MYANMAR: Headlines Capture Essence of Political Change

Recent headlines in the Myanmar media are a clear indication of a polarized country. Some articles touch on Japanese plans to develop the Myanmar Stock Exchange. Others describe the plights of 471 confirmed political prisoners in Myanmar, with 465 more awaiting confirmation. Looking at the Myanmar headlines on Mizzima News, an online magazine specializing in Myanmar/Burmese issues, one would be confused on where exactly Myanmar is heading. It would appear that there are two captains manning a single political ship, one yelling for change and the other fighting to stay the course. Myanmar suffers from a severe case of bipolarity. Such friction might be natural, however, when development clashes with human rights abuse.
The tension can be tied to Myanmar’s recent open elections, held at the beginning of this year when the military junta government relinquished power and the nation’s beloved Aung San Suu Kyi won a seat in the parliament. To the international community, such bold change was a sure sign that Myanmar’s sails are catching democratic winds. So what is really happening?
The military junta government opened talks with democratic icon Aung San Suu Kyi, released some political prisoners, and signed a ceasefire with the oppressed rebels. But who is running the show? Although the National Democratic Party took 43 seats in the recent elections, the majority of the parliament seats belong to previous junta leaders who merely turned in their military suits for business ones.
Soe Aung, a Myanmar exile who is part of the Forum for Democracy in Burma, summarized it best when he made statements alluding to EU’s premature suspension of sanctions, knowing well that Myanmar has not released all political prisoners nor has it fully complied with its promise to end ethnic attacks.
But progress does not happen over night. Perhaps the recent headlines illustrate this best: maybe a little friction is needed to truly ignite change.
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