Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi Fever
Image Credit: Globalism Pictures

Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi Fever

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It’s not too hard to see where Khin Soe’s allegiance lies. In the run-up to Sunday’s by-elections, the 60-year-old activist has turned his Rangoon home into a giant shrine to the National League for Democracy (NLD), covering it in red party banners and images of its leader, Burma’s democratic icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

In constituencies across Burma, Khin Soe and his fellow activists in the NLD are nearing the end  of their first election campaign in two decades – and they’ve done it in style. Restricted during years of military dictatorship from showing their support for “the Lady”, tens of thousands across the country have turned out to hear her speak. In Mingalar Tuang Nyunt Township, one of four competing constituencies in Rangoon, the party is in the throes of a full-blown celebration. The NLD’s red peacock insignia is plastered on taxi windshields, shop fronts and t-shirts, while campaign trucks filled with young party members drive through the streets blaring campaign songs.

“People are getting more interested in politics day by day,” Khin Soe says, sitting in the shade outside his home. “First of all, the people were a bit afraid to enter membership [of the NLD]. But later the political situation changed so people here have dared to join.”

The outbreak of Suu Kyi mania in parts of Burma is a symbol of the progress the country has made over the past year under the quasi-civilian government that took office in March 2011 under President Thein Sein, a former general. Before then, it was dangerous even to possess a portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi; now her smiling image is for sale on t-shirts, key-rings, mugs, posters and countless other merchandise, and supporters can openly voice their praise. “Daw Suu is like a second mother to me,” says Mohammad Salim, 30, another NLD member attending a recent rally.

After winning a landslide election in 1990, a result that was annulled by the military junta, the NLD was cast into two decades of semi-legal limbo: key activists spent long periods in prison, and the Lady was kept for many years under house arrest. For many observers, the party’s involvement in these by-elections, after its boycott of national elections in November 2010, carries great symbolism, as well as being a significant moment in the country’s re-engagement with the West.

During a visit in February, Tomas Ojea Quintana, the United Nations’ special envoy to Burma, said the by-election would be a “key test” of the government’s commitment to reforms. “I must stress that the credibility of the elections will not be determined solely on the day of the vote, but on the basis of the entire process leading up to and following election day,” Quintana told reporters. Similarly, the European Union and United States have said “free and fair” elections are a precondition to any future rollback of economic sanctions.

Aside from the newfound freedoms enjoyed by the NLD, however, it’s uncertain just what these by-elections will mean in the wider context of political reform. Just 48 seats are up for grabs, including 40 in Burma’s 440-seat lower house, which is dominated by the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). Under the 2008 Constitution, a quarter of the lower house remains reserved for military candidates, making it all but impossible for opposition parties to muster the 75 percent majority required to amend it.With the game already on their terms,the government can arguably afford to cede a few dozen seats to the opposition, and the election of the massively popular Aung San Suu Kyi – all but a sure thing – will be a heaven-sent advertisement for the reforming regime.

Maung Wuntha, a Rangoon-based journalist, says that with the West watching, and election monitors from across the world in attendance, the government is likely to play nice during the by-elections. “They will try to be tolerant for the time being, especially on these by-elections, so [that] in the eyes of international watchers, there will be a sort of free and fair election,” he says.

Comments
3
Anti - Chniese
May 5, 2012 at 19:46

“China should concentrate on strengthening relationship with Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Burma”,, We strongly disagree, dute China is growing on it own pace with with their own poverty line. ASEAN have to find their own economic and friends out side Asia. Working with neighbour is one thing but bad influence in culture is another.

AgreeToDisagree
March 31, 2012 at 23:27

Aung Sung is unsuitable as her father himself was military junta before becoming PM and thrown off his ‘throne’ by other junta. If Aung San Su Kyi becomes PM, she would create an OLIGARCHY and FAMILY DYNASTY and is thus unsuitable to be PM and needs to step aside for other NLD leaders as an example to the people of Burma.

Any second liner supporters of Aung Sang Su Kyi or in NLD however could be a great PM in lieu of Aung San Su Kyii herself though. Aung Sang herself creates conflict of interest as her father was also PM, and she would creates oligarchy and family dynasty if she becomes PM.

That scenario is no better than a Military Junta being in power currently. Aung Sang Su Kyi herself is also likely a CIA/FBI plant, so, no thanks and Burmans, please be aware that the US is still stinging from it’s Vietnam losses, now they target Burma? Choose anyone in the NLD except her, if you want NLD to be respected and not accused to creating FAMILY DYNASTIES.

To prevent nepotism/oligarchy/ FAMILY DYNASTIES is very important in the 3rd world. Those who support such behaviour have ‘VESTED INTERESTS’ and are selling out fellow citizens and democratic protections and prohibitions on Oligarchy/Dynasty.

The voters in the 3rd world at the same time need to learn about ethics and nepotism and NEVER vote for nepotists.

Liang1a
March 30, 2012 at 08:01

Many countries are tricked into thinking that a quick implementation of democracy will miraculously give their peoples great wealth. But wealth is something that require many years of hard work under enlightened policies to bring about. The mere installation of a democratic form of government will not by itself do anything to increase the wealth of the people. This is why many backward countries stay in poverty even decades after installing democracy. And even Russia after decades of democracy is still not wealthy. And blaming the lack of freedom of the Russian government is not correct. Freedom has nothing to do with gaining wealth. This is why Burma is heading down to even greater abject poverty following the implementation of democracy unless somehow it can mange to increase investment and increase the productivity of its people. But where will investments come from? I don’t think much investments will come from the US as it is flat on its own economic sick bed. Neither India nor Japan can investment much in Burma either. In the end, the only source of large investment is China. And China is now much less enchanged with Burma having seen its treachery. China should concentrate on strengthening relationship with Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia. Once China has established firm relationships with these 3 countries then its need for Burma will disappear. And Burma will sink into abject poverty within 10 years to a point even lower than it is now. Then it will come crawling back to ask China for help.

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