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Nov-12-2007 07:37printcomments

... and there is Hope for Myanmar?

The conference table is ultimately the most important objective to effect change in this beleaguered country of a multiethnic population of 48 million.


Photo courtesy: greatestcities.com, csstb.gov

(PENANG,Malaysia) - Daw Aung Sun Suu Kyi’s recent meet up with Major General Aung Kyi, Myanmar’s labour minister and designated go-between for the military junta government harbors well for the future.

Major General Aung Kyi

Prior to this important interaction the iconic face of isolated Myanmar and de facto leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), that won the 1990 general elections, had discussions with senior party stalwarts, namely Aung Shwe, Lwin, Nyunt Wai and Nyan Win. The aforesaid developments are clear indications of the seriousness of the deteriorating situation besetting the country and parties concerned are investing in a hope for a political settlement.

Ibrahim Gambari, the UN special envoy to Myanmar that had in the last months made the rounds of ASEAN’s capital cities meeting up with regional power brokers, is seeing some progress in his efforts to bring together the main protagonists of Myanmar’s drama. It is uncertain what transpired between this Ghanaian diplomat and the ASEAN leaders; if his efforts were to persuade ASEAN leaders and diplomats to play a behind-the-scene role, it is a commendable act on his part.

The conference table is ultimately the most important objective to effect change in this beleaguered country of a multiethnic population of 48 million.

A gradual transition to democratic governance is the preferred panacea than a radical ousting of the current military junta as the international community (read the Western democracies) is unrealistically advocating. No amount of sanctions, blockades, and other pressures from without are going to effect change in Myanmar; it has to come from within, and, more importantly, from Myanmar people themselves.

However unpalatable that it appears, the military needs to be given a role in Myanmar as can be seen of their counterparts in neighbouring Thailand (currently under military rule), Indonesia, and the Philippines.

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It is absurd and totally unrealistic to demand, as many quarters are advocating, a zero-sum transformation that wholly excludes the military from the country’s political stage. If that is the ultimate intention, a Shakespearean tragedy is in the making.

Myanmar’s historical development is more akin to Thailand than that of the democratic models found in Malaysia or Singapore where the armed forces plays a low-profile, apolitical, and seemingly inactive role in the political arena.

UN Envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro

Undoubtedly it is a long and rough road ahead, a long transition towards democratic rule under civilian leadership. But if Indonesia and the Philippines and hopefully Thailand too, could attempt to travel on this democratic highway with reasonable success, so could Myanmar.

It is with much hope that Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, UN human rights envoy, whose his five-day visit (November 11th-15th 2007) to Myanmar that lifted a four-year ban on his entry, will contribute to the reconciliation and negotiating process rather than rattling the boat with his demanding manners.

Daw Aung Sun Suu Kyi and Senior
General in Myanmar, Than Shwe

His brash talk of threatening to leave the country if cooperation from the government is not forthcoming is exactly the type of behavior that might jeopardize progressive developments that have recently been displayed.

A face-to-face meeting between Nobel laureate Daw Aung Sun Suu Kyi and Senior General Than Shwe is much-awaited; the sooner the better for the aforesaid journey to start. Suu Kyi and Than Shwe for Myanamr’s future should take the courageous first step together. Is it not true that a journey of a thousand li begins with the first step?

12 November 2007

Learn more about the situation in Myanmar in this Salem-News article by from October 23rd 2007 by Professor OOI Keat Gin: Daw Aung Sun Suu Kyi: Myanmar’s Saviour? ----------------------------------------------------------

OOI Keat Gin is an associate professor and coordinator of the Asia-Pacific Research Unit (APRU) in the School of Humanities, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia.

He has written a number of important books that are available on the Internet, including Southeast Asia: "A Historical Encyclopedia, From Angkor Wat to East Timor", "From Colonial Outpost to Cosmopolitan Centre: The Growth and Development of George Town, Penang, from late 18th century to late 20th century", "Rising Sun Over Borneo: The Japanese Occupation of Sarawak, 1941-1945", "Japanese Empire in the Tropics: Selected Reports and Documents of the Japanese Period in Sarawak, Northwest Borneo, 1941-1945" and Of Free Trade and Native Interests: The Brookes and the Economic Development of Sarawak, 1841-1941.

The staff of Salem-News.com is very thrilled that Professor OOI Keat Gin is taking time out of his busy schedule in Malaysia to write articles for our Internet publication. He understands that Americans are watching events in Myanmar develop from afar, that they are very curious. It is his hope and ours that our visitors will gain a more direct understanding of these world events from a person whose life is dedicated to the development of peace on the Asian continent.




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