ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Burma: Neglected and Brutalised

Democracy in Burma has become a geostrategic pawn while its people are forgotten.

The first elections to be held in Burma (renamed Myanmar by the military junta which has ruled the country since it seized power in 1962) since 1990 have led to predictable results. The new parliament has been structured in such a m anner as to keep the dominance of the military intact. It has 25% seats reserved for serving army officers and the military needs only another 25% to support it to control the legislative body. It requires a three-fourths majority in parliament for the constitution to be amended and serving generals continue to be in civil executive positions in government. To leave nothing to chance, the military junta organised the elections in a manner where the main opposition parties, led by the National League for Democracy (NLD), were banned, their campaign restricted and voting rigged in ways to help the military-sponsored party – Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) – win majority seats.

The only fair elections held in Burma were in 1990, after two years and more of mass protests and agitations led by students and urban professionals which were put down brutally by the military regime. Despite that, elections were held that led to a landslide victory for the NLD led by Aung San Suu Kyi and U Tin Oo. The military regime never let the parliament convene, arrested all the main leaders and violently suppressed the p arties that had won the elections. They were successful in their attempt to throttle popular demands and have remained in control since. In a sense, the present “democratic reforms”, including these elections, are a fallout of the popular agitations of two years ago, which were termed “monks protests” by the western media. Even though that protest was put down by the junta, it appears that the latter have decided to introduce a faux-democratic parliament and devolve some powers to this body from the military. From available reports, it seems there are two main reasons that are driving the military junta’s d emocracy initiative.

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