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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2836

After the 67th Anniversary of Independence, Burma still has no free choice

By – Zin Linn

January 4th is the 67th Anniversary of Burma’s Independence Day which marks the victory of the nation’s independence struggle. President of Burma (Myanmar) Thein Sein has delivered a message to the nation and its people on the occasion of the 67th Anniversary Independence Day.

President Thein Sein on Sunday clarified in his message: “Throughout the colonial period, Myanmar had had its resources overexploited, its religion and culture ill-treated, its literature and language restricted, and its national unity hampered by the policy of divide and rule, an administrative system that favored the bureaucratic mechanism.”

But people continue doubtful of political transformation under President Thein Sein who claims his regime as a reformist government. The reason is that the regime just changes its uniform rather than its high-handed stance. People believe country’s independence has been crushed as several natural resources of the country have been sold out on cut-rate to China by the successive military-backed regimes and a great number of citizens become jobless or homeless even thousands are fleeing away as stateless.

In his message, President Thein Sein also said, “All nationalities should join hands in deterring possible threats to the security of the country and at the same time make concerted efforts to two public desires—stability and socioeconomic development. Thus, it is incumbent on the entire population to adhere to the four objectives of the 67th anniversary of Independence Day in turning our country into a modern, developed democracy.”

It seems the president took no notice of recent tragedy occurred on 22 December 2014. A village-woman, Daw Khin Win, 56, was mortally shot by government’s security police as villagers made an effort to prevent a land seizure in the neighborhood of the Letpadaung copper mining project as stated by media reports. Daw Khin Win joined a crowd of around sixty villagers trying to prevent Chinese company’s attempting to put up a fence in the neighborhood of disputed farmlands. Daw Khin Win was killed on the spot as police opened fire at the protesters who hit back the police and Chinese workers. Several other villagers were also injured, private media reported.

According to President’s Sunday message, achievements have been made to some extent in all aspects of ongoing political reform processes. A perfect example he mentioned is a new breed of political culture born out of efforts put forth on national reconciliation and peace talks. The President said that new political culture is to find a solution through negotiations and has kept democratic transition on right tract to date. Collective participation is of the essence to maintain the momentum, he emphasized.

However, people may think his message as a rhetoric expression since it is on the horizon from actual conditions. Because, under his administration the nation still failed to sustain development on education, health, transportation, and the economy due to fragile stability and the problems with rule of law. After 67 years of independence, there are no electricity supplies, clean water systems and modern hospitals in public areas.

But, privileged Capital Nay-Pyi-Taw which merely built in 2005 has been emerged as a lavish metropolitan in the middle of a jungle. So, people may not believe the terms ‘reform’, ‘democratic transition’, ‘collective participation’ and ‘blood brothers’ used by the President.

The worst is that government army’s artillery shell killed 23 cadets at a training center on the outer reaches of Laiza, the Kachin Independence Army capital on China –Burma border on 19 November 2014. It was the deadliest hit since a ceasefire agreement in 2011, General Gun Maw, the KIA's second-in-command said. Gun Maw said government's artillery attacks were warning towards the KIA to sign a ceasefire agreement without promise of political talks and to put off the elections.

President Thein Sein has pledged to bring about ‘transparency’ and ‘good governance’ in the military-monopolized rundown country, since taking office in March 2011. But questions hang around exceptionally whether Thein Sein knows how to control the non-cooperation armed forces which is infamous for grabbing farmlands and controlling huge natural resource industries.

The objectives of 67th Anniversary Independence Day are published in the state-run media on Sunday.

They are: all the national people to strive together for non-disintegration of the Union, non-disintegration of national solidarity and perpetuation of sovereignty; all the national people to live together in the Union forever through weal and woe; all the national people to participate in efforts for ceasing armed conflicts and gaining genuine and lasting peace; and all the national people to make great stride in building a developed and discipline-flourishing democratic nation.

Thus far, Burmese government and ethnic armed groups fail to reach a nationwide ceasefire agreement despite the fact that they had continued ceasefire talks in 2013 and 2014. Many hoped there would be a breakthrough via the peacemaking talks but it didn’t happen as yet.

There are still differences between government and ethnic armed organizations, especially on founding of a federal union via meaningful political dialogue submitted by ethnic armed organizations. On the contrary, the military-backed government suggested ethnic armed groups to abandon arms and take part in elections held under 2008 Constitution. It’s a key conflict between the government and the ethnic armed organizations.

Burma’s political war this year looks more complicated than ever since there will be do-or-die struggles among the ethnic-based parties, so-called democracy parties, the ‘major opposition party’ and the military-backed ‘ruling party’ that is mostly connected with the presidential selection in 2015.

In addition, there are many more challengers for the presidency office; with rumors putting sitting President Thein Sein, Lower House Speaker Thura Shwe Mann, and the military chief Sen. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing as the frontrunners. In the midst of constitutional obstacles, the chance of Aung San Suu Kyi becoming president seems very slim.

Major opposition NLD party led by Aung San Suu Kyi has called for public support to ratify constitutional reform particularly for Article 436. Aung San Suu Kyi has called again and again that Article 436 barred to amend undemocratic articles of the 2008 Constitution.

Aung San Suu Kyi has affirmed her readiness to run for president if the Constitution is amended letting her to contest. Suu Kyi said, as leader of the National League for Democracy, she is ready to take the executive office if that is what the people want.

She said an article in the constitution barring her from the job is one of several points her party seeks to change. Her party won landslide in 1990 General Elections but the choice of the voters was dishonored by the consecutive military regimes. As a result, military institution of this country has by no means gained the hearts of the people thus far.

- Asian Tribune -

After the 67th Anniversary of Independence, Burma still has no free choice
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