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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2787

Burma: Twenty Years of military rule, the youth and alternative approach to democracy

By Zaw Nay Aung

Burmese across the world will celebrate their 20th anniversary cries for freedom on 8th August which is also the first day of China's Olympics. 1988 popular uprising of Burma widely known as 'Four 8s uprising' toppled General Ne Win and his Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP), however, successive military regimes kept iron-gripping the power for the last two decades. The regime is still surviving international pressures and dictatorship is still flourishing.

Since 1988 nationwide campaigns, thousands of political prisoners spent their lives in dark, damp and tiny cells for decades. Some of them lost their lives in the torture chambers while others ended in blood and sweat of labor camps and hellish prisons across the country.

Twenty years of military rule has ravaged the country with appalling education systems, hospitals with corrupt staffs and horrible medical negligence while government officials send their children for overseas education and the regime sponsors military cadres abroad for technological and strategic programmes to strengthen their power. Most of the actions taken by the opposition have not met the needs of people yet.

The tough measures proposed at UN Security Council have been complete failures for the sake of wealthy generals and China's so-called 'mutual prosperity'. China's policy is absolutely right for Chinese and the regimes like Burmese regime, Mugabe regime and culprits behind Darfur's tragedies but not for the suffering people of these countries. The western approach of promoting democracy and human rights through sanctions did not bring significant developments as the regional countries happy to deal with the regime. The Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) has been extracting Burma's resources as much as they can after installing the delaying mechanism of 'constructive engagement' with Burmese junta.

Although most of the activists and politicians both inside and abroad adopted and firmly struggle through non-violent approach to democracy, last year's 'Saffron Revolution' sparked a question of whether people power movement and peaceful transition to democracy could be possible. The bomb blasts occurred here and there in the commercial city, Rangoon and other cities across the country since September uprising which seems to be the prelude of urban guerrilla warfare against the regime. As 88 Generation Students and the youth of 1988 led the nationwide campaign to bring down BSPP, the younger generation of Burma today might radicalize their campaign for justice, freedom and democracy.

'Saffron Revolution' opened the eyes of young people to see the true identity of the regime and woke them up from the junta's psychological derailment as the junta promoted entertainment industry and sex industry across cities for distracting the youth from politics over the years. Before the 'Saffron Revolution', there was a huge generation gap in politics of Burma. Most of the younger generation of Burma today was born after 1988 uprising and the regime's brutal oppression on the streets were not seen till last year's bloodshed.

However, the globalization and knowledge age awarded the youth of Burma with technologies and innovative strategies to show the whole world about what was happening in Burma from 'Saffron Revolution' to cyclone Nargis. They might think about beating half a million troops of junta in strategies and technologies though Burmese army has been strong enough to beat through traditional combats.

Eventually, it would be the responsibility of regional countries to resolve Burma's crisis before too late. The international community has tried their best for democratization of Burma over the years and only the ASEAN, China, India and other countries in the region needs to cooperate with United Nations and the rest of the world for peaceful settlement of Burma's conflict. The United Nations needs to focus on Burma and start thinking of playing a crucial role for the return of democracy to Burma. Otherwise, another civil war could break out in Burma and more casualties and bloodshed will ensue.

As nobody wished to go ahead for 2010 election, the junta's election timetable would become the deadline for Burmese pro-democracy activists to bring down the junta before the regime tries to form an army-dominated government. Burma's crisis would become not only a threat to regional peace and security but increase the tensions between the global powers. Nonetheless, whether China or other regional countries delay in resolving Burma's political gridlock and if the west could not adopt alternative policy initiatives, the younger generation of Burma would radicalize their campaigns to end the dictatorship sooner or later by any means.

Zaw Nay Aung is an exiled Burmese in the UK and M.Sc student of political science at Royal Holloway, University of London.

- Asian Tribune -

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