Friday, August 10, 2012

A strong democratic front needed in Burma

Friday, 10 August 2012 14:49 Myat Thu Pan

(Commentary) – The 24th anniversary commemoration of the 1988 uprising on Thursday by Min Ko Naing and the 88-generation students was a remarkable event in the healing for both the 88-students group and the government.

Left to right, 88-Generation student leaders Jimmy, Hla Myo Naung, Htay Kywe, Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, Mya Aye, Min Zaya and Aung Thu at a press conference in Rangoon in January 2012. Photo: Mizzima

Again, President Thein Sein has shown an enormous capacity for reconciliation towards the generation of students who were jailed for a quarter of a century, ran to the ground, driven out of the country and regarded as public enemy No. 1 by the military dictatorship.

The president dispatched two state ministers to deliver a check to the 88-student group, to help fund the commemoration ceremony held in Mandalay.

It is an extraordinary turn around for the general-turned-head of state of an emerging democracy like Burma.

It is a good day whenever national healing takes place between the military-backed government and the one-time student dissidents.

When healing takes place, trust follows as a natural consequence. When trust develops, then true reconciliation can take place.

When President Thein Sein first invited Suu Kyi to Naypyitaw prior it was likened to a Mandela-moment by the world press. Now with the president handing an olive branch to the powerful group of leaders of the 88 uprising, one cannot help muse about whether this moment has a potential for the student leaders to create something like the ANC (African National Congress) in South Africa. It was the powerful ANC together with Mandela who negotiated a pact with de klerk to work on a transition to genuine democracy.

Maybe the 88 student leaders could draw all the democratic and ethnic parties in Burma together to form a collective democratic front like the ANC in South Africa and build up a powerful political bloc. If any group can achieve it, it will be the 88 student leaders.

However, the balance of power in Burma right now is too lopsided for genuine reconciliation to happen.

Unless all the democratic parties big and small can coalesce behind a single collective front, there can be no genuine reconciliation to come about in the near future.

Min Ko Naing and his group of student leaders are in a perfect position to be the catalyst in networking and bringing together all the stakeholders among the democratic elements, large and small.

They have the gravitas, the energy, the verve and the political clout to do so. One can only hope that Min Ko Naing can bring about the Burmese version of the ANC and together with Suu Kyi build up a powerful democratic bloc before the 2015 election.

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