Waiting to Change in Burma for Fifteen Years and Counting
September 18, 2003 marks 15th anniversary of the second round of military coup in Burma. Fifteen years ago on this day, the military junta named State Law and Order Restoration Council SLORC come to power by killing thousands of innocent civilians who demand for restoration of democracy and human rights in Burma. When the SLORC took state power, they promised the whole world that they will allow forming political parties and held multiparty election and transfer power to the winning party. The junta repeatedly assured the world that they would go back to the barrack after transferring state power to the winning political party in the general election. As promised, political parties were formed, election was held but the junta fails, till this day, to transfer power to the winning party of 1990 general election in Burma.
It’s been 15 years that the Chin people along with the whole Burma showed their desire to change by coming out to the street and demanding democracy and human rights in 1988, and it’s been 13 years that the Chin people along with the whole country expressed their desire to democratic change by voting pro-democratic candidates in 1990 general election. However, after 15 years, the junta is still in power and it is not likely that they will go back to the barrack soon, as they promised when they come to power by killings thousands of innocent people, as their actions speak louder than their words.
It seems that transferring power to the winning political party is not in the agenda of the ruling military junta renamed as State Peace and Development Council SPDC in 1997. There are about 35 elected MP in jail along with 1,300 political prisoners. Many more MPs including 3 Chin MPs have to flee from the country in fear of persecutions. At least two of 15 Chin elected MPs have served longterm jail sentence. Many political parties are declared illegal organization including, at least, three Chin political parties. There are about 200,000 refugee, most of them are Karen, Karenni, Mon and Shan, in Thai-Burma border and 50,000 Chin refugees in India. It is estimated that about one million people are internally displaced in Burma, again, most of them are non-Burman ethnic nationalities. Universities and college have been opened for about 5 years in the past 15 years. Some times the whole academic year is only about 4 to 5 months for universities in Burma.
Since 1994, the United Nations has consistently passed resolutions to resolutions condemning the Burmese military junta’s outstanding human rights abuse. The International Labor Organization had imposed sanction on Burma for its world’s record-breaking practice of forced labor. The United Nations special rapporteur on human rights Professor Pinhiero have to cut off his visit in last March after finding a listening devise under the table where he interviewed a political prisoner. The United Nations special envoy Malaysian diplomat Mr. Razali’s never ending marathon missions to Burma have, so far, no tangible results after11th round of his efforts to facilitate the talks between “the lady” and the men in uniform in Burma. Let’s put aside the tripartite dialogue, the NLD, the SPDC and non-Burman Ethnic nationalities, which have been called for by the United Nations to solve the country’s political problems since 1994.
It seems that the General in Burma convincingly merit to call as thugs as United States secretary of state Mr. Collins Powell did in one of his articles in the New York Times.
Looking at the uniqueness of open market economy proclaimed by the junta, frankly speaking, the Burmese junta’s open market system is not as fruitful as the Generals have expected. The failure of visit Myanmar year proposed by the Generals in 1996, and the collapsed of banks in 2002 witnessed that the junta is incapable to economic reform in Burma. It is also important fact to mention that almost 60 big foreign companies who invested a good deal of capital in Burma have pulled out of the country since mid 1990s. All the companies, which pulled out from Burma, claim that they couldn’t do business where there is no justice and peace. More textiles companies are likely to go bankrupt in the near future due to the United States’ Burma Freedom Acts of 2003. When will the Generals in Burma learn that justice, peace, and development are inter-related.
After fifteen years, we hear another promise from the junta’s intelligence chief turned self proclaim Prime Minister. This time, the promise is slightly different from the previous one that the important point in the previous promise “going back to the barrack after transferring power” is not included in the no time frame seven points roadmap to democratic transition by Gen. Khin Ngunt. It is too painful to learn that people across the country, from Shan people at the east to Chin people at the west, are forced to rally in supports of the roadmap. It is very unfortunate for the people of Burma that the junta who terrorize 52 millions people at gunpoint are praised by ASEAN at Bali in their last summit that the junta is moving to positive direction. In fact, the ASEAN’s constructive engagement itself is a failure from the very beginning.
It is very regrettable to learn that, as a member of ASEAN, Burma will takes the rotating chairmanship of ASEAN in the year 2006. According to intelligence chief Gen. Khin Ngunt’s roadmap to democracy without no-time frame, Burma is still likely to be under the military rule by that time. That’s means ASEAN will be chaired by thugs, according to secretary of state Collin Powell, who run a country by terrorizing 52 millions people at gunpoint.
It is time for ASEAN and our big neighbors China and India to think, and act something positive for the sake of 52 millions people and to save the face of ASEAN. It is important that ASEAN, who have a good reputation in international community and one of the world’s most fast growing region with strong commitment to fight against terrorism under the leadership of their “uncle Sam”, will not end up under the chairmanship of thugs who terrorized 52 millions people at gunpoint in Burma.
[ Salai Bawi Lian Mang is co-founder and director of Chin Human Rights Organization www.chro.org. He is now international visiting scholar at Graduate School of Journalism, University of California at Berkeley]
By Salai Bawi Lian Mang
October 30, 2003