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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 862

Myanmar reform needs freedom, justice and equality

By – Zin Linn

The grassroots in Burma or Myanmar have doubts about the changes run by the President U Thein Sein Government as people have never had a taste of freedom, justice and equality. As a matter of fact, working-class including farmers are hesitant to accept the current situation as a change.

Actually, the previous military regime had changed their outfits and performance before a social revolution similar to Arab Spring took place in Myanmar.

Besides, the country was under grassroots’ condemnation as a result of its incompetent procedure for current reform process. Although the poverty alleviation is one of its reform items, farmers and workers are in despair as their lands and belongings have been illicitly confiscated by the military, local authorities and cronies. As a result, redundancy problem has been critically come forward and more than five millions of unemployed citizens have to leave the homeland in quest of jobs in neighboring countries.

Following over five decades of military rule, the harshest political uncertainty remains unchanged, as well as a military that still grab hold of the decision making power. For instance, the eleven-member National Defense and Security Council with the President keeps hold of the constitutional right to declare emergency declaration at any time.

Most important case is that even though the government has pronounced over and over again to restore rule of law, most of its respective authorities, including the local authorities, judges and police, are still abusing the power without restraint. In addition, the military and its cronies are still abused the law. As a result, the tradition of corruption and paying-off is on the rampage.

The country’s important natural resources and heavy industries including import, export and service sectors are monopolized by the military conglomerates and their crony allies. Military-managed business firms and crony enterprises are evading official income taxes by paying hush money to the respective bureaucrats. And they also have chances to take advantage of precious natural resources while the majority of citizens have been living in dire insufficiency for five decades.

Myanmar is a resource rich country under military officers’ economic mismanagement that pulled down the country below the poverty line. The country’s citizens are very poor not because the country has no essential prosperity, but because the country’s consecutive military leaders who decline to take the bull by the horns concerning corruption and wealth amassed by abuse of authority.

Without changing the management role and ownership of military’s business assets, President U Thein Sein’s reform process will be no benefit to country’s common people. Since foreign direct investment increases gradually, the same military affiliated businesses and crony associates will turn out to be the primary beneficiaries, not the average citizens.

Despite much talk about popular economic transformation, President U Thein Sein should create grounding in order to crack down the corruption and unprofessional conduct of tax evasion. Without officially recognizing the well embedded corrupt practices in the trade and industries sector, there can be no way to tackle the country’s long-lasting socio-economic deficiency.

In such a moment, President’s reform strategy may not have chance to convince the average people who have no opportunity to enjoy even their basic citizen’s rights. Presently, farmers, workers and students are launching their grievances via media publications calling for their basic rights.

While carrying out the development of peace and stability, national reconciliation and the rule of law, the nation has faced unexpected challenges and difficulties. However, the government seems to stay away from these challenges and difficulties as it even didn’t take responsibility for the requests of landless farmers and the homeless citizens.

In June last year, the President pointed out that without political stability economic development cannot be realized and without socioeconomic development political stability cannot be achieved, because politics and economy are interconnected.

Nevertheless, the civil war that made the country of substandard class has been going on for the past six decades. Although the government has been attempting through its peacemaking teams, the key ethnic rebel groups – Karen National Union (KNU) and Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) – are still unconvinced of the plan for political settlement.

The ethnic armed groups do not completely trust the government’s peace talks. The fact is that while offering a peace proposal, the government has been increasing its deployment of armed forces in the conflict zones. Besides, the government soldiers are on the loose and committing crimes and human rights abuses in the ethnic territories.

However, the civil war that made the country of inferior quality has been going on and on for the past six decades. Although the government has been attempting through two peacemaking teams, the key ethnic rebel groups – Karen National Union (KNU) and Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) – are still unconvinced of the plan for political settlement.

The ethnic armed groups do not completely trust the government’s peace talks. The fact is that while offering a peace proposal, the government has been increasing its deployment of armed forces in the conflict zones. Besides, Burmese army soldiers are on the loose and committing crimes and human rights abuses in the ethnic territories.

Moreover, the difficulties of ending the war against the KNU and the KIO are intertwined with the natural resources available in the respective ethnic states. The Myitsone dam venture and the Shwe-gas twin pipeline development projects are connected to the Kachin warfare and Dawei deep sea-port multi-billion mega projects need security guarantee by the KNU.

Additionally, the government wants to show the international community that their peace process is progressing well. By doing so, the regime could earn trust from Western democracies and sanctions may lift at the same time.

In addition, more than 20,000 combat soldiers from nearly 200 battalions have been deployed to the Kachin frontline, the biggest military maneuver in Myanmar’s long-lasting civil war, as reported by Kachin News Group. Several Kachin citizens think that the reason for renewing the war after a 17-year ceasefire is the plot of the military elites and cronies who want to exploit natural resources in the state.

It is unbelievable that President U Thein Sein once issued an instruction twice to commander-in-chief to halt the offensive against the KIO, but the war continues and inhabitants continue to run for their lives. According to Reuters, U Aung Min, deputy head of the government peacemaking team, declined to comment on the conflict in Kachin State. The Kachin offensives launched by the government army are still raging on in the face of presidential orders to stop fighting.

The KIA is the second strongest armed ethnic group in Myanmar. It has five brigades. Four of them are based in Kachin State. There are about 30 battalions, with over 30,000 fighters including regular and reserved forces.

Thus, several ethnic armed groups including the KIA have already decided to defend their basic rights - freedom, justice and equality - by holding their guns. If President U Thein Sein took no notice of addressing this delicate political issue by way of genuine political dialogue, his dreams of comprehensive reform process along with poverty alleviation may have little chance to be materialized.

Most political analysts believe stopping the aggressive wars on ethnic people is the most important issue to be addressed by the government. If it wants to build a peaceful and prosperous nation or an economic tiger in the region, U Thein Sein should persuade all members of the security-and-defense committee including the military boss to think broadly in favor of creation a federal union with freedom, justice and equality.

- Asian Tribune -

 President U Thein Sein
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