Sunday, the people of Myanmar went to the polls for parliamentary elections producing a historic landslide result with the National League for Democracy (NLD) party lead by Aung San Suu Kyi taking 43 of 44 open seats in the 664-seat parliament.
It's almost midnight here so I'm going to keep this short, but join me after the fold for a few remarks on the implications of this.
A brief update with some good news follows the fold (CST 00:08 2012.04.04)
* UPDATE *
Some good news comes from the ASEAN meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia today.
Myanmar President U Thein Sein, attending the meeting, spoke to the press today stating:
(NYT) Myanmar President Praises Weekend ElectionsApparently signaling government acceptance of the landslide results. You will note the election only gives the NLD a foothold as an opposition party in Parliament but the overwhelming response with Aung San Suu Kyi receiving 85% support in her district election sent a clear message.
... (that the weekend’s by-elections were) "conducted in a very successful way."
Speaking before a crowd outside her party’s headquarters on Monday, Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi expressed enthusiasm over the results of the weekend voting.In a separate statement from the meeting, ASEAN called for the lifting of sanctions against Myanmar due the election result.
“What is important is not how many seats we have won — although of course we are extremely gratified that we have won so many — but the fact that the people are so enthusiastic about participating in the democratic process,” she said.
(BBC) Asean calls for Burma sanctions to be liftedAs the BBC states, although the results of the election have been well-received in Europe, it is likely to be months before sanctions are lifted and I would agree pressure should remain for a brief period, at least until NLD official take office and introduce measures for a vote demonstrating their ability to function as the opposition party in Parliament.
Leaders of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), meeting in Cambodia, have called for economic sanctions against Burma to be lifted.
The 10-country group said the move would help Burma achieve "peace, national reconciliation, democracy and national development".
- snip -
Asean has called on the rest of the world to show its faith in the reform process in Burma.
As the current chair of the association, Cambodia said the international community should "consider lifting economic sanctions" in response to the Burmese opposition's strong showing in the weekend's by-elections.
I take this news to knock-down my point Number 1 in the original diary below and I'm happy to be proven wrong.
And with that, I will take leave for the next day or so to celebrate Qingming Festival (清明节) and attend to family business, wishing you the best with yours.
* Original Diary **
I think I need make no introductions about the struggle for democracy in Myanmar (aka Burma) but anyone lacking the basics can go back in my diary history and find several published in Sept/Oct 2007 to get the picture, or hit these quick links to The Guardian:
Needless to say, people are celebrating today as Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed "the beginning of a new era" in her country's political history as she was swarmed by supporters in Rangoon.
After spending a total of 22 years under house arrest, including 7 years before her release ing 2010, events have moved fast in what has been a rapid reversal of policy under the reformist president Thein Sein, who so far has kept hardliners of the ruling military junta at bay.
But given the fragile situation in Myanmar, change brings risk, and the risks are many, so I would like to briefly comment on a few points that should be followed.
First and foremost is the possibility the the military junta could invalidate the election which saw their party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) take a singe seat, losing face to the NLD. Since the Guardian elaborates the politics of this including the fact the military holds 1/3 of parliament seats by rule, I will only say I hope they do not act so foolishly and doubt it will happen but this cannot be ruled-out.
Second, is the fact that Myanmar is not a robust political state with a shared history. In fact, the present configuration was a creation of British Colonialism and is composed of regional states that historically have been at odds, with significant ethnic tensions and separatist movements that have been suppressed by the junta and fighting guerrilla wars for decades.This introduces 2 types of risk, that (a) separatists could capitalize on the situation to start new campaigns destabilizing the country and that (b) this could be used as a pretext for voiding the election or further repression. This is impossible to predict, but anyone familiar with the tensions would not rule it out.
Third, a backlash repression orchestrated by the USDP (verses the junta itself) could challenge directly or by subterfuge or dirty-tricks, undermine the NLD in the streets or in the parliament.
But this does not matter. One Lady in a Red Dress with the people behind her are determined to navigate these turbulent waters and regardless of what set-backs they encounter, even the worst, they will persist.
Ultimately, non-violence and the power of ideas will win, today or later, but it will happen.
Peace be with them.