An historic moment for all people of Burma and most of all for Aung San Suu Kyi. Last week she became a member of parliament. This is almost unbelievable, after spending nearly 2 decades under house arrest. Aung San Suu Kyi, the internationally respected leader of the NLD, was released only late 2010. In less then 2 years, the impossible has happened; the NLD is part of the new civilian government.
The military government, under president Thein Sein, has changed their military clothes for civilian clothes. Eventhough this step didn’t seem promising, it appeared to be a promise for a bettter future. Within a year fairly fair pre-elections took place, where the NLD won by landslide. Together with the release of nobel-price laureate Aung San Suu kyi, these were huge steps for Burma.
Do all these important steps mean that everything is fine for Burma now? Not yet, but let’s hope the Burma government will walk the road to true democracy at full pace now. Aung San Suu Kyi does not have a lot of power yet in parliament, but at least the NLD has an official voice now. From there, she can raise the voices of all Burmese people.
Up until today, still several ethnic minorities in the border area live under fear. In Kachin state the fighting between the Burma army and the Kachin resistance is still ongoing. Only a week ago, the Burma army burned down several villages of Kachin civilians. Also difficult is the situation in Arakan state, on the border of India. As there is no resistance there, the Arakanese face with forced labour and extortion.
Several countries are lifting their economic bans on Burma, while human rights groups ask governments to be carefull with lifting these too soon. As long as it is not safe for many Bumese to live in Burma, it seems unfair to the people of Burma to lift these bans. For the people of Burma, the current situation is a fragile peace and the land is scattered with landmines. International bans could makes the walk on the road to true peace much faster!
With the current changes, we can only hope that this government will make more serious changes, on press freedom and human rights. There are still hundreds of political prisoners who should be released. The bans were not placed only for Aung San Suu Kyi and fair elections. They were placed for freedom for all people of Burma.
If you want to read more, please read further on Irrawaddy Magazine ‘Burma begins a new era‘.