Winds of change in Myanmar

Pro-democracy movement has triumphed in Myanmar. The release of Aung San Suu Kyi is definitely a cheering moment not only for the resilient Burmese people but also for civil society supporters worldwide. The military authorities who believed to have signed an authorisation for her release two days back, however, kept the nation on tenterhooks by delaying its execution.

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Published: Sun 14 Nov 2010, 9:56 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:47 PM

At last, when the barricades were removed around her crumbling mansion and a military officer read her out the release order, it was a festival of sorts all around.

The bigger question, however, revolves around the possible terms and conditions of Suu Kyi’s release. There is wide-ranging speculation that she is not likely to have agreed to a conditional release. The military junta has been under increasing international pressure to allow more freedom in politics and release Suu Kyi who has been under detention for the past 15 years. A Nobel Peace Prize winner, Suu Kyi best symbolises Burmese opposition to military rule. Having recently held an election, the first in 20 years, the military rulers’ attempt to show a discernible transition towards a democratic rule has failed to make much of an impact. The main reason being a boycott of the elections by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy in protest against her continued detention amid aspersions that the elections were only a sham, stage-managed by the military. It was no surprise that the biggest military-backed party, the Unions Solidarity and Development Party won the majority of the seats. The question is how far will a new government be able to withstand the consequences of Suu Kyi’s release. British ambassador to Myanmar Andrew Heyn, while talking to the BBC, also spoke of what he felt would be a significant impact in case Suu Kyi is released. It is something the UK and the EU are trying to obtain — albeit an unconditional release — by engaging the military rulers.

There is no doubt that international pressure on Yangon will be a significant player in causing the winds of change to blow across Myanmar. There is also probably the realisation that the status quo cannot remain indefinitely, leading to a review of how best to handle the situation. In case of a future political upset which sees Suu Kyi’s party NLD coming to power, certain limitations have been made in the political structure, which will continue to give the military sufficient leverage. For instance, the military has ensured a reservation of a quarter of seats in the two new houses of parliament. Simply put, this means that the military will hold the determining power to implement any constitutional change that requires a 75 per cent majority. What remains to be seen now is how Suu Kyi’s release will impact the status quo, especially after the charade of elections last week. Hopefully it should off-set a momentum that brings the Burmese people stability and security and a fulfilment of their long-cherished dream of freedom.

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