Suu kyi “free” though not Myanmar

  • Aung San Suu kyi free, but how much and for how long not known
  • Military junta dressed in civil suits, now rule through parliament
  • Myanmar elections rigged and a sham for world leaders
  • Elections a step in right direction, for India
  • World leaders want more democracy and release of all political prisoners
  • India happy and confident, the military junta would become more democratic
  • Pressure has to be kept on Myanmar says Labour’s shadow foreign secretary
  • Decision on “democracy” would depend on China and India too

Myanmar’s strongest axis for democracy, Aung San Suu kyi was released from house arrest, on Friday evening with conditions, it was reported and she delayed her release one night, negotiating her freedom. It was Saturday 13 November late morning she emerged at her gate being released after 07 years this time and on the day she would have been technically free, had the military junta not extended her arrest.

She spoke over the iron railed gates to a large crowd that had gathered over night, with military barricades reduced in anticipation of her release. Accepting a red bunch of flowers from an old woman who waited for her, it took over 10 minutes to have the cheering crowds silenced for her to speak, said most reports.

Obviously too, most Western countries were quick with their response, greeting Suu kyi’s release, but wanting to know about other detainees too. The military junta is reported to have over 2,100 democracy activists detained and jailed. From Obama to Cameron to Sarkozy to Tutu and Shirin Ebadi the Iranian lady judge with the 2003 peace prize and former leaders like Brown and De Klerk, all welcomed her release as a step towards democracy, but want more for a better tomorrow.

A week before, on 07 November, the Myanmar junta held its declared elections, keeping Aung San Suu kyi and her party the National League for Democracy that won a landslide victory in 1990 but was banned then, barred from contesting this time. This time it was a proxy alliance of the military junta that won the elections and would take control of the two houses that constitute the parliament, after results were declared at random.

The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), stacked with military top brass in full suits, seems to have over 80% of the elected representatives in an election that was foreseen and foretold as such. It now seems a military regime sans uniform, controlling Myanmar through a dictatorial parliament, that provides a new cover to the old military junta.

Nevertheless, Suu kyi’s release would provide some political mobilising for the opposition, but it remains to be seen what space she is allowed in Myanmar’s politics. Politics that was hardly spoken of openly in Myanmar all these years by the common man, would now come to the open and Suu kyi would be compelled to challenge any restrictions on her release, as she had been previously doing. She was expected to reorganise her now de-listed party that may have few proxies in the newly elected parliament.

On the other side, the military junta has for now gained politically too, immediately after elections. All talk about slapping embargoes on Myanmar would now be reconsidered as a “negative” approach, wanting to allow Suu kyi to be a political negotiator, between the Myanmar rulers and pro democracy demands from the international community. Suu kyi, who earlier had spoken in support of embargoes, was lately seen as softening her stand on such measures. It is thus left to be seen how Suu kyi and her party would adopt to this new scenario.

Meanwhile, it would now provide justice for the two big Asian nations, China and India to stand more firmer with the Myanmar junta. The two countries were the strongest allies of the military junta all these years. India played its role covertly, while China was quite open with her investments and aid, channelled to Myanmar. All of Myanmar’s investments are being shared by the top brass of the military junta, that had the two Asian powers behind.

India’s ghostly silence over Suu kyi’s long detention and on Myanmar elections, thus came to an end with External Affairs Minister, S.M. Krishna pinning plenty of hope on an inclusive process for democracy. What was a “rigged” and a “sham” elections for Obama and Hague and the whole world, except perhaps China, was thus “an important step in the direction of the national reconciliation process being undertaken by the government of Myanmar” for Krishna and India.

While Hague as External Affairs Minister of UK clearly wants no restrictions on her choice to play a role in Myanmar’s politics and French President Sarkozy says any restrictions would have adverse effects on Myanmar’s future, India, a close neighbour of Myanmar, is “confident that the release of Suu Kyi will contribute to efforts for a more inclusive approach to political change”, according to Krishna.

This justification of regional support for the newly dressed military junta would not be of any advantage for the pro democracy initiatives in Myanmar and favour Suu kyi in establishing herself in mainstream open politics. She would have to now talk of releasing all other political prisoners jailed and about suppression of ethnic minorities, with a regime that could now have open diplomatic and economic support from key players in the region who are no small fry in international politics.

Contradicting any hope of an easy path to democracy in Burma, British Labour Party’s shadow foreign secretary Ms. Yvette Cooper said this is a significant first step, but the world has to keep up the campaign.

This was well sensed by the exiled pro democracy Burma campaigners in UK that warns the world, while this release of Suu kyi is most welcome and is much appreciated with joy, it is only a “public relations exercise by the junta” and should not be interpreted as a step towards democratic reform in Burma.

The campaign for democracy in Myanmar, thus does not come to a close, though some “Bloggers” may feel they could now call it a day. In fact it would be more complicated, hereafter.

Kusal Perera

Colombo

14 November, 2010

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