An Independent Survey of Events in Myanmar
The 2015 general election results look similar to the results of the 1990 election, the last
time that the NLD was allowed to stand. On both occasions, the incumbent military affiliated
party was thrashed and the NLD won just short of 80 per cent of the seats.
This time round, despite open elections for local parliaments and the spread of more
freely expressed minority identity, ethnic parties’ performance was patchy at best. The
only exceptions to NLD domination were in Shan State, where various ethnic parties
performed quite well, and in Rakhine State.
The reasons for this overall pattern relate to the strength of the NLD and the weakness of
most ethnic parties. Many ethnic parties were unable to compete. If they are to prosper in
future, they may need to form stronger alliances and build up their local networks.
Unpredictable future factors include the possibility that ethnic armed organisations will
seek to enter the local political arena if peace talks make headway. The striking success
of the NLD and the failure of many ethnic parties may make them wary of agreements to
replace armed struggle with peaceful democratic processes.
Positively, perhaps, the election results suggest that the broad goals represented by Aung
San Suu Kyi were more attractive than the parochial interests of specific local groups.
Minorities are not necessarily any more inward-looking than others in Myanmar. Most
people in ethnic states do not live in isolated upland villages. Mass media, increased
literacy in the Burmese language, and high levels of migration mean that many minority
communities are engaged in the national and even international spheres.
Daniel Russel, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific affairs, vows continued support and urges all parties to honor results of Burma’s election.
I made very clear that, in the first instance, through the transition, but more broadly as a new government takes power and begins to tackle the problems ahead, that the United States was squarely on their side; that we would support and assist in every way that we can so that there is a smooth and peaceful transition, and that the new government has the wherewithal to meet the pretty formidable challenges that Burma faces.....
In any case - whether it was human rights, political prisoners, Rakhine [also called Arakan] State and the treatment of the Rohingya minority; whether it’s ethnic conflict and the struggle to implement or achieve a broad-based and inclusive national ceasefire and begin a political reconciliation process; or whether it’s a host of economic challenges that the country faces, or an education deficit - the fact of the matter is that a new government faces some pretty daunting challenges.....
I met with the C-in-C and urged that the military show restraint at this sensitive time. I encouraged him to work toward an inclusive and peaceful approach, and I asked that the welfare of the civilians in the region be protected to the maximum extent.....
It’s too soon to make any judgments about what changes are warranted to US sanctions programs. First things first. What we want to see now is a serious dialogue between Aung San Suu Kyi, Thein Sein and Min Aung Hlaing that moves in the direction of full cooperation to ensure a smooth transition. We then want to see the launch of a new government that has the support of the military and other stakeholders.....
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing granted The Post’s Lally Weymouth a rare interview in the capital city of Naypyidaw this week.
Q. When will you meet with Aung San Suu Kyi to discuss the transfer of power?
A. This coming December. When the electoral process is finished, we will meet.
Q. Are you willing to change Article 59F of your country’s constitution to allow Aung San Suu Kyi to become president after her tremendous victory?
A. I can’t decide this alone. Under Chapter 12, the parliament must discuss any amendment to the constitution. I am not directly responsible for that.
Q. Only eight ethnic groups signed the cease-fire agreement with the government. Now you need the rest of the groups to sign on?
A. Yes. The other groups need to be brought into the cease-fire.
Q. What do you think about the criticism of Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya?
A. We do not allow the word Rohingya. They are Bengalis. These people are not our ethnics. They are not our nationalities. They are from Bangladesh.
A. It would depend on the stability of our country and people understanding the practice of democracy. Some countries have faced problems as they become democracies.
A. The Middle Eastern countries are the worst example. We have only experienced democracy for a short time. To get good results for our country, you need to be patient. It is very difficult for us to have quick change in our country.
Q. When you talk to Aung San Suu Kyi, will you want to make sure you get amnesty for your troops?
A. I have nothing to worry about.
Q. Of course you were not responsible for what happened years ago, but do you feel any regret for the pain and suffering that the military inflicted upon Aung San Suu Kyi and other NLD leaders?
A. I was not responsible for that situation. It was because of the previous political situation.
Q.What are your red lines when it comes to negotiating with the new government? What are things you won’t budge on?
A. I am prepared to talk and answer and discuss. No limits. She can have any topics and I will answer.
We are now being told to wait and see what an NLD government does. The approach of trying to delay action by saying wait and see until after the election is not credible. Now we are being told to wait five months until the new government is formed. After the new government is formed, we will be told to wait until the government has had a chance to settle in. Years more will pass and our suffering will continue.
Despite her often repeated mantra of the rule of law, Aung San Suu Kyi herself has rejected clear evidence of multiple violations of international law against the Rohingya as exaggeration.
The only way these most serious human rights violations will be addressed and those responsible held to account is if the international community act. A UN Commission of Inquiry must be formed to investigate these human rights violations.....
The international community must not use the prospect of an NLD government as yet another excuse to stand by and do nothing. Not only is action needed now to save lives, but a future NLD government is likely to be more responsive to international pressure. An NLD government might halt increased repression of the Rohingya, but it is up to the international community to ensure repression goes into reverse and that our rights are restored. It’s time to stop talking about us as a ‘however’.
Derek Tonkin writes: The frustration of the writer is understandable. The situation is not helped because the NLD have said that they do not see a solution of the Rohingya problem as a priority. In this respect they are out of touch with the feelings of the international community generally who at the recent 'Universal Periodic Review' of human rights in Myanmar at the Human Rights Council in Geneva and through the Third Committee Resolution at the UN General Assembly last week made the extent of their concerns abundantly clear. The NLD would be well advised to pay due heed to these concerns which reflect a wider international preoccupation with ISIS-directed terror attacks.
However, there is at present no appetite for a UN Commission of Enquiry internationally. FCO Minister Hugo Swire has outlined the problems involved in such a course of action The possibility was raised neither in Geneva nor in New York. Nor were the words 'genocide' or 'threat of genocide' mentioned by any of the 57 countries present at these meetings from the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation which has been at the forefront of international criticism of the treatment of the Rohingya.
But this does not mean that there is nothing that the Rohingya can do to help themselves. They could do more to gainsay the unsustainable allegation that they are mainly illegal migrants from Bengal. The President himself has confirmed that descendants of Bengalis (Chittagonians) who migrated to Burma during British rule are entitled to Myanmar citizenship. This could be their point of departure. They could then show how the Rohingya ethnicity has emerged from several indigenous and non-indigenous Muslim ethnicities in Arakan, some predating the arrival of the British in 1824, and all recorded in censuses and reports during the British administration. Indeed, excluding Bengalis who migrated illegally to Arakan after Burmese independence on 4 January 1948, a majority of current Rohingya residents are undoubtedly eligible for citizenship, possibly full citizenship, if only their lack of documentation could be recognised and due concession made.
Of course, we are concerned [lack of specific date to meet the president and commander-in-chief]. We’ve had too many rather strange experiences in the past not to be concerned. But we know the public is right behind us and that everybody who has been involved in the process has made public statements to the effect that they will honor the results of the election.
I don’t really see what is so attractive about the title of president. What we want is the opportunity to be able to work for our country. And whether I am called president or something else, that is not relevant, really.
I’ll go there [to ASEAN meetings]. I’ll go along with the president, and he can sit beside me.
Yes. But a lot of other countries [in addition to the US] have made an effort, too: Great Britain and Norway and the Scandinavian countries. A lot of countries have been very supportive of our democratization process, so I don’t want to single out any particular one.
That is a problem [Rohingya]. I don’t deny it. But I wonder why they think there are no other problems in this country. It is a very skewed view of the situation - to look at it as if this is the only problem our country has to cope with. We were talking about the cease-fire agreement earlier. Seventeen groups need to sign the cease-fire, and only eight so far have signed. I would have thought that was a problem, too.
I have to say that a lot of religious propaganda was used against my party during the campaign....That is wrong, and it is unconstitutional. The constitution states very clearly that religion must not be used for political purposes. But the authorities did nothing about all this propaganda.
I would like to think that our age was the age that got the country going. I haven’t even started yet. So let’s wait until then before we start talking about legacies.
Derek Tonkin writes: Representaties of Russia, China, US, UK and France - the five Permanent Members of the Security Council - were among the more than 50 Ambassadors or representatives who met Sui Kyi in Nay Pyi Taw on 19 November. This follows her meeting with Speaker Thura Shwe Mann on the same day. No doubt Suu Kyi's intention is to be build up international support for her position and to ensure that the outgoing government give effect to their promises of a smooth transition. Her outstanding request for a meeting with the President and Commander-in-Chief (and the Speaker) is likely to be granted in due course, although it has been suggested that there is no essential reason for such a meeting and that the request itself is politically motivated.
The history of transition of pro-democracy leaders into efficient public administrators is not in favour of Ms Suu Kyi. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, with the exception of Nelson Mandela, leaders of the Orange revolution in Ukraine, the Arab Spring or the Maoists of Nepal have failed miserably to deliver. The NLD won because the people of Myanmar abhor the military but the NLD has been all about Ms Suu Kyi with the second in command, Chairman U Tin Oo being 88 years old. The absolute majority of the NLD and the lack of inner party democracy due to Ms Suu Kyi’s supreme power may soon become a stumbling block to a democratic Myanmar.