News / Asia

    Analysts: Only Cosmetic Changes Expected From Burmese Elections

    Members of the Hong Kong Coalition for a Free Burma hold posters of Burma's detained opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, during a demonstration in commemoration of the third anniversary of the Saffron Revolution, in Hong Kong, 27 Sep 2010
    Members of the Hong Kong Coalition for a Free Burma hold posters of Burma's detained opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, during a demonstration in commemoration of the third anniversary of the Saffron Revolution, in Hong Kong, 27 Sep 2010

    In less than two weeks, Burma will hold its first elections in 20 years.  Although the vote allows for civilian and opposition participation, analysts say the elections are unlikely to alter the military's grip on power.

    Burma's military government is calling the November 7 parliamentary elections a step on the road to democracy.

    Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch cautions that the vote will be a sham.  "There is an intention on the part of the military to create certain trappings of civilian rule, but really to entrench military rule - to give it a façade that may be more palatable to the international community, but not to give one iota of control to the civilians who might be placed into positions of formal authority."

    Military's tight control

    Roth moderated a day-long discussion of developments in Burma at The Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.

    Panelist David Williams of the Center for Constitutional Democracy noted that while civilians may run for office, the military is guaranteed 25 percent of parliamentary seats and has veto power over the remaining 75 percent of candidates.  "The electoral commission is individually vetting candidates.  So no one will get on the ballot who is unacceptable to the regime."

    And after the vote, said Williams, the government will be constitutionally-bound to enforce the military's wishes.  "After the elections, I think Burma will be a military dictatorship just as much as now.  The military will have the power, constitutionally, to do anything it wants to do without interference from the civilian government.  But if it ever gets tired of having a civilian government, it can declare a state of emergency and send everyone else home."

    Opposition representation on local level

    No one at the conference doubted that Burma's military will continue to exert ultimate power after the vote.  David Steinberg of Georgetown University said, however, that allowing civilian and opposition representation, however tenuous or subordinate to the armed forces, is a major departure from decades of military rule.

    "It is the first election in 50 years when you will have opposition people sitting in the local parliament," said Steinberg.  "That is really important.  They will be a minority.  They will be subject to all kinds of restrictions, no doubt."

    Steinberg also gave his thoughts on how the international community should deal with Burma and how it might most effectively press for change.  He said that merely criticizing the country's human-rights record and its treatment of dissidents - like Aung San Suu Kyi - has not proven effective, and that a more productive course might be to point out how the military's behavior undermines the goals of national unity that the armed forces says it is defending.

    Calls to target military government's finances

    Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen also questioned the effectiveness of international leaders and diplomats delivering long lists of human-rights grievances to Burmese officials.  "It is not enough for weak-voiced U.N. emissaries to assure us that the Burmese government has promised to lift the harshness of their regime and it is not adequate for Asean leaders to announce cheerfully that they gave the Burmese leader, quote, 'an earful' [of complaints].  The military butchers are happy to have their ears full, so long as their hands remain free."

    According to Sen, sanctions against Burma should target the economic interests of its rulers and spare the Burmese people from hardship.

    The situation in Burma likely  will be discussed during U.S. President Barack Obama's trip to Asia next month, which will include stops in India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora