日本ビルマ情報ネットワークのダイレクター、ゆき あきもと さんの力作です。大変に美しい人です。
POINT OF VIEW / Yuki Akimoto: True democracy in Burma?
February 08, 2012
These days, the media is full of upbeat reports about all the changes taking place in Myanmar (Burma). It is true that the government in Burma has undertaken certain reforms.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the pro-democracy movement, has been allowed to participate in the bi-elections scheduled for April, a marked change from elections in 2010 when several unfair legal provisions effectively banned her party from taking part. Many prominent former student activists have been released, and the once-strict censorship rules have been relaxed.
At the same time, there has been a rapid thaw in Burma’s relations with the United States and the United Kingdom, countries that used to regularly denounce Burma for its systematic human rights abuses and lack of democratic reforms, and that impose various sanctions because of this. Diplomats and politicians from around the world are visiting Burma.
Amid talk of the lifting of sanctions, aid organizations are preparing to re-engage in Burma, and heightened interest in the country among commercial investors has driven property prices soaring in key locations.
Despite all the optimistic commentary, however, Burma remains far from democracy. In the nominally civilian government, the president is a former army general, and 26 of the 30 ministers are also former military men (no woman is in the Cabinet). In the parliament, 25 percent of the seats are reserved for those in the military. Widespread irregularities were reported about the 2010 elections, whose outcome allowed the pro-military party to take most of the remaining seats.
The president may hand over all powers to Burma’s top military commander in a state of emergency--a legal coup d’etat. The Constitution that provides for all of this cannot be amended without the support of the military. Further, rule of law is not established, and the judiciary is not independent. Hundreds of political prisoners remain in prisons all over Burma. And despite reports of “peace agreements” reached, repression and abuses against civilians continue in ethnic conflict areas.
Just as it did under the former military regime, the army retains substantive control over the governance of the country. The top priority for the army, which is to hold onto its privileges and protect its interests, has not changed, either. The only difference are the tactics adopted by the military: instead of oppressing the people and any opposition by threat and use of bare force, the new government has opted to impress upon the people and the international community that it is “bent on democratic reforms,” thereby apparently trying to prevent frustration and opposition from reaching a boiling point. These tactics also provide cover for foreign governments and international financial institutions to lift sanctions and to resume or increase development aid.
Burma’s current government is not motivated by the goal of true democracy. President Thein Sein did not even bother to hide this fact in his recent interview with The Washington Post. Asked for a message to its American readers, Thein Sein declared: “If you would like to see democracy thrive in our country, you should take the necessary actions to encourage this by easing the sanctions. ...” This statement turns logic on its head. Sanctions were imposed because Burma would not embark on democratic reforms and refused to improve the human rights situation. Sanctions did not make Burma any less democratic. In any case, if one genuinely wanted democratization and were serious about obtaining it, one would not refer to the removal of sanctions as a condition.
Aung San Suu Kyi could have refused to cooperate with Thein Sein and his allies. She is presumably aware of all the pitfalls. Her decision to participate in the bi-elections, and her colleagues’ support for this move, do not mean that they recognize the current government as a legitimate democratic government or a trustworthy partner. They have decided to struggle within the system despite this understanding because they recognize that taking advantage of the current opportunity may eventually--perhaps in several decades--lead to an emergence of a truly democratic society where people can freely participate. Those of us outside Burma should understand that they are on a gamble, so to speak, and continue to support them in realizing their hope.
Yuki Akimoto is a director of BurmaInfo Japan (http://www.burmainfo.org/), where she researches and writes about Burma with a focus on human rights and environment.