Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Reality and Hope in Burma (Part I)

It has been almost 20 years after the “September Revolution” or “Saffron Revolution” took place in Burma. Once again, this year the people of Burma and Buddhist monks joined together to resist the suppression from military regime under the economic disaster. Joining by political and religious leaders, the Burmese fulfilled the civic responsibility to resist the brutalization. What is more, they sacrificed their lives, which surprised the whole world after two decades of quietness. Indeed, military regime’s suppression seemed to be working for nearly two decades; however, people’s power and their resistance of military dictatorship has appeared to be renewed.

The history of Burma and its political landscape could be examined in the conflicts between ethnic minority and the majority Burmese, as well as the military dictatorships and democratic movement lasting for more than five decades. Ethnic armed forces fought with the central government, but they never extended the war zone beyond their own ethnic areas. The civil war in Burma simply created stronger Burmese army and allowed those Burmese generals to become influential political figures in Burma’s political arena. Unfortunately, the rural areas’ economy became much worse, due to the civil war and so-called “Burmese way to socialism.”

After the popular uprising in 1988, Burma’s military dictators renamed themselves as “State Peace and Development Council” (SPDC) and came to power. After the bloody suppression in 1988, this military regime had promised to initiate political reform by allowing people to form political parties (the right had been banned since 1962) and conducting democratic elections. In the 1990 elections, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of Burma’s independence hero, led National league for Democracy (NLD) and won 82 % of parliament seats, while the military regime supported former socialist government’s party, National Union Party, which secured only 3% of the seats. Nevertheless, the military regime refused to transfer the power to the NLD and arrested the NLD’s top and first lineup leaders; thousand of supporters were also jailed.

Why could the regime refuse to do any political reform and economic liberalization? There was a similar case of Taiwan also—Burma’s government has been receiving the People’s Republic of China’s support, just like the KMT regime in Taiwan received major political and bilateral security supports from the US government during the Cold War period. Therefore, under the support from other countries such as China and Russia, Burma’s military regime has enjoyed killing, arresting, and torturing dissidents, and international pressure seems to be ineffective.

Burma is the poorest country in Southeast Asia now, although it was once the richest country in the region. After gaining her independence from the British colonial rule in 1948, Burma has been under different forms of military predomination, and it mainly depends on agriculture and natural resources.

Although the military regime claimed that it introduced “open market economy” after the bloody crackdown in 1988, in reality it created more economic hardships for the people of Burma, on the grounds that the military regime still refused to change the previous socialist regime’s economic policy and to have an economic liberalization. The regime’s fake open market policy was unable to install any political freedom either. These factors only allowed Burmese generals’ families and their cronies to enjoy benefits under the regime’s restrictions on rules and regulations of Burma’s market economy.

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