After half a century of isolation, Burma is experiencing reforms, which could lead to new development and foreign investment.
However, the weakness of Burma’s civilian institutions, the stranglehold on power by the military, fade out voice from opposition needs to be solved for the betterment of the country’s future. If this does not get solved, Burma will fail to move forwards and foreign backed development will just mean selling the country’s resources without curing longer term problems facing Burma’s people, making democratic reforms meaningless.
Burma’s political and economic system has been hampered by military dictatorship for five decades. This has led to a moral crisis in Burmese society. Isolation has totally effected and damaged the mindset of Burma’s citizens who have lost much of sympathy, compassion, love, human integrity, and principles toward the marginalized and excluded and have become overwhelmed with jealousy, selfishness. Further, some people have become opportunists leading to the ideological bankruptcy in this once flourishing Buddhist country. Honest and educated people have been driven out from local communities and many people are regarded as enemy if their points of view are different from their traditional belief. The country’s leading ideological distributors and pillars of spiritual institution, monks, need to be mature while dealing with the current situation of the country. The action of many dogmatic monks across the country has been negative for Burma’s political system. One example includes the leading monk’s figure Ashin Wiyathu who led a rally in Mandalay for supporting the stance of President Thein Sein proposal to deport the Rohingya Muslim minority group. The rallies, which seems significantly show the discrimination of monk to weak group that damages and oppose the essence of Buddhism. Under military suppression, once freedom fighters by participation in 2007 Saffron Revolution, popular uprising changed their ideology as an oppressor while dealing with the most vulnerable group.
However, their support become controversial and questionable after government security force violently crack down and arrested protesters of Latpadaung mine project, which is a venture of China’s Wan Bao Company and military interest Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL), also known as U Pai Company. Monks called for an apology for their violent action. Government fulfilled the demand but President Thein Sein did not attend the ceremony saying he was too busy visiting and giving speech in Mawlamie University, in Mon State. This shows insincerity on his behalf. Thus, as a leading ideological distributors and taking key role in community, monks need more to be skeptical and cautious to monitor the situation.
Moreover, the current reformist government still has the same attitude in reneging on their word as did the previous military regime. In other words, the former military regime just took their military uniforms off and turned into a nominally civilian government. This government has now made reform within a 7-step road map which has given them undeserved international recognition. President Thein Sein tried his team to tame dealing with media but on November 29, reformist government Information Team officially released statement regarding to the Latpadaung mine project. The Statement said the crackdown took place “in a accordance with the democracy practice to protect the interest of people and state the act consistence with law looking forward for rule of law” which also aired from State own broadcasting and also post on the presidential website. Hours later the government abolished its Statement and deleted the post from the official website without giving any reasons. The military-backed parliament proclaim their independence in the political process from military interests but dare not oppose the proposal from 69 retired officials including ex Snr-Gen Than Shwe and his deputy Maung Aye requesting generous stipends for their servants in the Union Parliament. Nobody in the parliament seems to reject their demand although the newly formed parliaments are supposedly keen to show the influence of Burma’s military is over.
Furthermore, after releasing from house arrest Burmese opposition figure Aung San Suu Kyi, in her first speech in front of headquarter of National League for Democracy said, “A second Panglong conference addressing the concerns of the 21st century is needed for national reconciliation.” In practical, her voice is fading out while dealing with Arakan riots and current civil war in Kachin State. Some urged and wrote to Suu Kyi requesting her involvement in ending the fighting and conflict. But she replied by saying without the approval of government she would not step into to help end worsening conflict. Fighting between Kachin Independence Army and government troops become more worsening and there is some causality of civilians but Suu Kyi spending her time opening NLD fund raising ceremony and dancing with government official in the Karen New Year party.
Some leading media inside Burma, which distribute information to educated residents, are also operating as a self-interested propaganda machine.For example, Reporter Without Borders (RSF) award winning Eleven media group used its future generation Zayyar Nanda (pen name Zwell Waian) editor under the cover of his age 18-years as an advantage. Some media used sources so called politicians and activists who are trying to promote themselves participating in the leading role of protests. Furthermore some media show jealousy towards returning exile media figures rather than cooperating with others to development of a healthy media environment in Burma. Another leading media, The Voice Weekly editor-in chief Kyaw Min Swe, showed his jealously in his world press freedom day speech on May 4 by saying that foreign based medias which always criticized the government are now legally to hunt the news inside and ministry of information have been given them red carpet welcome and given them to write whatever they want without banning among them. He also expressed that ever oppress media inside are still under censorship and point the relation as “unfair”. As a main resources for educating the people in the country, their mind set are still left behind the era rather than educating people.
With a media attitude of distrust and self-interest, the country will face a lot of problems into the future. The mechanism of the military has obliterated the mindset of the happy go lucky people. However the increased number of civil society groups, which actively participate in cyclone Nargis in Irrawaddy delta, Giri rehabilitation in Arakan State, helping not only to Kachin but also Rohingya and Arakan ethnic refugee is a spark of hope for the country in the near future but the current immature attitude of Burma’s ideological institutions, government and most citizens endanger Burma’s potentially bright future.
*Lay Yine is an ethnic journalist working in the Burmese media.