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Published on Friday, 05 October 2012 05:30 Written by Maung Thwe Choon
President Thein Sein delivered a speech at UN General Assembly (Photo - AFP)
At a rare gathering in the United States in September, Myanmar political leaders President Thein Sein, Union Minister Aung Min, National League for Democracy (NLD) Chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi and Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) leader Khun Tun Oo came together to express their political outlook and views on the current political landscape and the future scenario. In fact, they are the key leaders in Myanmar’s political arena.
Currently, the hottest issues are as follows:
1. The situation on the peace talks on the nationalities and national reconciliation.
2. Bengali issues in the Rakhine State.
3. Relaxation and lifting of economic sanctions against Myanmar.
The Q and A ran along the three issues with leaders in the United States.
When Union Minister Aung Min met with the media while preparing for the President’s visit in advance, he officially used the word “political prisoners”. (The first person who said that there are no political prisoners is the Union Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin in Geneva, in a statement after the new civilian government assumed state power).
“There are no political prisoners,” was the repeated term used by all the Union ministers. Later, they substituted the term political prisoners with the words “the prisoners of conscience”.
When US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton visited Myanmar in December 2011, she said that one, single political prisoner in the cell is too many for a democratic nation. As the Myanmar-US relation is solidifying, the demand of the US to release the political prisoners was a welcome development. Union Minister Aung Min told Radio Free Asia that 104 political prisoners among 514 inmates were released through amnesty, as reported by the Mizzima journal on September 29. The democratic forces in the opposition released statements that there are still political prisoners in various prisons.
The D. Wave Journal on September 24 quoted veteran journalist Hanthawady Win Tin as saying, “The method of release of the political prisoners varied and occurred on many occasions. It is like a needle from the heaven diving down towards the Insein Prison gate on earth and colliding there. It was also similar to kidnappers demanding ransom with threats. It was noticeable that whenever the political prisoners were released, it was the opportunity for them to free their own guys. Moreover, when the political prisoners were freed, big occasions on grand scales of government usually popped up on their own agenda”.
When the US government considers the relaxation of sanctions against Myanmar, much attention is focused on the release of political prisoners and on the ceasefire and peace process with the national races. Therefore, continuous criticisms are heard to the effect that the Myanmar government always holds the political prisoners as the bargaining chip, and as hostages.
At a time when the civilian government is building a new modern state in conjunction with the task for poverty alleviation, it is vital that the US government should relax the sanctions imposed against the Myanmar government. A request was already made to the US Secretary of State. Even the President himself requested it from the US government through the The Washington Post.
“At the present situation, job opportunity inside the country is poor. There are about three million Myanmar migrant workers in other countries. The percentage of poor population in the country stands at 26. Therefore, if the world community would like to see Myanmar stepping into the democratic process and enjoy prosperity, lifting economic sanctions is then necessary,” quoted the views of the President in the People’s Era journal on January 26, 2012.
The President was of the view that the sanction does not have impact on the government, but on the people in the country who suffer heavily. It is unsure if the President meant that the people were in distress, but the government remains as rich as ever. Whatever it may be, it is to be thankful to the President for requesting on behalf of the people who live in misery.
On the part of NLD chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi, she told CNN in an interview on September 21 that “mismanagement” has placed Myanmar’s economy in the doldrums, as written by the Myanmar Newsweek Journal in its September 27 issue.
Aung San Suu Kyi also told CNN: “I’ve always gotten on with people in the army. I have a soft spot on them, even though I don’t like what they do. That’s different from not liking them”.
At the Columbia University on September 23, Aung San Suu Kyi answered questions from the event’s moderator, NBC News correspondent Ann Curry. But Aung San Suu Kyi was more focused on interacting with the students, exchanging views with them and learning the best way to help the Myanmar youth.
She was asked about her feelings towards the Myanmar generals who placed her under house arrest for 15 long years. Aung San Suu Kyi responded that there was no abhorrence whatsoever, as quoted by the Myanmar Newsweek on September 29.
On September 18, Voice of America’s Kyaw Zan Tha asked Aung San Suu Kyi on the three main objectives before entering the by-election in 2012: the intended amendment on the State Constitution; the gradual reducing of the involvement of the army in the Myanmar political landscape; and to endeavor for domestic peace. He asked whether the journey is still a long way to go.
The D. Wave Journal on September 29 quoted Aung San Suu Kyi as saying that she first talked about the rule of law and then on the domestic peace in the country. The next agenda on the table was to amend the State Constitution, and that setting aside the involvement of the army is not the main focus, but amending the State Constitution in accordance with the democratic norm and standard.
The journal continued that Aung San Suu Kyi was of the view that political stance never stands out as a dogmatic application, but that it could be amended depending on situation, time and locality. Under the democratic norm, the government is elected by the voters, and that the amendment of the State Constitution does not necessarily mean pulling out MPs representing the army. She said that she is ready at all time to lend her hand in the domestic peace process, if she is asked for the task.