Sunday, November 14, 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi's moment and maybe hope for Burma

Burma has been misgoverned for nearly 50 years.  It started with General Ne Win's coup in 1962 and the "Burmese Way of Socialism" led by the radical Marxist-Buddhist Burma Socialist Programme Party.  It combined the economic illiteracy of centrally planned Marxism-Leninism, with racism, superstition and heavy authoritarianism.   The country stagnated and protests gathered so that the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) was established after another coup in 1989, with brutal suppression of dissent.  Elections held in 1990 saw the National League of Democracy, led by Aung Sang Suu Kyi, win the majority of seats in the national assembly, which was promptly ignored as she was put under house arrest.  Burma was renamed Myanmar and continued to be one of the hermit states, ignoring the criticism internally and externally, whilst doing business will all those that have similar standards of concern for freedom and individual rights (China, Iran, North Korea).

It's important to not think of Burma's reign of repression as only starting when Aung San Suu Kyi was put under house arrest - Burma has been suffering for most of its post-independence existence, including many years when the Soviet Union was its friend, along with Pakistan.   Burma has suffered from policies that expelled foreigners, but restricted movements and speech of local people.  Ethnic minorities were suppressed or ignored.   Mass uncompensated nationalisation cost the economy badly, so that it has stagnated for decades.   Only the government is allowed to broadcast or publish.   It was widely noted how the government ignored pleas to allow humanitarian aid in after Cyclone Nargis - a government that prohibits others helping its citizens is completely devoid of any moral claim to exist.   Burma has been following socialism for decades, and has demonstrated wonderfully how a regime exists for itself, and to treat the population as either slaves or a nuisance to its warped vision.

Aung Sang Suu Kyi's release may be a prelude to reincarcerating her if she is seen to "cause trouble", which may explain her low key statements in the past few hours.   However, her release whilst not covered in Burmese media, is widely known throughout Burma via foreign media outlets such as the BBC World Service and Voice of America services in Burmese on shortwave (yes a media largely forgotten but critical for people in any dictatorship).

The regime may seek to achieve some reconciliation and abandon isolation, or it may simply be biding time to let everyone know who is boss.   The great hope can be that the people of Burma stand up, and the slithering entities who keep this despicable regime in power turn their back on it.   If only they had the weapons to protect themselves and rid themselves of the scum who think they own their lives. 

Perhaps Aung Sang Suu Kyi's bravery, calm and strength will give the people of this impoverished land the strength to stand up and overturn the mediocre bullies who are contemptible.   All strength to her and those Burmese who want to say enough, and to hell with the traders of many countries (included the French company Total) who happily do business with murderers.

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