By Zin Linn
President of Burma (Myanmar) Thein Sein made a speech to members of the Asia Society at Asia Society Headquarters in New York on 27 September, the state-run New Light of Myanmar said.
Sein showed his appreciation to those members of the Asia Society who came personally to the Southeast Asian country to study reforms initiated by his government. He also expressed thanks to those people who spoke in support of his reforms to the international community.
Sein said that his governments would change one after another under the democracy system and as a result the relations between the governments would adjust depending on the incumbent governments.
“Asia Society takes a very crucial role in cultivating mutual understanding between Asian countries and the United States of America,” he said.
But the friendship between the peoples residing in the two countries needs to remain status quo regardless of which party is in office, he added.
Success would not be reached with the mere emergence of constitution and parliament and by holding elections again. Hence, democratic traditions which have been lost for a long time in the nation’s social order must be restored , Sein said.
Since becoming head of state last year, the president started releasing some political prisoners, relaxing press freedom by reducing censor rules and giving political space for the democratic opposition and ethnic armed groups. But, according to some analysts, a number of his military contemporaries have been unwilling to amend their style.
At some point in his speech, Sein claimed his country is on the course toward democracy.
He acknowledged the moment as critical to make concerted efforts on development of democratic ethics in the hearts of citizens. Moreover, he said that it is also the time to focus on emergence of a civilization that can accept diversities and be in touch with one another.
He asked for help from Asia Society to form the country into a democratic society, accepting the role of the civil society that can be helpful to his government. He also asked Asia Society for support with the country’s general public with suggestions, discussions and capacity building. Burma needs good friends like the United States of America as the country starts building democratic society, he concluded.
In August 2012, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) sent a group of senior Asia specialists to Burma to explore the political, economic, and social reforms launched by the new civilian government and develop policy recommendations for the U.S. government.
In its findings CSIS says, “Political and economic reforms launched by President U Thein Sein and his allies and broadly supported by opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi appear to be real, but the process for implementing and institutionalizing those changes remains fragile and is not irreversible.”
However, after nearly five decades of military rule, some of the hardest political stumbling blocks remain, as well as a military that still seizes the decisive command. For example, the eleven-member National Defense and Security Council with the President keeps hold of the constitutional right to declare emergency declaration at any time.
Under military dictatorship for decades, Burma has become known as a natural gas and teak seller and its socioeconomic conditions have gone downhill under the soldiers’ unprofessional management.
The military-monopolized economy leaves most of the public in poverty, while military leaders and their cronies exploit the country’s abundant natural resources. In 2010-11, state properties, especially real estate, were transferred to relatives of military authorities under the guise of a privatization policy. It created a wider gap between the military-backed privileged first-class and the ordinary population.
In fact, human rights violations of Burmese soldiers in ethnic states are serious breaches of international laws. It is also the duty of the current government to provide humanitarian assistance to thousands of war refugees and internally displaced populations in various ethnic states.
The biggest question in Burma is whether the armed forces will continue to frecognize the truces with ethnic rebels made by their own government.