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2010年11月20日 (土)

Democracy in Myanmar

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 18
EDITORIAL: Democracy in Myanmar

Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the democratization movement in Myanmar (Burma), urged pro-democracy forces to unite and called on the military government to agree to dialogue.

Having been released from house arrest on Nov. 13, she delivered a speech before the public for the first time in seven and a half years. Including her previous time in captivity, Suu Kyi has been deprived of freedom for 15 years without a valid reason.

From now on, the junta must guarantee her freedom of political activities and speech.

Tens of thousands of people are said to have cried for joy in response to the speech she delivered the day after her release. Suu Kyi remains a star of hope to people calling for democracy and freedom.

The junta set the date for her release from house arrest immediately after the country's first general election in 20 years. It shows that the junta is still afraid of Suu Kyi's popularity that is deeply rooted among the public.

In the general election, which was neither free nor fair, a political party supporting the military won nearly 80 percent of the seats. In addition, since a quarter of the seats are allocated to military appointees, the new parliament is dominated by an absolute majority of members affiliated with the military.

The National League for Democracy (NLD), which scored an overwhelming victory in the last general election, refused to take part in the election this time and was dissolved. NLD leader Suu Kyi called for a boycott of the election. As a result, a new party formed by some former NLD members could only win a small number of seats.

Some critics say that even if the system was unfair, the NLD should have entered the election to gain seats and voice its opinion in parliament. However, until now, NLD executives have aged and the organization has split and grown weaker.

We can understand Suu Kyi's position not to recognize the election, given that the junta arbitrarily overturned the results of the previous election and continued to deprive her of freedom.

From now on, as Suu Kyi said in her first speech after her release, an effort must be made to rebuild and bring together pro-democracy forces that were divided by the military regime.

The opposition says there were many irregularities in the election. If the circle of support for Suu Kyi spreads, some observers say the junta will likely crack down on the "illegal" political activities of the dissolved NLD. That is outrageous.

Parliament will convene early next year. With the start of a new government, the junta is set to declare the completion of democratization.

The way to govern the nation is about to change although it may not be sufficient. Depending on the new government's attitude, it may be a good opportunity for reconciliation both at home and abroad.

First, the new president must engage in direct dialogue with Suu Kyi. Without her, there can be no reconciliation or democratization. Furthermore, the more than 2,000 political prisoners must also be released without delay. Doing so would open up the possibility of moving a step toward true democracy.

China has been serving as a breakwater for international public opinion that criticizes the junta. Japan should talk with China, India and neighboring countries and call on them to persistently urge Myanmar to shift gears toward the realization of true democracy.


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