Written by U Ne Oo on 2004-08-22
We all are sharing the sad moment for passing away of Sayagyi Minthuwon, the reknown poet we all admire, Uncle U Kyi Maung, the vice-chair of NLD. From this sadness apart, we should certainly assess current situation and what we can do at best to help the democratic forces inside Burma.
As of recent, there have been few discussion on the internet about the progress--the lack there of-- Burma democracy movement. Certainly, after 16 long years of struggle, the Burmese people still are unable to remove the military junta from power. It will, however, be errorneous to think the Burma democracy movement hasn't achieved nothing in these years. In the following, I shall argue that the economic sanctions, combined with growing non-viloent political movement inside and outside of Burma, has been making headways towards democracy in Burma.
PROGRESS-- WHAT PROGRESS ?
One must of course, asks what sort of progress has the democracy movement achieved, whilst military junta is clearly in charge of the country. On this, we can simply look at the positioning of the status of political opposition vs. military junta, say in comparison with those of a decade ago.
1. THE NLD AS VIABLE AND LEGALLY ELECTED PARTY
Decade ago, around 1993/94, the NLD was extremely weak. This is due to the junta's relentless crackdown on opposition. These oppressions still exists in Burma, of course. The junta's spoke-person, at that time, even challenged that, "Well, we will transfer state power tomorrow. Will NLD be ready to take up this power?" This was the kind of situation for NLD a decade ago. The NLD had won election, but the party was not visible.
Nowadays, things are different. The NLD, along with CRPP, does represents a viable alternative government to the junta. The junta doesn't even dare placing NLD on the same political platform in public: in last few years, the government's deliberate avoidence on reconciliation talks is a proof to this. This is the military junta's admission that it knows it is an illegitimate government, and in the face of any political progress made by NLD, feared the junta will become irrelevant.
Of course, the junta and its collaborators continue to project the results of general elections of 1990 become irrelevant. As junta's propaganda goes, with the passing of the time, we should all forget about 27 May 1990. Not surprisingly, and as thing on the ground indicates, neither the NLD nor junta --despite its own propaganda -- are likely to forget about the results of the 1990 elections. So should the world. In sum, to respect the result of elections in 1990 is central to any viable political solution in Burma.
2. WEAKENING OF JUNTA'S INTERNATIONAL POSITION
The junta's international position, compared to that in a decade ago, is significantly weakened. Of course, for certain unspecified reason, the junta did get ASEAN membership in 1997. Nevertheless, the ASEAN itself is transforming into more democratic oriented governments. Since the passing of Ne Win and old leaders, the junta is also losing support from Japan. China and neighboring government are now fed up with junta begging for financial and other assistance. These neighbouring countries certainly have good reason to fear that they become liability for illegitimate military junta.
The international isolation of junta, of course, become much more intense and visible after the 30 May 2003 Tabayin Killings. Certainly, Khin Nyunt and junta leaders can still expect a polite hand shakes from its ASEAN neighbours, but nothing of substance will be forthcoming by way of assistance.
PRAGMATISM, PATIENCE AND PERSISTENCE ARE THE KEY
In last few years, the support to our cause from EU countries become more visible. Unfortunately, under the Bush Jr. administration, the diplomatic support from US for our democracy movement is lessened, comparing to Clinton years. For example, in last four years, the Bush administration had not send any envoy to mediate dispute in Burma (Clinton, during his presidency, did managed to send few envoys to Burma, by the way). Nevertheless, sanctions and other pressures at international level have been maintained by the US Government and Congress.
Given such difficult international circumstances for Burma, and the lack of major diplomatic supports in recent years, we can conclude that the democracy movement had made reasonable progress over the decade. Given wax and wane of international attention on Burma (blame 9/11, Iraq War and George W Bush, if you wish) these progress are entirely attributed to the persistence, patience and pragmatic leadership of the NLD.
ROLE OF PRESSURE GROUPS
As the exiled political activists, our task is to put pressure on the junta. On a grand scale view of entire democratic movement, we are foot-soldiers: no glamor, no glory, we just need to be kept fighting.
Not intend to flame anybody: as exile activists, we can get quite frustrated with this role. Sure, we can all jump on our own feet and shout on the internet. Or having the dreams about Bogyoke Aung San and Thirty comrades. Or practically go out and lick junta's boots. None of this will help our cause.
When participating in a democratic movement, we must understand our own position within the movement. We are pressure groups, which meant to exert pressure so as to generate dialogues within the country. Mediating parties to the conflict is the diplomats task -- the UN should be doing a better job. To engage in a dialogue is the NLD and ethnic resistance groups' task. At no time, we must not be confused with what position we were in this fight.
When facing with adversity, the pragmatism and patience should be guiding our thinking. It is time that we get on with our non-violent actions. Write letters. Submit reports. Collect petitions. Organise protests. We must persists with our demands that democracy be restored in Burma.
Regards, U Ne Oo.