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Is It the Same Old Game?


Monday, October 5, 2009

While some people’s hopes may be raised at the news of the recent meeting between Aung San Suu Kyi and Maj-Gen Aung Kyi, the junta’s liaison minister, others will observe it with a wait-and-see attitude. Others still may argue that this is just another version of the same old game that the regime has played many times before.

All will ponder on the motives behind the decision of the regime to talk to Suu Kyi at this stage.

Could it be that Rangoon is worried about possible unrest due to the political and socio-economic conditions? Is it that China, Russia and India have joined with EU members in calling for the release of the pro-democracy leader and other political prisoners, and are applying pressure for more inclusive participation in the 2010 election?

Or is it that the regime wants to give its new friend, Senator Jim Webb, some potent arguments for use in his advocacy of abandoning principled support for the democracy movement in Burma?—arguments which Webb will be desperately searching for after the court rejected Suu Kyi’s appeal against her extended house arrest.

Is the military regime just giving itself and the pro-election supporters a pat on the back? Or is the junta reacting to Suu Kyi’s tactful approach to sanctions and her recent letter, addressed to Snr-Gen Than Shwe, that encouraged the regime to do a PR job on its image, especially since it has so boldly refused the reconciliatory offers of the pro-democracy movement in the past.

With a bit of luck, the regime may start to realize that even if they exploit the recent US engagement policy, they will not be able to marginalize the NLD leader and that they will be compelled to work with her.

Past experience has taught us that those who put no trust in the sincerity of the regime’s motives are, in the end, always proved correct.

In the wake of the Saffron Revolution, Aung Kyi was appointed as a liaison officer between Suu Kyi and the junta while Than Shwe portrayed the impression of initiating reconciliatory talks with her.

No sooner had the Burmese public and the international community dared to whisper their hopes of a possible national reconciliation process when the junta ambushed its dialogue partner by issuing Decree 1/2008, announcing a constitutional referendum in May 2008; and Decree 2/2008, setting 2010 as the year for a general election.
The regime was making it clear that it had effectively abandoned any inclusive dialogue process.

Not only did they shut out the domestic opposition, but they have also sidelined UN efforts to bring an end to the political crisis in Burma by unilaterally going ahead with “step four” of their “road map to democracy.”

The recent rejection of Suu Kyi’s appeal against her continued detention is further proof of the regime’s refusal to reconcile with pro-democracy and ethnic rights movements.

Nevertheless, hopes for positive change must not be lost. We must all be persistent with our aspirations for change in our country. Regardless of differing opinions, everyone from the pro-democracy camp genuinely wishes that these talks will turn out to be the initial step toward national reconciliation in Burma.

If these talks are genuine, Than Shwe will have to do more than arranging a 50-minute chat with Suu Kyi and his liaison officer; he will have to drop his unilateral road map and the 2010 election plan.

In my opinion, Burma urgently needs credible internal dialogue, national reconciliation and restoration of the rule of law in order to bring itself out of this political, socio-economic crisis and bring to an end the chronic human rights violations.

Elections should be held only as a part of this process of national reconciliation, which will in turn contribute to democratic transition. National reconciliation means that all parties will be involved in the solutions and there will be no losers. The winners will be the people of Burma.

Than Shwe and his military clique just need to realize that going ahead with the 2010 election (under the 2008 constitution) will lead nowhere; rather, it will further deteriorate the country’s socio-economic and political situation.

Burma’s most urgent need is for a credible dialogue among stakeholders, not an election.

Aung Moe Zaw is the chairman of the Democratic Party for a New Society, a Burmese political party based in exile.


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