Sunday, 4 March 2012

Is Freedom’s Gate near, for Suu Kyi and for Burma?

-May Ng-

On January 13th, 2012, Burma did an unthinkable act of releasing a cadre of political opponents from its malevolent, neocolonial prison system. If this is a true and sincere gesture, it indeed may mark the end of a half century long military rule that began in 1962, when the public broadcasting station was stormed, peaceful student protestors were shot and the student union building was demolished. The courage, to take such a gamble after decades of entrenched military rule, is commendable.

Prolonged conflicts and poverty in Burma have not only devastated the people; the ensuing Saffron Revolution of 2007, has also left the once highly regarded Burma’s military in the rubble of history. Real soldiers can now see that ruling Burma by arms is not only wrong but it is also not feasible. In addition, the economic sanctions led by the United States may have been the last straw that forced the hands of the junta. Or it may simply be that, the military has run its course and the Generals now only want a guarantee to preserve their wealth and prestige they believed they have earned for their families. No one knows for sure what takes place behind the walls of opaque military junta. But it is more important not to be blind to what can be seen in front of everyone.

The problem with the semi authoritarian congress of Naypidaw, at the moment, is its nugatory moral authority and questionable political credibility to overcome the doubts and challenges of the political and armed oppositions in Burma. But the biggest mistake for the oppositions is to abandon the process entirely to the whimsical military without a clear alternative strategy. Which is probably why Aung San Suu Kyi decides to participate in the April 1st by election, but only she can tell for certain.

It is still too soon to know if Burma can be held up as the example of an authoritarian’s graceful exit, yet, even by the President of the United States. But it can safely be assumed that the Burmese generals are trying to avoid Libya’s fate while their oppositions are trying to avoid another ’88 style violence like Syria. And the 2007 Saffron Revolution demonstrated that, misery of Burma can no longer continue to stagnate in the pond of prolonged and uneasy peace. 

After World War II, as nationalism and anti-colonialism peaked, Asia plunged into the cold war. And according to Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper, 2007, Britain had helped to arm Burma in 1940 and 1950 when the government in Rangoon seemed about to fall. In the coming of age of the new leviathan; the USSR and China became the new reason for which the British and American tacitly supported the emerging state of martial rule in Pakistan, Burma, Indonesia, and the softer authoritarianism of Malaysia and Singapore.
Ultimately, the military in Burma came to dominate the villages and control the ministries and the police force. According to “Forgotten Wars”, Burma’s army appropriated more and more of the country’s diminished wealth; and benefited from the perception that it was a threatened country in the midst of an armed camp, with Chinese, the rump of the British Empire or even India greedily surveying the remains of its assets of oil, timber and rice. 

Finally in the last decades, Burma had all but become one of the first failed states. The British and Americans never sought to bolster General Ne Win’s rise to power but, as in the case of Ayub Khan of Pakistan, Western politicians were relieved enough when noncommunist strongmen came to control poor and conflict-ridden countries, said Bayly and Harper. They wrote in conclusion that , ‘Thus it had ever been since the days of Thucydides the Athenian, that democracies at home consorted with dictator and became tyrannies abroad, though still cloaking their interests in the rhetoric of spreading democracy’. 

But the greatest tragedy has been when the Americans and other Western democracy more or less continued the same policy even after the bloody 1988 uprising in Burma, and engaged in business as usual with the SLORC/SPDC military junta, except for halfhearted and ineffectual economic sanctions. But in the aftermath of 2007 Saffron Revolution, Americans and other western democrats who were the arbiters of new powers in the post-cold war, became the more visible supporters for the Burmese democracy movement.  

The perception of ‘civil and political rights’, for Americans and other free societies, may be no more than a tool, or political currency to pressure unsavory regimes around the world. But for every Burmese including the soldiers, it is a question of life and death at this juncture in Naypyidaw’s politics. Akhil Reed Amar, 1998, points out that the necessary preconditions for democratic self-government by the people of a free state is, “a broad understanding of arms”. There can be no democracy unless there is a precondition for democratic self-government, to control the armed forces. 

The unparalleled success of the American Democracy rested on one single most important lesson they learned from the Glorious Revolution of 1688; of placing the standing army under the control of the civilian parliamentary government. It was without a doubt from the beginning that, Americans could not have dreamed of unalienable Rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness if they have surrendered the civilian control of the peacetime army. Which unfortunately, was what took place in Burma since the 1948 Independence; - granting a handful of armed men in uniforms the power to kill and to reap the riches of Burma.

Until this can be altered, like the America’s supreme Law, ‘the Constitution’; which, according to Akhil Reed Amar, is “superior to all other legal texts precisely because it was to be ordained, and could later be altered, by the supreme lawgiver—the people;” until the people are given the power - to protect their families, their lives and their possessions from the violence of armed forces, the ship for democracy has not yet sailed for Burma. 

January 13th may still be the finest moment in the darkest chapter of Burma. The courage to let it happen and the courage to reconcile - has been breathtaking. But no one should turn their back on the task at hand, No one knows yet whether the freedom’s gate is near. For, the fate of Burma has always been in the hands of the Burmese people; the soldiers, the students and the ethnic nationality leaders. To change Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi said that, the people themselves will have to take the initiatives. And may be this time they might, even after the April fool’s day. 

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

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လုပ္ငန္းသံုးရယ္၊အိမ္သံုးရယ္ဆိုၿပီး တစ္ယူနစ္ လွ်င္(၃၅)က်ပ္(၇၅)က်ပ္ဆိုၿပီးေကာက္ခံထားပါတယ္......တစ္လလွ်င္(ေလးေသာင္းေက်ာ္ငါး ေသာင္းေပေဆာင္ေနရပါတယ္)သို႔ေပမဲ့အလုပ္က ေန႔ခင္းပိုင္းဘဲလုပ္လို႔ရပါတယ္..ည(၆)နာရီကေန(၉)နာရီအထိအလုပ္လုပ္လို႔မရပါဘူး။မီးအားအ၀င္က(၃၀)ေလာက္ဘဲရွိပါတယ္။မီးအားနည္းလို႔ EPCကိုဖုန္းဆက္ေျပာေတာ့သူတို႔လဲမတက္
ရင္ တျခားႏိုင္ငံေျပာင္းၿပီးလုပ္ကိုင္ရမလိုျဖ