Monday, April 2, 2012 at 5:20 AM

Myanmar: One Small Step for Democracy, One Giant Leap for Aung San Suu Kyi

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Her heroic, even if terminally futile, struggle to restore democracy has garnered her remarkable spurts of international attention and acclaim.  Most notable in this respect was when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 – after the National League for Democracy party she founded won a landslide general election (in 1990), which the military refused to recognize….

(Suu Kyi becoming the Nelson Mandela of Myanmar? The iPINIONS Journal, August 12, 2009)

A military junta has ruled Myanmar with an iron fist for almost 50 years. Therefore, political pundits can be forgiven their irrational exuberance over landmark elections that were held there yesterday.

More to the point, to read some accounts you’d think long-imprisoned pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi being elected to parliament in Myanmar is every bit as significant as Nelson Mandela being elected president in South Africa.

No doubt this is a giant step for her on the long, tortured road she has traveled towards personal freedom. But nobody understands better than Suu Kyi herself what a small step it is on the long, garrisoned road towards national liberation:

I do not think that we can say that this election is going to be free and fair if we just look at the process that has been going on. Some of the irregularities were committed by those in official positions.

(Associated Press, March 30, 2012)

In other words, despite Suu Kyi’s celebrated participation, yesterday’s parliamentary elections are no more a harbinger of democratic change in Myanmar than quinquennial elections in Cuba.

[T]his means that, despite the giddy euphoria that has occasioned her release – complete with President Obama hailing her as ‘a hero of mine’ – I doubt Myanmar’s leaders will give Suu Kyi the time of day when it comes to her complaints about the lack of democratic freedoms and human rights. And, frankly, I don’t blame them. Especially given the way world leaders, including Obama, are falling all over themselves to curry favor with China’s leaders who have demonstrated even less regard for democratic freedoms and human rights…

Nevertheless, in keeping with their new PR offensive, the military junta would do well to make quite a public show of inviting her in for talks every blue moon to plead her lost cause over tea and crumpets.

(Aung San Suu Kyi Is Free… So What? The iPINIONS Journal, November 15, 2010)

Talk about a public show; frankly, all we had in Myanmar yesterday was the ruling military orchestrating a democratic exercise that signifies nothing where democratic aspirations are concerned. Indeed, it seems the patently unrepentant generals merely decided that the best way to silence Suu Kyi’s (critical) voice is to drown it in a parliament of 664 voices – almost 90 percent of which will still be singing their praises even after all of the votes are counted.

One step forward, two steps back…?

Related commentaries:
Suu Kyi the Mandela of Myanmar
Aung San Suu Kyi Is Free

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