Burmese Democratization: Slow but Steady Change

Rewind to Burma (otherwise known as Myanmar) in 2010. The government was ruled by an iron-fisted military junta, the democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi was being wrongfully held under a 20-year-long house arrest, and the general elections were declared fraudulent by the United Nations and a variety of Western nations, including the United States. But, with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton visiting the nation and speaking with Suu Kyi yesterday, how is democracy faring in the Southeastern Asian country today?

Certainly the political landscape has come a long way from just a year ago, when political opposition was effectively banned by military general Than Shwe. Today Thein Sein serves as president, who — although hand-picked by Than Shwe — is generally considered to be moderate and reformist, and constitutes the end to the rule of a brutal military regime. He has recently signed a law allowing peaceful demonstrations to take place for the first time in decades. Furthermore, the party of which Suu Kyi is General Secretary — the National League for Democracy — has now been permitted the right to participate in elections through reforms.

During her meeting with Clinton, however, Suu Kyi expressed that more needed to be done. She called for more political prisoners to be released, ethnic minorities to be treated fairly, and armed conflicts to be resolved. The US still maintains stringent sanctions on various Burmese officials, signaling that they may still threaten Burmese democracy.

So is Burma moving in the right direction? Certainly, but it would be wise not to get too optimistic about the future of Burmese democratization — at least not just yet.

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Filed under Asia, Human Rights

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