Aung San Suu Kyi falls, but Myanmar's democratic hopes rise

When a Myanmar court sentenced on Monday Daw Aung San Suu Kyi To four years of detention , he closed a chapter on an era of weak and co...


When a Myanmar court sentenced on Monday Daw Aung San Suu Kyi To four years of detention, he closed a chapter on an era of weak and compromised democracy in a Southeast Asian nation long ruled by a military fist.

But already, a new democratic movement has emerged – younger, more progressive, more confrontational and ready to look beyond Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi for a guide. Hope now rests on a hugely popular shadow government that formed after Myanmar’s civilian leader Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was detained by the army in a coup on February 1.

The challenges are immense for this new group of leaders, known as the Government of National Unity, many of whom are forced to operate from exile.

The junta is unlikely to be dislodged without unimaginable bloodshed. She and thousands of demonstrators, some of whom have taken up arms, are locked in a violent impasse, prompting a senior UN official to warn of an “alarming possibility of an escalation of the civil war”. No foreign nation has recognized the shadow government, although its representatives have met with senior U.S. officials, including National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

What is clear, however, is that politics in Myanmar has been reshaped. Self-proclaimed government has a reach throughout society. With the help of the protest movement, it runs underground schools, clinics and hospitals. When she announced last month that she would sell “bonds” to finance her revolution, she raised $ 6.3 million in one day. In September, he called for a “people’s war” against the junta, prompting thousands of protesters known as the People’s Defense Forces to prepare for armed conflict.

“The landscape has changed completely,” said Khin Ohmar, a veteran Virginia-based democracy activist who heads a human rights organization in Myanmar. “The mainstream politics, the actors, the political consciousness of the people – everything is very different. “

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi still has legions of dedicated followers in Myanmar who speak out against her treatment by the military. After her sentence on Monday to four years for inciting public unrest and violating Covid-19 protocols, she faces a new round of verdicts that could keep her locked up for the rest of her life.

But there is a deeper recognition now that his government has let down many people, including ethnic minorities and rights activists.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s view of democracy, both by circumstance and by choice, was limited. Most of the ministers she has appointed are from the Bamar ethnic majority; and almost all of them belonged to his party, the National League of Democracy, or were supporters of the NLD. When she was in charge of the civilian government, she named only one woman at the cabinet – herself.

The government of national unity assembled a more diverse leadership, appointing members of ethnic minorities in the first places. He has ensured that about a third of his ministers come from groups other than the Bamar majority and parties other than the National Democracy League. Nine of the 37 cabinet ministers are women.

In June, the government of national unity declared that Rohingya Muslims should have the same rights, in stark contrast to Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi. She has repeatedly refused to criticize the army’s ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya in 2017, when thousands were killed and more than 700,000 were driven across the border into Bangladesh. . In 2019, she defended the brutal conduct of the army in The Hague, which prompted her to return the Nobel Peace Prize to him in 1991.

The government of national unity also proposed federalism as a means of reaching the ethnic groups in the country. He announced that, if he took power, he repeal the 2008 constitution, which gives the military the power to block any constitutional changes that could undermine its power.

“I think a lot of the dynamics and the story have gone beyond Aung San Suu Kyi,” said Richard Horsey, senior advisor on Myanmar for the International Crisis Group. “It’s not because she is no longer loved and respected. It’s just that she was silenced, and a lot has happened without her and taken their own life.

The National Unity Government has listed Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi as one of its key leaders and retained her title of State Councilor. But it also signaled a willingness to move away from the model of concentrated power that she used as head of the civilian half of government for five years.

The unity government has said it will seek a broader consensus and take advice from a political body called the Consultative Council for National Unity, which is made up of lawmakers from several political parties, ethnic armed organizations, civil society and people belonging to the large-scale protest. movement.

“Our organization will not be run by one person,” Min Ko Naing, of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society activist group, told a press conference. press conference last month to unveil the advisory board. “It will be more like collective leadership.”

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was held incommunicado in a house in Naypidaw, the capital of Myanmar. One person who has spoken to her on several occasions since her arrest said her legal team had kept her informed of major events and actions taken by the shadow government, but that she was unable to provide advice or guidance.

Privately, she has expressed concern about the plight of the people and the brutality they have faced at the hands of the military. She was particularly concerned that so many people had been killed and so many young people were taking up arms.

U Moe Zaw Oo, Deputy Foreign Minister of the National Unity Government, said he believed that if Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was released, she would support the decisions he made while in detention.

“There were times during his house arrest in the 1990s and 2000s when the NLD had to make decisions in his absence,” said Moe Zaw Oo, who previously served as his assistant. “Later, when she was out, she respected those decisions and understood that decisions had to be made in certain circumstances. So, this time again, I think she will come to terms with what the remaining NLD leadership had to do. “

But Thinzar Shunlei Yi, a 30-year-old rights activist in Myanmar, said the revolution no longer needed Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi because she “did her part.”

“We want to write a new script for our country because the time has come,” she said. “Now is the time for younger generations and ethnic leaders to take leadership positions. Because the country is not just a person. It’s about everyone.

U Khin Zaw Win, director of the Tampadipa Institute, a policy advocacy organization based in Myanmar’s most populous city, Yangon, said none of the measures promised by the national unity government would have taken place under “the shadow of Aung San Suu Kyi”.

He stressed that she had not planned a successor or contribution of new blood to the National League of Democracy, which he said was run as an “exclusive” club. Instead, she surrounded herself with advisers in their 70s and 80s.

“Every day, day by day, Aung San Suu Kyi has less and less to do with the revolution,” said Mr. Khin Zaw Win. “The show can go on without her. It’s better for the series to continue without her.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Aung San Suu Kyi falls, but Myanmar's democratic hopes rise
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