Thursday, July 16, 2009

Junta under siege on two fronts

by Mizzima News

The SPDC – Burma's ruling junta – in preparing to switch to a puppet parliamentary democracy manipulated and controlled by the Army, faces two daunting political hurdles. The first obstacle is the global outcry to release political prisoners including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who the junta wants to marginalize from forthcoming political developments. The other issue concerns attempts to transform ethnic armed groups presently under ceasefire agreements into Border Guard Forces or militias under the command of the Burmese military. Clearly, this is a challenging time for the junta.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon himself recently visited Burma in an attempt resolve the long-time political stalemate, but the Burmese generals responded to this pressure through a delaying tactic in announcing the forthcoming release of some political prisoners – without providing any specifics.

The three main objectives of Ban's visit to Burma, made on the 3rd and 4th of this month, were (1) to secure the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners (2) initiate a dialogue between the military and opposition forces aimed at national reconciliation, and (3) to create an atmosphere conducive for a free and fair general election in 2010.

Yet, he didn’t even get a chance to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is being held in Insein prison, instead only receiving an assurance from the junta that there will be a free and fair general election. Who can imagine the junta will cheat and engage in vote rigging during the upcoming election?

However, concerning the generals, to think international pressure will ease following the release of some select political prisoners, out of a total of 2,100 currently being detained and certain not to include Daw Aung San Suu Kyi – who would easily win over people’s hearts and adoration immediately upon receiving her freedom, is a pipedream.

But the question of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is not the only seemingly insurmountable hurdle facing the junta, as they have also thus far failed to overcome the problem of integrating armed ceasefire groups into the national fold.

According to the new constitution, which was drafted by the generals' handpicked representatives and approved via massive vote rigging and cheating in a constitutional referendum, there must be one and only one armed force, operating under the central command of the state.

But, resorting to their typical delaying tactics, the junta, following the signing of ceasefire agreements with armed ethnic groups, abstained from working toward a viable political solution, arguing such matters are best left to be discussed later on with an elected civilian government. (JEG's: not later, before elections...)

As a result, at least seven ceasefire groups are resisting the junta’s plan of transforming their forces into people’s militias. Among them are included formidable fighting outfits such as the United Wa State Army (UWSA), Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), New Mon State Party (NMSP) and Shan State Army-North (SSA-N).

The inability, then, to force their Border Guard Force plan onto ceasefire groups, in combination with the lack of any viable approach to address the issue of political prisoners – and most prominently the case of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, risks exposing the Army and its leadership to a good deal of humiliation.

Until these two issues are adequately addressed, any plans the generals wish to impose on Burma's populace with the holding of next year's general election remain is serious jeopardy.

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