Burma’s Peaceful Transition to a Democratic Future
Burma’s Peaceful Transition to a Democratic Future
Burma is an Asian country that attained its independence on 4th January 1948 and is bordered by China on the North and Thailand on the East. it was referred to as the union of Burma in 1948. On January 4th 1974 it changed its name to the union of Burma and then on 23rd September, 1888 it reverted to the union of Burma. In 1989, then it changed the name again to the union of Myanmar and this was through the efforts by the state law and order restoration council (SLORC). It is a country whose population has had a lot of significance in Burma’s politics.
The Burmese government is known as Myanmar and assumed an authoritarian feature that is dominated by a military leader. There have been substantial efforts to switch to a more democratic moves but these efforts have be hampered by the military which is against this move for example in 1990, a parliamentary government was elected but the Burma’s military could not let it to convene. Burma has a population of about 50 million people and has 500,000 troops who have been helping the government to create a regime of fear by denying the citizens most of their basic rights.
Some democratic leaders have come up and visualized a viable idea of freeing the people from the torture they get from the government. In 1992 with his party the National League for Democracy, managed to scoop 82 % of all country’s parliamentary seats but the military regime which used dictatorship principles declined to transfer power to the leaders that were democratically elected. For more than ten years later, Aung San Suu kyi was put on house arrest and was released only in 2002.
Her release was viewed by many as the only hope to the establishment of Burmese democratic government that would be sensitive to the people’s needs unfortunately in 2003 herself and many of her supporters were killed by a rowdy mob that was sponsored by the government. This conflict between the majority and the minority became evident after Burma achieved independence in 1948. It was at this time that Aung San Suu was given the mandate to control all those areas that traditionally were not controlled by only single community.
After 1948 when the Burmese constitution was signed, constitution right have not been exercised on the minorities, they also do not have pieces of land and especially those that formerly belonged to their people. Since the war period, the Burman minorities have been sidelined by the majority who are the Burmese Burma was a British colony from the 1920s and this continued up to 1948. Though the Burma’s heartland was ruled directly by the colonial powers, the surrounding regions were allowed to rule themselves and this led the loyalty to split along the ethnic lines.
The dominant ethnic group is the Burmese that comprise of 68 percent of the whole population and minority accounts for the remaining 32 percent. Religion in Burma has played a key role in causing further divisions. There are many religious in Burma for example there are Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus. These religious divisions have been aggravating the situations for example in 1991; more than a quarter million Muslims were evicted from their homes.
This was exacerbated by the fact that there were many alliances formed. They were forced to cross the border to Bangladesh where they were accepted as refugees by the Bangladesh government but were helped by the international community with the basic needs. Today, the Burmese government is led a prime minister whose regime is greatly accused of displacing thousands of Burmese communities both internally and externally, some community such as Karen, Mon and Kareni were forced to seek refuge in Thailand.
Those that are internationally displaced receive a better treatment than those that are internally displaced as the later are mistreated by the military. It is estimated that about 600,000 citizens have been internally displaced and are constantly looking for ways they could avoid slavery. They are used as slaves by this government as many of them are conscripted in the army by force or are left with no other choice except from joining the drug network that is sponsored by the state. There are various movements that have been trying to free the population of Burma from military.
Some of these are; the Junta, the Karen National Union and the Moi Tai army though their efforts did not materialize because most of the current military officials are from the community with the majority that oppresses the minorities. So, it is really hard to make any advance but there is one very vibrant group that has mobilized the minorities to participate in a non-violent peaceful demonstration. Led by Buddhist monks, these people protested against the abuse of human rights and matched in groups of more than hundred thousand protestors in the streets.
The Head of the State, General Shwe who is also the chairman of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) is greatly criticized by the United States and the European governments which have imposed various sanctions that are enforced thorough consumer boycotts. The United States of America and the European governments using their influence led other Western nations to stop cooperating with Burma. Though these governments have been relentless in enforcing bans against Burma, some western companies are still cooperating due to some loopholes in sanction application.
Most of these are the oil companies. Such as the American oil company and the French oil company. Also Cherron and the Yadana natural gas pipeline that runs from Burma all the way to Thailand is so much in use. There are still Asian businesses that operate in Burma for example the Daewoo Company that invests in extracting resources. The United States government in collaboration with the European governments also imposed sanctions on Burma’s clothing as well western nations to stop sourcing from Burma and more particularly those shops that were either partially or wholly supported by the government.
After those peaceful protests, a good number of people stopped getting their products from Burma and these were led by an individual like Levi Strauss who was very vibrant in keeping up with the fight against the government products for example from 1992,many American cloth and shoes companies stopped acquiring their properties from Burma. In 2003, the united government banned Burma’s imports as in accordance with the Burmese freedom and democracy Act that was amended in the year 2003 however, some people have attacked this United States strategy of forcing this government to step down as has led many people to suffer greatly.
Despite these critics, the move was supported by the Burmese democratic movement and has supposed by the Burmese democratic movement and has vowed to keep encouraging the western world to impose harder and stricter sanctions against the military government (Smith M. 1991) Burma insurgency and the politics of ethnicity London and New Jersey. Zed books. The human watches in Burma have highlighted all the crimes against humanity but there is no judiciary to address the problem any such move faces strong opposition from the military government.
There is no free communication that is allowed by the Burmese military government in fact no one is allowed to access the internet and the search engines such as Google, G mail, hotmail and yahoo so the Burmese citizens are less informed. What the government has done is that it does not allow these companies to operate in its territory and as such they are blocked. If people have to access materials from the internet, they must first of all be filtered and censored by the military government. They use US filtering soft wares such as the Fortinet to censor emails, web pages and pro-democratic pages.
In Burma, child soldiers are forcefully conscripted. They are also forced to punish their fellow military friends by being giving death threats incase they do not as they bare told. Children are conscripted in army by force. These children are promised to be jailed if they do not accept to join the army. Since the military regime usurped power in 1962, after overthrowing sthe democratically elected government, this regime has been one of the worst violators of human rights in the whole universe.
The climax reached after the (SLORC) State Law and Order Restoration Council was changed To State Peace And Development Council sometimes back in 1997, November. This party in 1988 seized the states powers established itself and forcefully removed the little pretence that was there that they were upholding the dignity of the citizens and took part in massacring the demonstrates who were demonstrating against the creation of this undemocratic regime. They were marching in the streets of Rangoon and Burmese towns and cities when the military forces descended on them killing thousands.
According to the comment that was made by the amnesty international human rights violation and torture were like a Burmese institution and they even listed various forms of abuses that were perpetrated by this corrupt regime. This report was further affirmed by the United Nations and other human rights watchdog. These abuses that they listed were for example torture, murder, litany abuses, forced displacements of citizens, holding or arresting individuals and keeping them in detention houses without trials and various litany abuses.
These were the activities that were characteristic of this military regime and citizens have suffered enormously under it. Children were also abused by the military that forcefully conscript them in the army and also the villagers were forced to work for the military. Children are reportedly said to have been raped and defiled by the troops. The military operations that are from time to time conducted in various villages and these led to deterioration of living standards for example this was witnessed in Karen state and Shan state in 2001.
This has forced many to be to run away to the neighboring states such as Thailand while those who are unable to move out of the country were internally displaced. The internally displaced and lived in the camps for internally displaced received very harsh treatment by the ruling military regime than those who manage to seek refuge in the neighboring states. The military regime do not in any way follow the internationally agreed freedoms for example the civil and political rights though Burma is a signatory to various international peace accords.
Everything that happens in this country must be censored including the exhibitions. There is completely no freedom of expression. Even publications are not spared as they are censored by the government infact it is only sports and romance magazines are not censored. The broadcasting media houses are state owned and the government has the monopoly over them. They only air information that is favorable to them for example you it is common to see junta’s generals making speeches and from these stations and instead they go for less biased information. The SLOPCS has been very determined in curtailing the freedom of speech.
Though they try to censor the information given by the public media, there are international ones that give more accurate information and these are what people rely on. These are stations such as the British broadcasting corporation (BBC), the democratic voice of Burma, radio Free Asia and the Voice of America (VOA). Apart from these international radio stations, any other person who goes against this decree risked twenty years imprisonment as per the 1996 decree. These are some of the laws that are enforced by this government without any regard to the international law standards.
Burma is a resource-rich country that suffers from government controls and abject rural poverty. The military regime took steps in the early 1990s to liberalize the economy after decades of failure under the “Burmese Socialism”, but those efforts have since stalled. Burma has been unable to achieve monetary or fiscal stability, resulting in an economy that suffers from serious macroeconomic imbalances including a steep inflation rate and an official exchange rate that overvalues the Burmese kyat by more than 100 times the market rate.
Burma is a nation that is rich in various natural resources for example the country has precious such as pearls and rubies. The country is also rich in natural gases. In 1962 its economy was performing well when compared to other economies of the developing nations but the socialist party which assumed power later changed the economic status of Burma for example it replaced the capitalism mode of economy with socialism that advocated for central planning as opposed to central planning. Due to this economic change it became one of the poorest developed nations of world.
In addition, most overseas development assistance was cut after the junta suppressed the democracy movement in 1988 and subsequently ignored the results of the 1990 election. A crisis in the private banking sector in early 2003 followed by economic moves against Burma by the United States, the European Union, and Japan – including a US ban on imports from Burma and a Japanese freeze on new bilateral economic aid further weakened the Burmese economy. Burma is data poor, and official statistics are often dated and inaccurate.
Published estimates of Burma’s foreign trade are greatly understated because of the size of the black market and border trade – often estimated to be one to two times the official economy. Better relations with foreign countries and relaxed controls at home are needed to promote foreign investment, exports, and tourism. In February 2003, a major banking crisis hit the country’s 20 private banks, shutting them down and disrupting the economy. In July and August 2003, the United States imposed a ban on all Burmese imports and a ban on provision of financial services, hampering Burma’s ability to obtain foreign exchange.
As of January 2004, the largest private banks remained moribund, leaving the private sector with little formal access to credit outside of government contracts. In Burma the rate of unemployment is very high and the prices of commodities are very high and life standards are very high. According to one businessman said that the situation in Burma was moving from bad to worse and that there was looming danger of social unrest, lectures, professors and pipeline construction workers are poorly paid.
Due the constant mass uprising by the democratic movement against this regime, it was rendered bankrupt in 1988 in the onset of the 21st century, it was on the lowest income generating countries in the world but it has greatly reversed this situation because it dropped its economic isolationism. It has also welcomed the foreign investors in its economy so that it would strengthen its military bases. In response to its call, UNOCAL and TOTAL oil companies came to its rescue. In Burma, there are military controlled economic sectors such as Myanmar economic holdings limited and the Myanmar economic corporation that is, UMEH and MEC respectively.
These two industries which are controlled by the Burmese military are the ones that dominate the economic sector of Burma. UMEH is geared towards military strengthening while MEC is geared towards shifting the defense cost from the public sector to the private ones but both corporations have a part to play in strengthening the military base of Burma. Though European Union has been imposing economic sanctions to Burma its sanctions are not as stricter as those of the United States. It has invested a lot in Burma and it doesn’t want to lose the much that it has invested.
United States has been very keen in reinforcing the bans or sanctions that have been imposed on Burma. The US government particularly has imposed a ban on its investments in this country and has also placed a ban against Burmese exports. Since the bans were proposed, US is the only nation that has implemented them. In the past, the European Union has not been imposing strict sanctions but starting from last year it has increased economic sanctions on precious metals and on imports such as gemstone and timber but they still demand for fresh elections to be held and human rights to be respected.
It is only thorough these ways that the country can witness a transition from military rule to a democratic one. It had eased its sanctions basing its reasoning on its above conditions. Japan has been very friendly to Burma. It has never failed to support this military regime though on a small scale. Infact it is one of the major donor in Burma but it is reconsidering its foreign policy on Burma especially after a Japanese journalist was killed. It said that it would cut the aid that Burma gets from it. The other reason for it to withhold its financial aid was in 2003 when San Suu Kyi was kept in detention by the Junta.
They believed that was the only best move that would pressurize the military regime to address the democratic principles that have never been allowed to take root in this regime. In 2002,Japan supported Burma’s government with 17 million US dollars on top of that it gave Burma the technical support it needed Japan which was all this time shying away from enforcing sanctions on Burma as the US and UK were doing, it changed its policy after this saga. The British government pressurized the European Union to increase sanctions until san Suu Kyi was realized but it was assured that these sanctions would be eased if Suu Kyi was released.
That nation that seems to support Burma or appears or appears or appears to be annually to Burma face violation by the US and UK government and this has occurred to china and North Korea. This is based on misconception that these close friends would be providing economic support to this government that has little regards for its citizens. The United States for example was very bitter because Burmese government suppressed democracy and imposed its will on people and that is why it has imposed sanctions.
The heroic stature of Aung San Suu Kyi has greatly helped in making Myanmar to be recognized world wide. China has been blamed for helping this region for its support. The western world cannot sway the Juntas government for this to be effective, then the regional ASEAN countries such as India, Thailand and especially china must first be willing to transform this government. China has been asking Myanmar to quell violence and control protesters but it seems this is falling on deaf ears.
China has been helping Burma in international affairs management for example it has been very vibrant in keeping the issue of Burma out of the United Nation’s agenda but the United States and the British governments have been on the other side. Due to many economic sanctions that have been imposed on this regime, it finds it even hard to provide aid to its people who living in poverty. The aid that Burmese gets is below par and is the lowest in the region especially when it compared with that of the local countries for example, an individual’s aid is counted as 2.
5 dollars per head while that of Laos’s stands at 63 US dollars. China has been accused of providing Junta with military aid thus limiting the chances of democracy being realized. It has continued to conduct business relations with. Burma but it is because of some factors that are understandable and some of these are that Burma is rich in useful natural gases that china is interested in again Burma provides China with an overland route to the Indian ocean so Chinese government would not do anything to destroy its relations with Burma. Though there have been calls for better treatment of protestors, they fall on deaf ears.
The amnesty international has been pressurizing the United Nations to impose embargos and sanctions on China so that peace in Burma would be realized. This is based on understanding that the Burmese military government relies on china for most of its assistance so, if china was to cut its military aid then, the Burmese government would be unable to control the nation there by creating a platform of peace transition. If the new government would come in place, it would not find it hard to sustain itself even without getting any financial aid from other countries.
There are a lot of minerals that aid from other countries. There are a lot of minerals that would help the government to finance its entire government projects. The new government should create confidence among its citizens so that they would participate in the economy thereby making the economy of this nation even stronger. This government should also extend its business relations with other nations as many of them do not have those minerals and definitely they would be so much interested in them. Work cited. Altsean-Burma: Alternative Asean Network on Burma
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