There was much defiance in his aged face, as Tin Oo talked to some of his party supporters at his residence in Yangon, after he was released from house arrest, on Saturday, ahead of the UN special envoy’s visit on Monday to assess Myanmar’s human rights progress. The UN special envoy has requested meetings with Suu Kyi and opposition leaders too.
Deputy leader of National League for Democracy (NLD) in Myanmar, Tin Oo, himself an ex army officer parted ways with the military junta and pioneered the formation of the NLD in 1988 with Nobel Peace laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, who is still under house arrest. Myanmar is reportedly having over 2,100 opposition, pro democracy activists jailed.
Held in military prisons and under house arrest, the defiant deputy leader of the NLD, Tin Oo said he would start his political work, despite being told by the military regime, his release from house arrest after 07 years, does not mean he has a right to get involved in politics.
Why then did the military junta release him ? There are many opinions about his release, especially among the Myanmar diaspora in Thailand, in the UK and in the US, where dissident Myanmar groups are active in establishing democracy back home.
The Myanmar military leadership has announced it would hold elections to its national assembly this year, though dates have not been fixed as yet. This election, according to General Than Shwe, the soft spoken and reclusive military leader, will be “free and fair”. At least he would want to show it that way to the UN and the international community, according to dissident opinion. That needs some opposition at elections, but not pro democracy agitations as Tin Oo says he would work on.
There are other opinion in the exiled dissident groups that says, Tin Oo now being released on the eve of the UN special envoy, Tomas Ojea Quintana’s visit to assess the human rights record of Myanmar, would be allowed to make a few statements on democracy, but as all times before, the same statements would be used by the Junta to re arrest or detain Tin Oo, after the Quintana report comes out in the UN office.
A more cynical perception is that Gen Than Shwe and his military junta is gaining currency by releasing a veteran opposition leader who is now 83 years old and has little vigour in mobilising the people in Myanmar, who need a young and energetic leadership that would not work within traditional slogans.
The Myanmar democratic movement seem divided on how to apply itself in the context of elections that is promised by the military junta, without dates. The more senior workers in the democratic movement have lost faith and trust in the promises doled out by the military junta and therefore argues there is no necessity in contesting elections on Than Shwe’s conditions. They seem to feel the elections if held, should be conducted by a UN agency for NLD to contest.
The argument as put forward by such senior activists is that contesting elections under the military junta is to expose provincial democratic activists, who could thereafter be vulnerable for suppression.
Meanwhile, young pro democracy activists feel the elections should be utilised to seek representation in the national assembly, on the assumption that would give more strength and legitimacy to their voices, even if the numbers are small. They also believe, such representation would provide them a platform to lobby the international community and other UN agencies and forums.
Yet where most or all pro democracy groups and thinking meet is at the conclusion that elections would not allow any reforms and the military junta would only seek a mandate for its very repressive rule to continue.
The question, “what next ?” in Myanmar, is thus a very large question, the release of Tin Oo and the visit of UN special envoy to Myanmar will not have answers for.
Editorial / based on reports and blog sites on Myanmar
16 February, 2010