Monday, May 25, 2009

Time to grasp reconciliation talk

by Mizzima News

Whether the trial against Aung San Suu Kyi is the product of a plan hatched by the military regime or not, the likely loser of this possible turning point will be no other than Senior General Than Shwe, head of the State Peace and Development Council. However, there is another potential outcome. This, Than Shwe should recognize, is an ideal opportunity to jumpstart the national reconciliation process in Burma and practice forgiveness, paving the way for national prosperity and development.

The witnessed solidarity and support of the international community for Aung San Suu proves just how popular is the charismatic leader. While this may not be a joyful sign for the generals, the Burmese are very lucky to have such a leader and icon for democracy – like father like daughter.

No one can deny that Burma is a naturally resource rich country with the prospects to reverse its recent bad turns. Civil wars, isolationism and totalitarian rule have pushed Burma to the lowest reaches of world development lists.

According to existing Burmese law, apparently accepted by the military regime, Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest will expire on May 27. But, in reality, there is not much hope for her freedom with the many documented failures of the military regime's judicial system. More than 1,200 political prisoners are still languishing in jails throughout the country, most sentenced only for expressing their desire for talks between the generals and opposition forces.

Nevertheless, the stars may not be in alignment for Burma's Senior General, as proven by the international outcry following the first day of the closed-door trial in notorious Insein prison. The Lady, 63-years old, is charged with breaching the terms of her house arrest after an American, John Yettaw, was fished out of Inya Lake allegedly on his way back from the Nobel Laureate's house.

The mysterious case has angered many Burmese, as the actions of the 53-year old American man have provided a ready-made excuse for the junta, which has ruled the country since 1988 – ignoring the results of the 1990 election, to keep the opposition leader detained for a further length of time.

Within minutes of the state-run media's public announcement of the arrest of Yettaw, a majority of Burmese classified the case as a conspiracy to prolong the detention of the daughter of the country's independence hero, General Aung San, and to keep her firmly out of the way of the proposed 2010 general election.

The timing of Yettaw's arrest and the lack of any action on the part of authorities even after Aung San Suu Kyi's personal doctor informed security forces of the presence of an intruder in the house, are just some of the facts which have fueled suspicions against Than Shwe in the wake of the deadly crackdown on peaceful monk-led demonstrations in 2007.

However, Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win has denied such accusations, instead suggesting the insinuations might be a plan by Western nations in connection with domestic and exile opposition groups. Very few people, though, accept this scenario. Of course Yettaw did spend time in Mae Sot, known as a shelter for some opposition elements, but no opposition groups want to see the extension of Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest as she represents the only hope for democracy and unity across the country and among its many factions.

In fact, the present trial may further unity among pro-democracy opposition groups and ethnic nationalities – one for all and all for one.

The regime's hopes to gain legitimacy from the 2010 election are rapidly depleting. Even the junta's allies, China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, (ASEAN), are voicing their concerns and belief in the need for national reconciliation. Meanwhile, the European Union is considering employing further sanctions and the Obama administration has already extended American sanctions for an additional year.

Utter devastation is all that lies ahead if we all keep on the same track since 1962. The current course will not benefit either ruler or the oppressed. Divisions within Burmese society are huge, while the general population's hatred of the military – the only institution in the country of 55 million people – is significant. Poverty is pervasive. Only compromise can save the country. The bygone souls of civil war conflicts, victims of human rights abuses and Cyclone Nargis are waiting for us to grasp this opportunity to rebuild a peaceful and prosperous nation.

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