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.

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

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More