Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Pride and honor; promises on an Olympic scale


By May Ng
March 11, 2008

May Ng is from the Southern Shan State of Burma. She is NY regional director of Justice and Human Rights in Burma.

Like the phrases "I do" in an exchange of wedding vows, "I accept" in a constitutional referendum is a 'contract'. A Constitution is not merely a text but a deed--"a constituting"-- wrote Yale Constitutional Scholar, Akhil Reed Amar.

Constitution is a contract people agreed to under the personal and sovereign rights to create a government. A constitution cannot be created by the government on its own. A legitimate government emerges from the constitution drawn by the people, not the other way around.

In response to the external pressure, the Myanmar generals are calling for a constitutional referendum in May. But even the most stubborn generals must know that, this wedding with only the groom without the bride and a legitimate marriage contract will plunge Burma deeper into political chaos.

By calling a constitutional referendum in May without the 1990 election winners, after the people have overwhelmingly rejected military rule in 1988, Myanmar junta is trying to create 'a new government of the army, by the army, and for the army.'

Last Friday the House of Representatives of Indonesia has rejected a new Myanmar ambassador until democracy is established in Burma. Philippines President Gloria Arroyo said on Sunday that, "a central pillar of democracy is a free and fair election and outside observers are not a threat to any nation's sovereignty. It is not too late for the Burmese government to accept the proposal by the UN".

After the 1990 election was ignored and countless people were killed or imprisoned for their political belief, the people in Burma have nothing more to lose, and are boiling with anger underneath. U Awbata, a monk leader who participated in the September Saffron Revolution has told an international audience that, "I cannot forget or erase the sight that I saw on the eastern side of the Shwedagon Pagoda where three monks were shot at, and when they fell down the soldiers used their boots and stomped on the heads of the wounded monks and beat them with batons."

According to the most recent report by the Free Burma Rangers, over 2,200 people were forced to flee their home by the military as the UN envoy Mr. Gambari was going to Burma. Over 1,700 villagers in Northern Papun district in eastern Burma fled after being fired upon by Burma Army mortars. In another area nine houses were burnt while 85 people fled their homes. An additional 400 may have fled the area to join the increasing number of internally displaced population, out of reach from outside help. The US Campaign for Burma has condemned the attacks.

Adding insult to injury the regime has announced its intention to revoke the voting privileges from the country's venerated monks, members of the political oppositions and the exiled community. At the same time the Myanmar generals are handing out temporary citizenship to anyone who will vote for the army's constitution, regardless of their legal status inside Burma.

Burma Lawyers' Council has recommended in 2005 that every citizen of Burma, who loves human rights and democracy-- and supports the establishment of liberty and justice--has the responsibility to prevent the deterioration of the country by stopping the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)'s constitution, the product of a sham National Convention.

All Burma Monks Alliance has unequivocally rejected what they deem to be illegitimate and unjust constitution to prolong the cruel military dictatorship in Burma. The ABMA said that, to help overcome the economic hardship and humanitarian catastrophe they are determined to continue opposing the military rule, together with other democracy forces in Burma.

The 2007 new Generation Wave students have called for an inclusive, open, and fair, constitutional vote. They are organizing the entire nation to resist the one-sided military constitution in Burma.

The late Karen National Union (KNU) secretary general Mahn Sha Lar Phan, who was murdered, said before his death that the army-drafted charter will enslave the Burmese people indefinitely. Ethnic nationalities, including the ceasefire organizations, continue to criticize the proposed constitution's lack of credibility, fairness and transparency.

The International Burmese Monks Organization (IBMO) is holding Myanmar military to the promise of transferring power to the civilian government after the 1990 election. The monks have declared the military's plan for constitution and election as unfair, unjust and illegitimate. They believe that the junta's plan to force through such a plan will create a greater political conflict and push Burma to the brink of catastrophe.

Since 1988, Aung San Suu Kyi has sacrificed her family and her marriage to become the mother of Burma who is entirely wedded to the country's democratic cause. She has given up everything to give democracy a chance in Burma. Her father has promised democracy and equality to the people of Burma, at the time of independence.

Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of General Aung San, the founder of Burma's army. The well known '88 student leader Moethee Zun, and the imprisoned monks' leader, Ashin U Gambira, are also children of the military personnel who have served in the Myanmar Tatmadaw. Moethee Zun has called on the entire political opposition to mobilize against the junta's constitutional referendum in any possible way they can.

Without the cooperation of Aung San Suu Kyi, ethnic nationalities, and the democratic oppositions, it is unlikely for the military junta to find peace in Burma. As ordinary soldiers suffer the same hardship with the rest of the country, a handful of top generals continue to control Burma at gunpoint, from fear and insecurity.

The fate of General Ne Win and General Khin Nyunt is proof that the military generals can never feel safe for themselves, or for their families, without a legitimate and credible political system in Burma. If the generals insist on making the army rule permanent, Burma will continue to edge towards total devastation.

Asian countries, especially China and India, often lament the Burmese democratic opposition's reliance on the western democracies for support; while, they, China and India, continue to sell weapons to Myanmar junta and help kill more Burmese people. Contrary to their rhetoric, China and India have not shown respect for Burma's sovereignty, and have clearly interfered in Burma's internal affairs by sending arms to one side of a bitter political conflict there.

But Myanmar Tatmadaw cannot forever remain the foreign proxy army of India and especially China. It is urgent for Burma to find a middle ground where the titanic split between the generals and the people of Burma can be reconciled.

It will be 20 years on 8 August 2008, the opening day of the Olympics, since the people of Burma have decided to end the military dictatorship. But, because of India and China's military support for the dictators, hopes for freedom have been dashed in Burma.

Making anew the promises of freedom is no doubt an Olympic scale challenge in Burma. But it is only a question, of honouring the promises made at the 1990 elections by the Myanmar general; and of taking pride in acting responsibly as rising global powers by China and India.

May Ng is from the Southern Shan State of Burma. She is NY regional director of Justice and Human Rights in Burma.

No comments: