News / Asia

Q&A: Burma's New Political Landscape

Supporters of Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi celebrate outside her home after her release from house arrest in Rangoon, 13 Nov 2010.
Supporters of Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi celebrate outside her home after her release from house arrest in Rangoon, 13 Nov 2010.
TEXT SIZE - +

The release of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest Sunday spurred supporters inside the country to say that hope had returned. But some political observers are warning that one person alone cannot change Burma.

One of those skeptics is Khin Zaw Win, a pro-democracy activist who was jailed in Burma from 1994 to 2005 for peacefully criticizing the government. He now runs the civil society organization the Tampadipa Institute and advocates on behalf of the National Democratic Force, an opposition group that formed after breaking away from Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, or NLD.

He tells VOA that the NLD's decision to not participate in the elections is an example of the opportunities it has squandered to keep the military government in check. He says Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition movement is out of touch and must adjust its strategy to stimulate real change.

You have expressed some frustration with the main opposition movement for not doing enough to challenge the government in a constructive way. Now that Aung San Suu Kyi is out, does this help or hinder the direction you think the country needs to take?

"Well, I would say in all fairness, it could help. I wouldn’t say that it’d automatically help. But she and the former NLD will have to make their effort too. Of course, her voice is internationally heard. And she’s been saying the right things [Sunday] in her speech. So we want to see some of that really translated into really positive action that will have a beneficial result and impact on what’s happening now."

And what kind of action are you looking for?

"Well, she’s been around for a long time. She knows how to deal with this regime. Most importantly, to learn from her past mistakes. Those mistakes have affected not only her but, also. the entire country. I think it’s high time that she took stock of what has happened and make the necessary course corrections."

And what mistakes are you thinking of?

"The mistakes, well, from 1980 onwards, because of her father’s name and her stature, and her name itself. I think the military itself gave her many, many opportunities, reaching out to her, and she didn’t take them properly. Again, she’s talking about demanding dialogue and human rights. The regime unfortunately is not going to listen to that. I was in prison for 11 years. I’ve been watching it from afar. She got opportunities that no one else could ever dream of getting. They were just summarily thrown away. I think people have to realize that."

So you’d like to see her working more closely with the government?

"No, no, no. Not with the government. But taking a more sober and, I would say, long-term and constructive line. Demanding one-to-one dialogue with a military dictator, I mean, let’s be realistic. And those guys don’t like her. And that’s putting it very gently. So you’ve got to have a good assessment of what you are and what you are capable of. Remember, it’s not only affecting herself and her party. It’s affecting the whole country."

I think it’s important to look at the landscape and how it has changed since Aung San Suu Kyi was last free. There are more opposition parties. There are more development groups in the country. The military is doing business with China and other Asian partners.  How has this changed the social and political discourse?

"If people think that the National League for Democracy is the only vehicle for democratic change and that we’re talking about a single knight in shining armor, that’s not the case unfortunately. There are other players on the scene now not affiliated with the National League for Democracy. The ethnic nationalities, for instance, have forged their own path away from the National League for Democracy. One big difference from the 1990 elections 20 years ago is the presence of a very strong civil society. We didn’t have that in 1990. It’s very much in existence now. And, well to speak frankly, the National League for Democracy is kind of out of sync and quite some distance away from that civil society. It’s not just going to be one organization being the vanguard of democracy. That has changed, and she has to realize that."

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid