Optimism from all corners but Burma is going nowhere
Dr. Tint Swe Member of Parliament
October 27, 2009: When it comes to Burma, there are four strategically important nations and blocs - China, the ASEAN, India and America and the EU. News coming from all four corners seems enjoyable and hopeful.
It is something like the days when Aung San Suu Kyi was first freed from house arrest in 1995. But it is wise to observe what happened in 14 years between after her release and today. Generals at the top, prisoners in jails and Aung San Suu Kyi in her home and no changes took place by any means.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) welcomed a new US policy of engagement with Burma and the 16 leaders attending the 4th East Asia Summit in Thailand agreed to encourage the regime to ensure a fair general election in 2010.
ASEAN leaders are fans of the military junta. They easily accept the excuses given by their counterparts from Burma. They don’t mind any promise not fulfilled. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Aung San Suu Kyi might be able to participate in society and possibly politics again. A diplomatic expression of probability can be interpreted as “no”.
All participants in the ASEAN+6 were overwhelmed as Burmese Prime Minister said that the ruling junta saw a role for Aung San Suu Kyi in the reconciliation process before the elections to be held in 2010. What General Thein Sein meant was that Daw Suu can visit Shwedagon pagoda after 2010.
After meeting with his Paulphaw Prime Minister, China's premier Wen Jiabao also expressed confidence and pledged more financial aid to Burma.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh categorized it as an atmosphere of hope and welcomed the next year's election as reconciliation of the various segments of Myanmar society.
Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee correctly said that political reforms and national reconciliation should be expedited and must involve all stakeholders. But the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, the National League for Democracy asked to revise the constitution which was unilaterally announced as adopted in the midst of a devastating cyclone in 2008. Without any changes of the constitution, at the last minute, the junta may invite NLD.
Then all ASEAN folks will have to say good again as it was said in Thailand last Sunday.
Before his second round of talks with the SPDC of Burma, US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell will be arriving in India for consultation next week. Coincidently India wants to take credit out of all good news regarding Burma by publishing a news report which says former Indian foreign secretaries have used the foreign office consultations with the US to push for engagement with Burma. It also said that at junta’s request, India has even passed on messages to the US at a reasonably high level.
Before Campbell announced this week that the US would closely work with India and China regarding Myanmar, since the era of Bush administration the US wanted to work with the UN and the two big neighbours to work out the troubles in Burma.
At the same time, India knows very well that with regard to the election next year, the military regime will not comply with the expectations from ASEAN and the legitimate demand from the NLD. So India will urge the US to start a separate engagement process from next year’s election. Whether the election is like that of Afghanistan or Nigeria, India is keen to engage with Burma. The same advice will be given to the US.
India and ASEAN leaders are also satisfied with the words of the junta which said it might soften the terms of Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest. Maybe she would be allowed to see her physician and lawyers a couple of times more.
Euphoria is there but Burma is going nowhere.
(The author Dr. Tint Swe is the elected Member of Parliament and the Information Minister of the exiled government National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma or NCGUB)