By Aung Zaw
December 20, 2007
[Original Source: Irrawaddy]
The year 2007 brought high hopes to the Burmese people when protesters led by monks took to the streets demanding democratic change. But the hopes were short lived. The brutal crackdown unleashed by the military regime killed not only innocent people but also the people’s hope for change.
However, the people of Burma, tired of their life under a repressive regime, have pressed the fast forward button for change, and I believe they won’t let up that pressure.
Regional players and allies of the regime have failed to back this indefatigable will for change. They have also seen many ups and downs since Burma joined Asean in 1997.
Just before the start of November’s Asean summit in Singapore, China sent its special envoy to Naypyidaw, where he met senior leaders including Snr-Gen Than Shwe. Beijing backed UN efforts on Burma and asked the junta to speed up reform. But the Burmese leaders were unyielding.
At the Asean summit, disappointment and frustration were shared among leaders of member governments.
Burmese Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein, who led his country’s delegation to Singapore, rejected a proposal by UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari to address the summit on his missions to Burma. Gambari’s visits were a domestic Burmese issue, Thein Sein argued, before going on to sign the new Asean charter.
At that point, the credibility of the regional grouping hit zero.
Burma’s leaders had again successfully shown they intended to follow their road map with no interference from the international community.
At home, Aung San Suu Kyi broke her long silence by issuing a short but well thought-out message through Gambari. She said she is willing to cooperate with the regime, supports the role of the UN to facilitate dialogue and will continue to pay serious attention to voices and opinions of ethnic leaders and minorities.
Since October, Suu Kyi has been taken three times from her lakeside home to meet the newly appointed minister for relations, retired Maj-Gen Aung Kyi. But are the generals who form the junta really serious about talking with the Lady? Many observers remain doubtful.
The generals have met with her before; they have dined with her. But they also came near to killing her when junta-backed thugs ambushed her convoy in Depayin in May 2003, an outrage in which several of her supporters died.
It is disheartening to watch the generals fail to seize the opportunity when it is again put on the table, preferring to stick to their guns.
The failure of diplomacy, the regime’s intransigence, the lack of effective action from the international community and the brutal suppression of Buddhist monks and their supporters, combined with the country’s economic difficulties, will only create more unrest on the streets and more bloodshed. The regime and status quo in Burma are unsustainable.
It is inevitable that change will come from within Burma. However, it is better if we can influence change in a peaceful way without bloodshed.
Yet it’s to be feared that more blood will flow and more lives will be lost before we see a better Burma. Burmese who have seen many ups and downs in the country will continue to resist and confront the regime in many ways. But the price will be high.
Than Shwe is hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. He will continue to resist change and will fight until the end. Flanked by hard-liners and some “moderates” in the ruling council and in the armed forces, the general is returning to his shell and installing his own style of military monarchy.
The junta leader knows he has no shortage of overseas friends and allies who only care about themselves. They also continue to preserve the regime. But the truth is it will be too late to repair Burma within the next 20 years.
The year 2007 offered us some hope as well as cause for deep thought and depression on seeing a country that was once the rice bowl of Southeast Asia further descending in the ranks of the world’s failed states.
A Burmese proverb says the night cannot get darker after midnight. After many midnights, the Burmese deserve to see a new dawn.
By Aung Zaw