Recent Political Development in MyanmarLatest political developments in Myanmar
Perspectives of political reforms in Myanmar
On a recent journey to Myanmar, Burma, I had the opportunity to think about some big and small questions of US external relations and what works and what does not. I arrived just before it became public knowledge that President Obama will be visiting Myanmar in the second half of November, underlining Myanmar's reforms and the opening to the West.
1 ) Is Myanmar seriously on the road to reforms? High-ranking civil servants I had the opportunity to meet talked persuasively about their dedication to promoting political reforms. A minister made a positive reference to the involvement of Aung San Suu Kyi, a hero of Democracy, in a government-sponsored work-show. In October, a large U.S. Department of Homeland Security officially paid a visit to Myanmar and held meetings with top civil servants.
These changes of sentiment follow a chain of measures that break down the most important fundamentals of the oppressive structures of Myanmar's junta regime - the liberation of hundred political detainees, the legalisation of the National League for Democracy and the legalisation of non-violent protests and the resumption of discussions with rebel nationalities. Clearly, Aung San Suu Kyi clearly continues to be the most beloved political character in Myanmar.
There' s every cause to believe that she and her political group will be winning the 2015 election and will be able to build a state. As she prepares, she shows a highly practical vein by addressing civil servants of the administration, connecting with President Thein Sein and talking about her in a positive way when she was awarded the gold medal of the Congress.
She is complaining in the international humanitarian society about the obvious embracement of the compromise of domestic policy. It raises the unavoidable doubts associated with the choice to stop being an idol and become a political player, as Lech Walesa did when he worked with General Jaruzelski in Communist Poland in the early 1980s.
Maybe someone somewhere in the West predicted Myanmar's turn for reforms, but I' m sure it wasn't done by convention. Asian analyst inside and outside the administration, editors and HR activists despised Myanmar's establishment of a civil rule in April 2011 and its election last year as deceptive, saw little political importance in Aung San Suu Kyi's freedom and predicted a bleak political outlook.
An important element seems to have been the general wish to avoid Myanmar's increasing dependency on China by creating the foundation for new relationships with the West. Burma is traditionally a very self-sufficient nation that has left the Nonaligned Movement, for example, because it felt too much connected. The resentments against the China footprint and its companies, which dominate the mineral extraction industry while offering little jobs to Myanmar's citizens, are profound.
A number of Myint-U senior officials, among them Thant Myint-U, grandchild of former UN Secretary-General U Thant, have written about a new sentiment among Burma's younger officers, who have been at the forefront of promoting reforms. That is why it is important for us to have a European Union of leaders, and that is why we must not forget that we have a European Union of leaders, and we must not allow this to happen.
Supporters of this commitment attribute to ASEAN that they have contributed to quelling the generals' opposition to the global population. In Myanmar, the ageing seniors seem confident that they will not be called to account for past repression, and the officers' body is generally certain that its particular part in Myanmar's policies will be maintained under a constitutional system that gives them a preferential and oversized part.
It is this feeling of safety among the old army guards that may have led them to agree to the present political opening. 5 ) What was the US government's part? Between 1990 and 2008, Myanmar's penalties - prohibitions on new investments, import prohibitions and the appointment of persons and businesses for fines - increased.
" This has had little global impact, except in the case of Myanmar. At an early stage, the government agreed to open a conduit of diplomacy with Myanmar's leaders, led on the American side by Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, setting out the Myanmar political reforms and non-proliferation agendas that would lead to an easing of US sanctions. 2.
US government's readiness to propose a roadmap for good relationships gave the Myanmar authorities an impetus and trust to continue. Obama's ruling, in consultation with its European and Australian coalition partners, to significantly relax penalties early this year should give further impetus to both much-needed macroeconomic development and political overhaul.
6 ) Are there wider teachings on penalties as a means of changing the behaviour of poor people? Sometimes penalties are the only way for the US and the world to show the inadmissibility of a regime's behaviour. This was the case with Myanmar for a long period of the year.
It was therefore appropriate to impose penalties. However, penalties are not an end in themselves. It is always irresistibly dynamic in Washington to pursue the road of sanction, whether or not it leads to a win. As a yardstick for solid and ethical governance, sometimes traffickers are punished by humanitarian groups, who publish the breaches of dictatorship to mobilize official aid and financing for crimes that have penalties as their end use.
For over 50 years now, we have had penalties against Cuba, and their level of aid among the US political players has in no way been undermined by their apparent increase in the powers of the Castro family. All - the US political classes, the personal interest groups, the Castros - seem satisfied with this situation, with the sole exemption of the Cubai, who are its victim.
Myanmar's policies have evolved along the lines of those of Cuba, but fortunately it has now departed from that avenue. 7 ) Is the US government well organized to address topics like Myanmar? The Carter Presidency has created a burgeoning network of agencies and civil servants who are exclusively responsible for the protection of fundamental freedoms, separate from wider questions of external relations and domestic affairs.
They have become the voices of the US government's NGO humanitarian communities, which often serve as megaphones for NGOs, seek their contribution to Department of State reporting on humanitarian issues and fight for the special actions suggested by NGOs. To some extent, this does not differ fundamentally from the way in which other electoral districts are present in the external political machinery, e.g. through the Economic and Commercial Office of the Ministry of External Affairs.
However, the way in which their constituencies identify with HR bureaus is rather purposeful (Note: The present Deputy Minister for Democracy, HR and Labour, Michael Posner, has got out of this strait-jacket and has proven to be a powerful defender of HR, but with a clear emphasis on concrete, non-symbolic results and a differentiated consciousness of general external goals).
During the US Myanmar Politics Transfer between 2009 and 2011, when I was Senior Director for Asian Affairs on the National Security Council, I led a series of cross-agency political committees on Myanmar. For Myanmar, no fewer than seven State Department bureaus - the East Asia Bureau, the Human Rights Bureau, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, the U.S. Department of State Link to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, the U.S. Mission to Geneva and the U.S. Ambassador for War Crimes and the Refugee Bureau - participated.
Seven participating bureaus, all of which wanted to hear their voice, made it hard to do so. Several of them were aggressive in their attempts to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the regime's military offences in Myanmar at the very time Aung San Suu Kyi was freed from prison and there were indications that the oppression was being softened.
It was only by authorizing the Deputy Minister for East Asia and the Pacific to address the Foreign Ministry and engage in diplomatic work without a group looking over his shoulders from his premises that the government was able to follow a consistent and eventually effective course of action. 8 ) How best to address problems affecting poor players like the Myanmar government?
In the prosecution of violations of human rights, NGOs play an essential part, exposing perpetrators and crimes in public and mobilising the entire global body to condemn them. It is the US government's job to be different. They should not ghettoise the questions of people. It should also not promote the establishment and dissemination of posts leading to a demarcation between civil servants, all of which should have our achievements in the field of domestic safety and external relations and a firm attachment to respect for fundamental freedoms as a top-priority.
No small group of individuals should be ointment who, as a representative of the NGO fellowship, voice concern for humanitarian issues, while civil servants responsible for domestic safety and external policies respond in a reflective way to the marginalisation of inequality. The present structures often lead to formalised struggles for those nations that are hostile to fundamental freedoms.
On such occasions, civil servants with full responsibility for their own country's safety are prone to violate people' s dignity when they deal with China, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, while turning to the HRBs of less important external relations jurisdictions such as Myanmar. That is not a frame for successful or solid policies.
It is imperative that our administration sensitises our leading domestic intelligence officers to the need to incorporate HR questions more efficiently into policies, while at the same time alerting the HR Bureaux that they too must have a strong involvement in the US's comprehensive domestic intelligence objectives, not just the promotion of a virtueful NGO-agreement.