2010 Elections cannot solve the root causes of Burma’s problems
Tue 31 Mar 2009,
It is well understood by political analysts and the international community that Burma (Myanmar) has two major political problems which require solving. The first of these is the urgent need to bring about national reconciliation between the country’s different ethnic peoples and particularly between the minority ethnic groups and the majority Burmans. The second problem is the failure to achieve democratization which has been clearly demanded by the population since the 1988 pro-democracy uprising.
What are the root causes of these problems and when did they originate? They can be traced back to 1962 when General Ne Win seized power from the democratically elected government. Democracy was effectively silenced and many political leaders were imprisoned. At the same time Ne Win strengthened the Burmese army, or tatmadaw, and launched intensive military offensives against the ethnic armed opposition groups along Burma’s borders with China and Thailand and in the western part of the country.
While the armed conflict intensified the country became progressively poorer. Despite this, General Ne Win drafted a sham constitution in 1974, and army commanders swapped their uniforms for civilian clothes and continued to rule the country. Burma’s economic situation deteriorated as the regime’s mistaken economic policies and mismanagement took effect and the country was designated as a ‘Least Developed Country’ by United Nations in 1987.
The following year the pro-democracy movement, instigated by students, exploded in protest and spread throughout the country.
Yet the current military regime seems unable to learn a lesson from the past. Like the previous regime in 1974, they have written their own undemocratic constitution which citizens were forced to accept in May last year. Now they plan to hold elections in 2010.
What will happen after the 2010 elections? If the regime does not release political prisoners, who number over 2000, the pro-democracy movement will continue. The elections are not open to all political parties so democratic opposition groups will not agree with the results and the undemocratic practice of reserving 25% of seats for the military.
Perhaps those who are dissatisfied with the political process or economic difficulties will rise up against the new government’s rule. Additionally, since both the constitution and the elections do not guarantee the rights of ethnic nationalities, even for the right to maintain their own identities, it is likely that dissatisfaction among the ethnic minorities will explode again. All the ceasefire groups, committed to the struggle for the rights of their people, could easily break the agreement as they now have weapons in their possession. Although many ethnic people would not like to see a new conflict, a civil war may well break out.
If the Burmese Army or the upcoming, partly-militarized government cannot resolve these problems sufficiently or if they lack willingness for political dialogue, the future of Burma after the 2010 elections cannot progress positively. Monnews