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Unmature Democracy Is Actually Stepping in Burma

The military junta has ended its control of Burma. The nation is no longer a dictatorship; it is a “disciplined democracy”. Instead of a sham presidency, the nation now has a prime minister who sits in parliament. And parliament was elected. That is the image that Burma is trying to sell abroad, and to a lesser extent at home.

It is a false image, and it is a shame that the world now has collectively decided to give the ruling generals a break.

Burma remains the most authoritarian country in the region, and authorities there are open about the fact they do not intend to loosen controls in the foreseeable future.

The Burma which today is ruled by the General Administrative Department is pretty much identical to the Burma which last month was under the Orwellian State Peace and Development Council. The changes made last week are purely cosmetic. The military’s hand-picked president, Gen Thein Sein, has become the military’s hand-picked prime minister. He sits in a parliament which the constitution guarantees will have at least 25% of its members from the military.

In fact, by manipulation and intimidation, the military’s hand-picked political party swept the sham polls last November. Men in uniform and trusted allies make up 77% of the parliament.

Burma today is perfect proof that elections are no measure of democracy. Every tinpot dictatorship and tyrannical country has elections _ North Korea, Libya, Cuba, Syria and Uzbekistan among them. Like them, Burma uses the grand phrase of democracy. For such countries, free elections, political parties, campaign tours and constitutional referenda are useful slogans.

The real trappings of democracy, especially the prime duty of being accountable to the voters, do not feature in these nations.

Prime Minister Thein Sein is under no legal or public pressure to answer grievances, explain government excesses, or protect citizens from state abuse.

The best example of this is the unrelenting pressure on Burma’s best known personality, the democracy icon and freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi. The junta used her in their lobbying for international understanding by releasing her from her illegal arrest.

Within weeks, official state media warned that Ms Suu Kyi and her allies would “meet their tragic ends” if they continue to campaign for democracy.

There are military rulers and military regimes who take over countries and lead them to democracy. In this region, the current role model is arguably Indonesia. After the popular uprising which ousted Suharto in 1998, generals led the period of Reformasi. Ironically, Burmese leaders openly admired the Indonesian system when Suharto and the generals terrified the nation. It would be a major, admirable advance if today’s controllers continued to follow the Indonesian example. Obviously, they have no intention of doing so.

Since 1962, the army has beat Burma and its people down. Back then, Burma was a shining light of freedom aspirations, and a leading economic power in the region. For some 50 years, the generals have dragged down their country, and literally terrorised opposition figures.

The Burmese model of prisons, torture and secret arrests remains government policy; some 2,000 Burmese remain as political prisoners. This is sad, but perhaps not so sad as the way Burma’s neighbours and world opinion has bought into the fake claims that Burma is on the road to democracy. The fact is it remains on the road to ruin.


Sources: Opinion of Editorial from Bangkokpost

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