Will Democracy ever come to Burma?

They had a meeting of parliament. It only lasted 15 minutes, and they read out the list of ministry appointments. The record was eight minutes. There was no vote and no complaint. Even the chairman of parliament didn’t know what he was to do that day, till he opened the envelope they sent to him, to tell him. Every parliament member was silent. They didn’t say anything. The chairman even said “don’t make argument. This will just waist time.” Okay. Now we have a parliament, but what kind of parliament? What will they do for us?

They just want to legitimize, to appear to have democracy.

Yes, we had some change, we had a campaign. But the important step of a democracy is the vote. They skipped that step. At the earliest stages of the election, even we exile media had some hope. One group separated from National League for Democracy (NLD) and ran separately. But they disappointed later.

SPDC was allowed to do whatever they wanted in the campaign. But all other parties had to apply for a permit to speak. In the application they had to give a list of exactly what they would say, who would speak, how long they would speak, and who would attend.

The NLD is now defunct. The government forced them to eject Aung San Suu Kyi because she has been convicted under Burmese law. Criminals cannot be party members. Next, the government wanted to dissolve the NLD. NLD submitted three appeals to the government, but they were rejected and ordered to dissolve. Because they are not recognized as a party now, they can’t do much, because they could be called terrorists, or be charged with plotting to overthrow the government. This is very dangerous for Aung San Suu Kyi now.

Antonio: Why did SPDC release Aung San Suu Kyi?

Exile: They did everything they wanted. Everything is under control. What happened after they released her? Yes, she has some public support. She made a speech, but after release…one little speech. In the current atmosphere, what can she do? Everything is gone already: the constitution, the election, even the existence of the NLD (National League for Democracy). Everyone wanted to hear what she had to say about sanctions and about what her next political step would be. In my opinion, she can do nothing now. She told us to resist peacefully.

Many of us believe we must fight. But the army has the guns. We have no guns. But she still says “peacefully.” She also supports the sanctions. So the military regime is very angry. Now they attack her regularly with their newspaper. But I think if they arrest her again, her political activity will be dead. She is now already 65 years old. If they put her in house arrest for five or ten years again…

The situation is very dangerous for her. Now, every one of her activities could be called political. And if she engages in political activity, she is breaking the law.

She has told the people to start social, political networks. How can we do that? There is no Facebook, and limited internet in Burma. And we cannot trust anyone. How can we do it? Maybe she has more clear ideas, but she can’t speak out right now. Every move, every word could be the cause of her arrest. So, there is only a little room for her to move. For example, she is not allowed to travel around Burma. If she does, they will say she is campaigning.

Years ago, she was attacked by government forces and many of her followers were killed.

“On 9 November, 1996, the motorcade that she was traveling in with other National League for Democracy leaders Tin Oo and U Kyi Maung, was attacked in Rangoon. About 200 men swooped on the motorcade, wielding metal chains, metal batons, stones and other weapons. The car that Aung San Suu Kyi was in had its rear window smashed, and the car with Tin Oo and U Kyi Maung had its rear window and two backdoor windows shattered. It is believed the offenders were members of the Union Solidarity Development Association (USDA) who were allegedly paid 500 kyats (USD $5) each to participate. The NLD lodged an official complaint with the police, and according to reports the government launched an investigation, but no action was taken.” — Amnesty International

If she does anything, they can call it a destabilizing activity.

Many of the youth are disappointed in her. They say, “We want to fight,” but she tells us to act peacefully.

The people-power revolutions in Islamic countries of the last several weeks have been an inspiration to people living under dictatorships around the world.

Than Schwe and his people are afraid of this. They have blocked the coverage in Burma. The journalists are told not to write about it. Some Burmese youth started a campaign on Facebook telling their friends to do the same.

Yes, I am sure to say this Middle East uprising will have an impact on Burmese people. But you can’t expect that we will have a revolution like that in Burma. Every revolution needs a spark.

In Burma, if we want to make a business we have to have a close relationship with a general. Last month one banker in Burma had a close relationship with a general. People heard that there was a problem with the currency, and people ran to the bank to withdraw all of their money.

Many of the generals were forced to become civilians, but they don’t want that. In Burma, the uniform is power and money. If you have a uniform, you have soldiers. You have power. You can give orders. They weren’t satisfied with being in civilian government leaders. They feel safer in the army. They have soldiers and guns and powers. But as government they are not sure of their future. So there is a conflict among the top generals.

It could happen from any point and there could be a revolution. Or, if not, we will go along in this situation for ever.

In the Middle East they are having a domino effect; in Asia not. It is difficult for this to happen. Look at the end of communism across Europe. But not here in Asia. I think it is because of different social situations and religions. Also, in Europe they are mostly the same religion and ethnicity. But here, we are all different.

Laos, Burma, Cambodia… Can you say this is democracy?

They have different interests.

Now we have a new government, but only on paper. They changed the faces but not the policies. They moved from a military regime to civilian, but we still have hope. Maybe there will be an uprising. We have hope. On the surface, Burma looks stable, but behind the scenes every single camp has problems among army, academics, civilians, government, and so on. So, in Burma the uprising could happen any time, and form anywhere.  All of the people are angry. Now, we are afraid. But like a volcano, it could explode at any time. Every situation leads to that revolt.

In the 2007 revolution, we had no leader; Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest. Maybe if she was free, she could have done something. I don’t think the revolt will come first from the army. Maybe it will start from the people, if the commodities get too expensive or the banking system collapses.

Right now, Than Schwe has the power. He is the state strongman. So that means, maybe someone will kill him, or he dies… Maybe another general will take charge. Or, if he dies, maybe there will be fighting inside of the army.

“We still have hope. Maybe there will be an uprising. We have hope.”

Antonio Graceffo is self-funded and needs donation to continue his writing and video work. To support the project you can donate through the paypal link on his website, www.speakingadventure.com or by direct transfer into his bank account.