Is Burma a DemocracyAre Burma a democracy?
Do you think Burma is a democracy now? * Think Again.
The Sunday elections seem to be the fulfilment of a dream for tens of thousands of people in Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi followers around the globe. The Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) seems to have won a landslide that has ended more than fifty years of reign.
The democracy is here at last. Burma's leaders did not awaken abruptly and believed in democracy. It wanted to end the penalties and its Paria state, but it did not want to give up it. It is a brilliant new constitutional treaty that appears to be a democracy but still gives them final clout.
Myanmar now has a dual system of junta and democracy. That is democracy on a lead. Burma may also elect important minister. As a result, the armies are beyond the reign of the new administration. Nor will the goverment have any oversight over the policing, the judicial system, the intelligence agencies or questions in ethnical states that are crucial to ending the more than 60 years of war.
This is a catastrophe in the area of inequality. Burma's army has committed terrible violations of people' s right to vote against indigenous minority groups in the state. A NLD administration will be practically helpless to prevent this. In every choice the goverment makes, it must look over its shoulders again and again and assess how far it can go.
This is another area in which the NLD will be paralyzed without policing or the possibility of creating a truly autonomous judge. A NLD administration cannot even try to govern the armed forces with the aid of the country's defence budgets. Governments have to make do with the remaining cash.
So it is no wonder that defence expenditure is higher than healthcare and training together. Only in the event that an NLD administration is still trying to pursue a policy that the army does not like is a National Defence and Security Council above parliaments and governments. It is the most prolific organ in Burma in constitutional terms. He has eleven members, six of whom come from the army, so that he has a built-in number.
This could override NLD governance rulings. This is a catastrophe in the area of inequality. If all these reviews of the government's powers were not enough, the army has also included provisions in the treaty that give it the right to resume powers for obscure and indeterminate grounds of "national security" and "national unity".
The NLD has to look over its shoulders every time it makes a choice and judge how far it can go. In the light of all this, it is not astonishing that one of the top priority for Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy is to bring about fundamental overhaul. That means that the army has the right of vice in the process of reforming the constitution.
In spite of all these issues, an NLD administration, however paralysed it may be, will certainly be better than what it was before. It is not a democracy, however, and it is unacceptable. This cannot be described as a stage in a transitional period, because no further progress towards real democracy is possible under the Constitutional Treaty.
Militaries added provisions to the treaty giving them the right to regain authority for obscure and indeterminate grounds of "national security" and "national unity". Myanmar now has a dual system of government and democracy. That is democracy on a lead. While it may be good enough for much of the global public that patronizes the Myanmar nation by saying that these things take a long enough period of development and no seamless passage, it is not good enough for the Myanmar population.
It would be totally intolerable in the West to have a position in which the army is not under rule of the authorities and in which the army appoints important members of the authorities. That is equally inacceptable in Burma. The long, sluggish passage means many more years of violations of people. Increased numbers of Burma army rapes, more incarcerated politicians, more burnt-outs.
Violations of people' s freedoms cannot await a hoped-for gradual passage. You need a real democracy, and you need it now.