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Suu Kyi win is in regime’s interests – Burmese activists

Originally appeared in InterAksyon.com

March 31, 2012

Much of the excitement generated by Myanmar’s by-elections on Saturday revolves around Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and how the icon of democracy will fare in her bid for a parliament seat.

Not for Burmese activists and human rights workers attending the ASEAN People’s Forum here, however.

For them, it’s a foregone conclusion — “The Lady” will win.

“There is not much expectation and excitement. People are instead more in a wait-and-see mood because we all klnow that Aung San Suu Kyii will get a seat. We are confident of that,” said Khin Ohmar, coordinator of the human rights group Burma Partnership.

And it is not just because of the strong support Suu Kyi can expect from voters.

It will also be in large part because of the “unseen” and almost “unfelt” backing of the military junta that has ruled Myanmar for a half century.

“You can take (my word for) it that this regime will ensure (it gains) legitimacy, so they have to make sure that the largest opposition party will come into the legal front. In order to make that happen, they have to allow NLD (Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy) to win,” Ohmar said.

She explained that the regime has to allow Suu Kyi to win to “get what they want” from the European Union and the United States — the lifting of economic sanctions over years of repression and human rights abuses.

“The EU and US are looking into the (elections) as key tests and benchmarks for the possibility to lift the sanctions — which the regime wants so badly,” Ohmar said.

Ohmar acknowledges that Suu Kyi’s victory will fuel hopes of genuine change in a country long under the gun and caught in the throes of internal conflict as ethnic groups wage armed resistance against the regime.

But other than that hope, everything else remains a battle for genuine reforms, an end to human rights violations, the release of more than 400 political prisoners, Ohman points out.

And then, there is the nagging worry: once she joins parliament, will Suu Kyi remain independent? Can she?

“The fight for the independence of Burma, the end of hostilities and of human rights violations, will not end with Aung Suu Kyii winning the elections. In fact, many are worried (about) how much (she will be) independent.  Will she be silenced because she has joined the government?” Ohman said.

She did say they are confident Suu Kyii will push for reforms but added that the regime cannot be expected to make things easy.

For one, Ohmar said, Suu Kyii and the opposition will be outnumbered by the ruling party.

And although “certain individuals in the parliament who are really trying … to push for real reform can join her … our main concern is, what if is she is promoted or given a cabinet position? Everybody is nervous about that. What if she takes the cabinet position?” she said.

She said there have been reports the government might offer Suu Kyi a position in the foreign ministry.

“Nobody wants her to take that. First, if she takes it, she will not be focused in the NLD, and the NLD needs her and the people need her. And if she joins, she has to abide by the government policies.  She will be eaten (by the system) and then NLD will be faced so much difficulties,” she said.

And, she added, the military can be expected to be unrelenting in trying to weaken NLD.

“They don’t have the political will for Aung San Suu Kyii to be part of the politics of the country. We don’t see that. But they have to allow her to be a part of the government. Otherwise, they will not get what they want,” she said.

“But we are not losing out hope because Aung Syu Kyi’s number (one strength) is the people. She’s backed by the people,” she said.

View the original article here.

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