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New Myanmar Democracy: Generals In Plain Clothes

Nov 13, 2010 2:18:11 PM - thesundayleader.lk

The proxy party of Myanmar’s military junta has swept the polls winning 187 seats of the 219 seats counted by Thursday, the Times of India reported.
Observers believe that more than 80 per cent of seats in the new parliament will be under the control of the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party.

Gen. Than Shwe and Aung San Suu Kyi

There was little doubt of the outcome of this election held after 20 years which was won by the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by the country’s legendary leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. Suu Kyi was under house arrest this time as she had been for the greater part of the 20 years since the last election and did not contest while her party too kept out of it.

Massive election hoaxes
Massive electoral victories are a characteristic of elections held under rigid dictatorships and ‘guided democracies’. The best known of such electoral sweeps are those of Saddam Hussein when he polled 99.96 per cent in 1995 and then 100 per cent when he sought re-election. Only ASEAN (Association of South East Nations) of which Myanmar is a member welcomed the elections as ‘a significant step forward’ and China’s Global Times, an official organ of Beijing said it supported ‘Myanmar’s plan to transform the political system but it will not happen overnight.’ Western nations severely condemned these elections whose coverage by foreign correspondents was banned and the elections held with more than 2500 political prisoners in jail many of whom are Buddhist monks.
While the election was on, the army was battling the rebel Democratic Karen Buddhist Army in the North which has for the past 50 years and more resisted their territory being absorbed into Burma.

Legendary leader
Aung San Suu Kyi was expected to be released from house arrest yesterday (Saturday) — the day on which her jail term expires but there were much doubts expressed about her release because junta leader Gen. Than Shwe may have second thoughts on the release of this 65 year old leader who has a tremendous following in the country. Last week Suu Kyi’s appeal against the sentence incarcerating her was rejected by the topmost court.

Classic example
The aging military junta including Than Shwe is expected to bow out and be replaced by the proxy party of the army which has many military members now in it as members of parliament but whether  the Generals would be inclined to give up power and privileges  for so long is being doubted. Pro democracy activists have expressed fears that Than Shwe may seek presidency — the president to be elected under the new constitution by both houses of parliament. The  military junta is expected to transfer power to the new administration within 90 days of the elections but fears are being expressed that Than Shwe the leader of the junta would transfer power to the newly elected president.
The continuing military dictatorship for over half a century has been possible because of the military, financial and diplomatic support extended to it by China. Beijing itself is no respecter of democratic values and human rights, being consistently accused by Western powers of such violations. A classic example is of the Myanmar military junta not giving a damn about Suu Kyi being awarded the Nobel Prize for peace and Chinese dissident Liu Xiabo being awarded the Nobel Prize this year while being in jail. His wife was permitted to accept the prize but after that she was placed under house arrest!
China is very interested in the mineral resources of Myanmar especially in oil and gas. Any UN resolution condemning Myanmar for violation of human rights of its citizens is likely to face  a veto in the Security Council by China.
China refuses to take strong action against countries like Myanmar and Sudan on the basis of its adherence to the principle of non interference in the affairs of other countries. While the principle of non interference could at times protect the interests of Third World countries — or at least their governments — it leaves the people of those countries under the jackboots of military dictators like the Myanmar junta  or  even authoritarian theocratic regimes like in Iran. By strange coincidence non interference also benefits China because these countries have plentiful supplies of raw materials like oil  which China needs for its industries and to keep the burgeoning economy going.

India as a world power
India as long as it posed as a non aligned nation was opposed to the military junta and presented the highest of its awards such as the Jawarhalal Nehru Award to Suu Kyi. But now in the big power game as a nuclear power, Suu Kyi and  Burmese dissidents are left  by the wayside and attempts are being made to cultivate friendship towards the Myanmar junta. India too needs gas and oil which Myanmar is endowed with.
American President Barack Obama in his address to the Indian Parliament last week said that as a democracy India  cannot ignore the violation of human rights in the region. Indeed the World’s biggest democracy cannot turn away from such violations. New Delhi certainly has not looked the other way when allegations were made about violations of human rights in Sri Lanka.
And Sri Lanka too while having close relations with Burmese Buddhists for centuries has been looking away from the tragedy engulfing the people of Burma under a dictatorship. Two years ago the Myanmar military cracked down on Burmese dissidents led by Buddhist monks and threw them into prison. An estimated 2500 of them were in prison when the junta held elections under the guise of proceeding towards a parliamentary democracy.
How Myanmar proceeds towards democracy with army men in plain clothes in parliament and the acknowledged leader of the people is banned from politics will be watched closely.