The regime in Burma is like climate change—if you don’t contain it now, it could be catastrophic.
Seeing Burma going nowhere over the past decades, friends and foes of the regime have reached the consensus that the country needs to make meaningful progress.
To achieve momentum in the land of “standstill,” we need some energy and a shakeup.
Washington’s new Burma policy is indeed shaking things up. However, we must be realistic—external forces can only inject a dose of fresh air into political dynamism in Burma. The plain fact is that change must come from within. So we’d better not to wait but make a move of our own.
US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell’s statement following his visit to Burma and the briefing he gave on his talks there received positive feedback not only in Burma but also in European and Asean capitals.
There’s no doubt that the new US policy is comprehensive. It covers Burma’s pressing issues, including ethnic nationalities, democratization, the 2010 election, the need for national reconciliation and political dialogue, the problem of narcotics and security questions. More importantly, the US has no plans to lift sanctions until it sees progress in these key areas.
The new policy no doubt injected positive energy and some rare hope in Burma. The visit of two high ranking US diplomats also created a good impression, although we all know that it will be a long and difficult process.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it clear that there is a lot of work to do on Burma, saying: “We have no illusions that any of this will be easy or quick.”
We all know that no one has the magic pill to cure Burma’s ills.
In a message directed at the principal stakeholders, regime leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe and pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, Clinton said Burma’s problems must be resolved by the Burmese people themselves.
It could be a win-win situation if Than Shwe and Suu Kyi wanted to make the most of the positive energy released by the new US initiative and its policy of direct engagement.
It is understandable that many are deeply skeptical about the sincerity of Than Shwe and the slow pace of political progress in Burma. If Than Shwe took a pragmatic approach, however, he could make the next move and strike a deal with Suu Kyi.
The paramount leader of the regime has delivered little of substance in the past two decades. Nonetheless, we all know that the election in 2010 will be his personal exit strategy. He needed a safe passage out of the political arena.
This can be an opportunity for Suu Kyi. She could demonstrate that she is pragmatic and a deal-maker, too. She could show that she is ready to help the national reconciliation and political process to move forward.
Since the mockery trial earlier this year, Suu Kyi is back in the political limelight. She has won enormous support from the international community and her popularity inside the country has no doubt surged.
There are reports in Rangoon that Suu Kyi, who has held talks with Than Shwe in the past, is now asking for further meetings. Recently, she expressed her gratitude to Than Shwe for allowing her to meet diplomats and US officials.
Her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), is planning to release an important statement for the nation soon, the party spokesman said. How important for the nation the statement will prove to be remains to be seen.
Political pundits say the NLD statement may include Suu Kyi’s stance on western sanctions and the 2010 election. This indicates that Suu Kyi may make a meaningful and pragmatic offer to Burma’s paramount leader, who wants the Lady to show “respect” and “good behavior.”
A statement by Suu Kyi and her next moves should spell out her own “climate change” policy.