Burma needs to show more trust than doubt
By Zin Linn
April 14, 2015
Burma watchers around the world are paying special attention at the six-party talks held at the presidential residence in Nay-Pyi-Taw on 10 April. Present at the talks were President Thein Sein, the Union Parliament Speaker Thura Shwe Mann, Upper House Speaker Khin Aung Myint, Commander-in-Chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing, Chairperson of the National League for Democracy Aung San Suu Kyi and Dr. Aye Maung who represents the ethnic parties.
According to Ye Htut, Presidential spokesman, three points were settled at the meeting - the outline for talks, the type of talks to be arranged and the time of next meeting. He declined to disclose details. The six-party talks would likely focus on peace building, national consolidation, improving the nation’s socioeconomic status and holding free and fair elections — all national objectives to be taken immediate action, as said by the president office.
All participants agreed to talk about constitutional amendments, peace building, launching a free and fair election and ensuring stability after 2015 elections. The leaders approved to meet again when the parliaments resume, Ye Htut said. The parliament will be continued its sessions on 11 May 2015.
People from all walks of life displease with the current President Thein Sein Government. Burma still cannot go into its objective of ending hostilities in ethnic areas. After President Thein Sein took office, his government seems ignoring its own promises – good governance, national reconciliation, poverty alleviation etc. – made during the presidential inaugural ceremony in March 2011.
The most crucial promise the president needs to carry out is ending civil war against ethnic rebels to implement good governance, nationwide ceasefire and poverty alleviation. His government also needs honoring ethnic people’s equal rights and self-determination so as to prevent the war.
Looking back into last year, on 16 March 2014, President Thein Sein made an address to parliamentarians, ethnic leaders and local people at the town hall in Myitkyina, during a tour in Kachin state. In his speech, he promised to build a free and open society that encourages full participation of all national races, the state-run newspaper said.
Speaking on the comprehensive reforms and equal opportunity in the nation-building activities, he called for unwavering action to resolve the disputes. Drawing comparisons with the past, he called attention to a blame game that creates evil consequences.
Additionally, President Thein Sein assured the people in Kachin State of his determination to move towards a lasting peace inspired by all people. With the exception of reaching a ceasefire, a political dialogue is crucial to have room for trust between the two sides in making peace, he added.
According to the state-run newspapers, the President also pledged to start political dialogue soon after signing a nationwide ceasefire agreement. He guaranteed that the military and the government stand united in working on peace. He stressed that the implementation of peace and stability are his administration’s main goals.
The primary criticism from the ethnic groups is that the President Thein Sein and his person-in-charge of peace process maintain economic development as key strategy. They look like considering the economic development of ethnic regions will solve the peace and conflict problem. It is indisputable that economic growth and job opportunities are necessary issues, but without addressing the corruption among the government officials, economic improvement may be a castle in the air. Besides, president should not overlook the core of the impasse is political negotiation.
In addition, the President and the military spokespersons have repeatedly made complaint the ethnic armed groups to lay down their arms, establishing political parties, contesting the elections and entering into parliament, then amending the constitution. The idea is almost impracticable to the ethnic opposition groups. To lay down their arms without any political settlement is out of the question for the ethnic armed groups.
Moreover, ethnic groups disbelieve to hold dialogue under 2008 Constitution. Instead, ethnic groups have asked meaningful political dialogues with no precondition. The constitution was drawn by the previous military junta and prohibits presidential candidates with a foreign spouse or child, a paragraph intentionally put in charter rejecting Suu Kyi as her two sons are British citizens. The charter also allows a quarter of parliamentary seats for unelected military officers with promises to set aside the defense, home and border affairs ministries under the military.
Speaking while on a trip to Australia in November 2013, Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi told an audience at the Sydney Opera House that the country had still not “successfully taken the path to reform” because the military-written 2008 constitution bars the country from becoming a democracy.
Burma’s main opposition NLD party led by Aung San Suu Kyi has called, during recent nationwide campaign, for public support for her party’s proposal to ratify constitutional reform particularly for Article 436. Aung San Suu Kyi has called again and again that Article 436 barred to amend every article of the 2008 Constitution. It says every amendment proposal must be approved by 75 percent of representatives in both houses of parliament. As the military holds 25 percent of all seats, it effectively holds veto power over the Constitution, she says.
In an interview with Reuters on 3rd April, the Nobel laureate told Reuters that her opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party was "ready to govern" but that President Thein Sein was insincere about reform and might try to postpone the election. It is also remarkable that Aung San Suu Kyi has an option of boycotting the upcoming elections.
If a military-drafted constitution unchanged barring her becoming president, Burma’s political scenario ahead of 2015 General Elections seems to be unrest and chaotic.
In last March, there were students’ protests against a freshly accepted education law that the students say cut back academic freedom, according to media news. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), there are 105 students under arrested including 27 facing trial in Thayawaddy and Myingyan prisons.
Detaining students who protest for academic freedom shows an undemocratic practice of previous regime. As a result, a serious doubt emerges among public. Will this government keep its words for certain free and fair elections in coming November?