-based diplomats said that the elections may not be free and fair, but they need to be there anyway. The NLD will not contest that election as it is. Those who are being critical of an election are seen as odds. But many tried to ignore the fate of the election of 1990 and how freely and fairly elected parties and representatives have to suffer. All truthful ethnic political parties were forced to dissolve. All intolerant elected members detained, jailed, killed and forced to run away from country.
Now including the US, many countries want the election of 2010 to be credible and inclusive. Remember that Aung San Suu Kyi’s application as a candidate was rejected in the 1990 election. The regime knows that by being kept her under house arrest the National League for Democracy (NLD) has won a landslide victory. This time they won’t let it happen again. So Aung San Suu Kyi won’t be allowed to participate in the election and the voting will not be free and fair.
The Burmese people are not contented with the expectations of many foreign nations which wants see a gradual transition of power to a civilian government. It means the military will be granted two to three decades to rule with full recognition. Hoping for the emergence of splinter groups or factions within the military is the most unlikely expectation.
It is also likely that following the US example the EU will soon open up its own dialogue with the junta. But it has a long way to go for lifting of different sanctions from the US, the EU, Canada and Australia including accessibility to international financial institutions like the World Bank (WB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Anyhow the US-Burma dialogue will continue. But in the ASEAN, Thailand and Cambodia are into a diplomatic crisis. China and India maintain the wait and see practice. America can’t do it alone. So Aung San Suu Kyi.
This time, the generals did not speak out because the sole dictator was absent and wanted to learn from the American tone. Burmese ambassadors around the world will shut their mouth as a former Foreign Minister Win Aung died in prison a day after American diplomats left Burma.
The TV report on the latest development on US-Burma relations tried to blame Aung San Suu Kyi who denied meeting her deputies as the Vice Chair U Tin Oo was excluded. The regime wanted to tell that they were flexible she was unyielding. They again came to know that Aung San Suu Kyi is not an easy challenger.
The NLD and ethnic parties which won the 1990 election are calling for a review of the 2008 constitution. According to that constitution, the election will mean just voting for collaborators, who will have no chance for debate. There will be no ruling or opposition parties in the Parliament. All elected Parliamentarians have to work under the Commander in Chief.
It will be something like the in-cage wrestling match.
Dr. Tint Swe is the information minister of the exiled government, the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma - NCGUB and the elected member of parliament in 1990 general elections in Burma)