‘March of democracy unstoppable in Myanmar’


Information Minister Pe Myint with Mizzima correspondent Subir Bhaumik. Photo: Mizzima

The march of democracy is unstoppable in Myanmar, despite obvious challenges, says Myanmar’s information minister Dr Pe Myint.

In an exclusive interview to Mizzima on the eve of the ‘Forum for Myanmar’s democratic transition,’ Dr Myint said his government was not playing down challenges, some of which he described as 'formidable'.

"But at a time when democracy is threatened in many countries where it had struck roots or emerged as fledgling movements, Myanmar is trying hard to move ahead," Dr Myint said.

Asked if the military was playing ball, Dr Myint said the army is committed to taking forward democratic progress and "there was no reason to doubt that."

"There are many opinions about how much we have progressed. Some say much progress has been achieved, others credit us with moderate success and still others say very little has been done to institutionalise democracy," Dr Myint said,

He insisted that his government considered the different views with 'due respect'.

"But I want to say there should be absolutely no doubt about our intentions. We are determined to become a functional democracy," he told Mizzima.

The 'Forum for Myanmar's democratic transition' is a three day exercise bringing together more than 30 speakers drawn from Myanmar lawmakers, business leaders, foreign civil society and human rights groups, academics and journalists who have followed Myanmar for a while and representatives from the military.

The Ministry of Information is organising the event at the Myanmar International Convention Centre - 2 with support from a host of global and local partners.

State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi will open the conference on Friday.

The participants include former Indonesian Lt Gen Angus Widjojo who has emerged as a leading expert on civil-military relations in South-east Asia.

Dr Pe Myint said federalism was key to a functional democracy in the Myanmar context.

"It is not one or the other, we need both to give our people a future free of fear and full of freedom," Dr Myint said.

But he observed that the word' federalism ' has often been misunderstood as a precursor to a break up of the Union.

"We believe in an inclusive nationalism, not a majoritarian nationalism as practiced in some apparently democratic countries. Without a proper federal structure, democracy in Myanmar or perhaps anywhere else cannot be institutionalised," Dr Myint said.

About the ' forum', Dr Myint described it as a timely exercise to review the progress of democracy and listen to all who know Myanmar about what more could be done to take the process forward.

"We need adiversity of views to flourish in a land of considerable diversity. We want all those who know to tell us where we exactly stand in the march towards democracy," he said.

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