Myanmar’s “Democracy” Continues to Raise Questions

by Admin on March 15, 2013

Recently, Nobel Laureate and democracy champion Aung Suu Kyi visited northwestern Burma to speak with villagers on the copper mine project that is confiscating and polluting their land. But the position Suu Kyi brought was not one the villagers would have expected from the opposition party leader, nor one they were very happy about it.

Suu Kyi explained to the villagers that she supported the Letpadaung copper mine, a position she took after reviewing an official panel’s findings on the project.  Her reasoning was that allowing the operation to continue would encourage foreign investment.

“Suu Kyi’s panel concluded that honoring the mine contract was necessary, both to keep good relations with China because of the mine’s Chinese joint venture partner, and to maintain the confidence of foreign investors whose help is needed to power economic growth,” reports 3News.

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The villagers in the areas were once supporters of Suu Kyi, considered to be a symbol of democracy and the people of Myanmar. But her unwelcome reception is a small sign of a larger issue. The villagers were also disappointed Suu Kyi has not spoken out against the police who used brutal methods to break up the mine protests last November. Police used white phosphorus on the peaceful protesters, severely burning them along with several Buddhist monks. No officials were held accountable after the incident.

Incidents like the police uprising against mine protesters and the government’s failure to hold anyone accountable, raise questions on whether democracy in Myanmar is real.

Myanmar continues to push through these reforms and legislation that demonstrate the country is at least ready for democracy. From dissolving its media censorship panel to passing legislation meant to encourage foreign investment, Myanmar bares less and less of a semblance to its military junta past.

But ethnic conflict continues. Throughout the country, we see steps taken backward.

President Thein Sein also recently appointed more military officials to a government supposedly moving away from its military-led past. Thein Sein appointed “two more former generals to his cabinet, picking the country’s air force commander to head the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, while a senior army officer will take over the Border Affairs Ministry.” Apparently, it’s a democratic principle to appoint active and retired military officials to government posts they have little experience in.

It seems the only conclusion you can really draw from all these incidents is that the country is in a state of contradiction. Will foreign investors be the only real victor here?


Related texts: Challenges for Burma and Democracy

Related blog posts: “The End of Censorship In Burma? Not Just Yet.”

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