News / Asia

Expert: Aung San Suu Kyi Breaks Norm on Ethnic Minorities in Parliamentary Plea

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi asks a question during a regular session of Burma's parliament, July 25, 2012, in Naypyitaw.Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi asks a question during a regular session of Burma's parliament, July 25, 2012, in Naypyitaw.
x
Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi asks a question during a regular session of Burma's parliament, July 25, 2012, in Naypyitaw.
Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi asks a question during a regular session of Burma's parliament, July 25, 2012, in Naypyitaw.
Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s appeal to parliament to address the poverty in ethnic minority communities is a “significant departure” from traditional calls for reform, says a noted Burma expert.

Sean Turnell, a professor of economics at Macquarie University in Australia, called Aung San Suu Kyi’s maiden speech to parliament Wednesday “a moment in history” and said using that moment to discuss ethnic minorities was particularly significant.

“If there is one unifying figure, it’s Aung San Suu Kyi. So in some ways, she’s the right person to talk about this particularly intractable problem,” he said.

Related video of Aung San Suu Kyii
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
July 25, 2012 3:26 PM
Related video of Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyitaw, Burma
Related video - click to view
Aung San Suu Kyi focused on the economic plight of Burma’s ethnic minorities. Quoting an Asian Development Bank report, she said these groups face the worst poverty in the country.

Many of the country’s ethnic minorities have fought the military for more autonomy in a decades-long conflict that has displaced tens of thousands of people. The civilian government that came to power last year reached ceasefire deals with several ethnic rebel groups, but fighting persists in Kachin state and Amnesty International says attacks and human rights abuses against Rohingyas and other Muslims in Rakhine state are increasing.

Turnell says Burma observers often talk about the importance of economic reform in the country, but they generally leave the ethnic minorities out of that equation.

“They are very often off the radar when we look at the big multilateral lenders, when we’re talking about firms going in to invest and so on," he said. "Very often the consideration for the differences and the terrible deprivation that is there for many ethnic minority areas is not just a political one. There’s also an economic dimension."

Many of Burma’s ethnic groups live along the Thai and Chinese borders, key trading areas rich in natural resources. Turnell says by using her parliamentary speech to tackle Burma’s ethnic situation, Aung San Suu Kyi is turning the domestic issue into a global economic one.

“It’s usually just extracting firms move in and ship out gas and oil and gems and teak and all the rest of it, so often leaving chaos and environmental destruction in its wake, for not much benefit. So, in a sense, by drawing attention to the economic problems, some of those issues get a bit of a highlight as well,” he said.

Aung San Suu Kyi long pushed for reform outside the government, advocating change through her National League for Democracy party. Now, after spending years under house arrest, she is joining the political process after being elected to parliament in a rare by-election last April.

Turnell said Aung San Suu Kyi’s presence in parliament makes Burma’s political reforms more legitimate, but the country is still far from being a democracy.

“So, it’s a bit of a gamble for someone like her. But it’s a gamble that I think she thinks is worth taking. It's just pushing the country in a progressive direction towards democracy, but it’s certainly not there yet,” he said. 

Loading timeline...

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

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.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid