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Welcoming 2011 with New Hope and Opportunities

By Burma Partnership  •  January 10, 2011

At the dawn of 2011, Burma Partnership would like to wish you all a happy new year, reflect on the past year and move into the future with the conviction that strengthened collaboration can bring genuine change in Burma.

At the close of 2010, the SPDC held fraudulent and undemocratic elections, which have only served to perpetuate military rule and entrench ethnic inequality. Burma will soon see a military dominated parliament filled primarily with old, familiar faces. The junta-allied Union State and Development Party (USDP) achieved a fraudulent electoral “victory” claiming to have won 77% of the electoral seats; together with the 25% of parliamentary seats reserved for military appointees, the election results ensure that pro-democracy or ethnic voices will be silenced as the same old regime continues under a new name.

The SPDC’s change of clothes will not inspire a sudden change of heart. Military authorities have continued and will continue to protect personal wealth and power rather than guarantee basic freedoms and rights and provide for the basic needs of the people. The escalation of conflict in Eastern Burma in the aftermath of the November elections, the recent sentencing of a reporter to an eight year jail term, and the ongoing flow of civilians fleeing fighting in Karen State across the border into Thailand, exemplify the constant threat under which the people of Burma live.

These clear challenges underscore the urgent need for our collective efforts and the importance of seizing every opportunity to effect genuine positive change.

As of 2011, Indonesia has taken on the chairmanship of ASEAN as well as the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR). Having personally experienced a complex and turbulent yet successful democratic transition, Indonesia should take this opportunity to move ASEAN towards pressuring Burma to protect human rights and move towards genuine democracy and national reconciliation. The Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has already indicated that Indonesia will involve non-governmental elements in the planning and participation of the ASEAN summit, while the Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has stated that Indonesia turned attention towards human rights, with hopes for AICHR to become a more effective human rights body.

In the coming year, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will undoubtedly continue to be a powerful force for social and political progress in Burma. The overwhelming domestic and international support for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi upon her release from unjust house arrest contrasted sharply with widespread criticism of the SPDC’s polls. Since her release, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has opened space for genuine progress as she, along with the NLD, has been offering practical solutions and addressing real needs. Most recently, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s new year’s message reiterated the call for national reconciliation and appealed to the people of Burma to work together for a “truly united spirit.” Together with the NLD and many others, she organized an event that raised money for political prisoners’ families, natural disaster victims, and HIV patients.

Activists and allies, citizens and solidarity networks across the world and inside Burma continue to tackle issues both large and small to create the real change we all want to see. This work, much of which never makes its way into the headlines, is a testament to the strength and resolve of Burma groups inside the country and around the world to bring freedom and genuine democratic change to Burma. We will continue to support these efforts in 2011.

2010 was certainly a challenging year as we experienced the highs of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s release and the lows of the elections and renewed armed conflict in eastern Burma. However, as we move into the new year, we are confident that, together, we can work toward democratization and reconciliation in Burma. 2011 is a new year, and a new opportunity for peace and democracy in Burma.

We would like to thank our Burma and solidarity friends for all your dedication, passion, and hard work over the past year. Our work could not have been realized without your support, and we look forward to working with you all in 2011.

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