New Delhi (AsiaNews) - In the past few days Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese opposition leader, met with Kurt Campbell, deputy U.S. Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific, and his deputy Scot Marciel, U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN. For the first time the Nobel Peace Prize was escorted from the house where she is held under arrest and journalists received permission from the military dictatorship to take some photos.
On the U.S. diplomats visit - who also met with Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein, but not the chief general Than Swe – we publish below the reflections of Tint Swe, a member of the Council of Ministers of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) formed by refugees from Myanmar in the wake of the 1990 elections won by the National League for Democracy and never acknowledged by the junta. Having fled to India in 1990, since 21 December 1991, he has been living in New Delhi. A member of the NCGUB from the outset he holds the post of information officer for South Asia and East Timor
Expectations are always expectations. These days everybody is talking about Aung San Suu Kyi and America-Burma relationship with high and low hopes. Some of them are favorably optimistic thinking that America will bring about miracle in Burma.
But it should remember the days when Aung San Suu Kyi was treated as a VIP by allowing her to inspect the development projects and shown on the state-run newspapers and television. Because it has been over a decade and as nothing positive comes out, it turned out to be propaganda exploit for international consumption. Don’t forget that the senior general is trained as psychological warfare expert.
The American diplomats who personally had two-hour dialogue session with Aung San Suu Kyi seem to be realistic as they do not expect much. The Americans spoke correctly that 2010 election must be inclusive and credible. They said America wanted not superficial but the real progress. It was said that the elections could be an opportunity. The opportunity which Ban Ki-moon termed during his visit to Burma May 2008 was not utilized by the junta. For the junta opportunity means how to exploit for staying in power.
The debate on whether pressure or engagement is the right approach to deal with the junta has been widely talked about. Each side defends and advocates on its own. So far American new approach seems rational. In the eyes of Burmese people the countries of engagement side are craving only for own interest without honest desire for democratic change in Burma.
Only sanctions and outside as well as domestic pressure brought about regime change in South Africa, Philippines and Nepal. Use of sanctions as an effective tool is definitely wise.
US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell and Scot Marciel Marciel who is also the US ambassador to ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) said the new administration is not lifting sanctions. Accordingly the junta supreme leader Than Shwe did not give audience to them.
As the election is basic element in a democracy and the promise of holding an election can woo many countries. "The elections may not be free and fair, but we need to be there anyway," the Rangoon-based diplomats said. NLD will not contest that election as it is. Those who are talking critical of an election are seen odd. But many tried to ignore the fate of election of 1990 and how freely and fairly elected parties and representatives have to suffer. All truthful ethnic parties are forced to dissolve. All intolerant elected members are detained, jailed, killed and forced to run away from country.
Now including the US, many countries are telling the election of 2010 to be credible and inclusive.
Remember Aung San Suu Kyi’s application as a candidate was rejected in 1990 election. The regime knows that by being kept her under house arrest the National League for Democracy (NLD) has won landslide. This time they won’t let it happens again. So Aung San Suu Kyi won’t be allowed to participate in the election and the voting will not be conducted free and fair.
The Burmese people are not contented with the expectation of many foreign nations which aim to undergo a gradual transition of power to a civilian government. Hoping for the emergence of splinter groups or factions within the military is the most unlikely expectation.
It is also likely that following the US example the EU will soon open up its own dialogue with the junta. But it is long way to go for lifting of different sanctions from the US, the EU, Canada and Australia including accessibility to international financial institutions like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank.
Anyhow the US-Burma dialogue will continue. EU may follow. But in the ASEAN, Thailand and Cambodia are having a diplomatic crisis. China and India maintain wait and see practice.
This time, the generals did not speak out much because the sole dictator was absent and wanted to learn from American tone. Burmese ambassadors around the world will shut their mouth as a former foreign minister Win Aung died in prison a day after American diplomats left Burma.
The TV report on the latest development on US-Burma relation tried to blame at Aung San Suu Kyi who denied meeting of her deputies as the Vice Chair U Tin Oo was excluded. The regime wanted to tell that they were flexible she was unyielding. They again come to know that Aung San Suu Kyi is not an easy challenger.
The NLD and ethnic parties which won the 1990 election are calling for review of the constitution of 2008. According to that constitution, the election will mean just voting for collaborators who will have no chance for debate. There will be no ruling or opposition partied in the parliament. All elected Parliamentarians have to work under the Commander in Chief. It will be something like the in-cage wrestling match.”
(with the collaboration of Nirmala Carvalho)