During the third day of the Forum on Myanmar Democratic Transition at the Myanmar International Convention Center-2 in Nay Pyi Taw, yesterday, Dr. Soeren Keil, associate professor of international relations at Canterbury Christ Church University in the United Kingdom addressed the fragile nature of Myanmar’s democratic gains.
While Myanmar has progressed, Dr. Keil noted that no new parties have recently signed the National Ceasefire Agreement and that economic development, a prerequisite for lasting peace, has been lackluster.
Dr. Keil also warned that democratic transition is not always a smooth orderly process.
“Democracy might not be as stable as we have believed,” he said.
Dr. Keil said that certain indisputable elements have changed for the better in Myanmar, including a new exposure to global communication flows.
“In terms of social and cultural changes, we now see everybody has a mobile phone. Internet usage has substantially increased across the country,” he said. “Again, that provides access to information, and also access to different media.”
Dr. Keil noted that with new access to new ideas and sources of information, come new challenges to prevailing orders and traditions.
“When we look at democratization key challenges remain,” said Dr. Keil, noting recent crackdowns on news organisations and Facebook posters for making political statements.
Dr. Keil also noted that reformation of the Tatmadaw remains a key issue. Dr. Keil said discussions at the 21st Century Panglong Conference remained relatively superficial and there was still no guarantee of their success.
And Dr. Keil noted that while Myanmar’s economy has improved, those improvements are relatively modest and mostly clustered in urban areas, giving rise to greater inequality.
“Economic growth figures are quite low. In other transition societies we have seen growth figures easily exceeding double figures,” said Dr. Keil. He then quoted a World Bank statement: “Substantial infrastructure investment, restructuring of the economy and more foreign investment friendly policies are needed and need to be implemented in order to have positive economic growth.”
“Economic growth ensures greater success,” he said.
Concerning the question on revocation of the law of reporting the visitor list, Representative of Pyithu Hluttaw , U Phyo Zeyar Thaw explained that in 1885 some parts of Myanmar was occupied by English and became part of India in 1886. The law to report to the head of village if visitor came to house was enacted in 1889. The law was actually aimed to oppress the people. The law was not applied to the whole country even under the British rule. The law affects the only parts signed by the governor. The law of visitor list was revoked because it was considered incorrect and in the law was described if there is any suspicion of illegal undertakings the responsible personnel was given the right to check or inspect. Without knowing the facts completely, the revocation of visitor list law was criticized. The security is also important. Therefore the preventive measures to curb the security risks were put in the law of village administrator. The breach of security can be prevented if the provisions in the village administrator law was strictly observed.
U Tin Maung Than of Myanmar Resource Development discussed regarding the working capacity of the incumbent government. I want to stress the importance of management and administration. In case the owner and the manager are the same person administration is not needed. If the owner and manager are different persons the administration system is needed so as to deter the misappropriation. People is the owner of sovereignty of the country in democracy system. Hluttaw and Ministers represent the people. The system that can prevent the misappropriation must be established. However, in the present system owner and manager is not clearly differentiated.
They think themselves as the owner cum manager. The present government is weak in building the administration system.Transparency and accountability are integral part of the administration.
Capacity can be approached in both ways, the capacity of laying policy and the capacity of implementation. From policy point of view to assess if the system of visitor list is right and if the system has been adopted to protect the invading of foreigners, we have to review whether the system can realize the objectives. It is to take the expense, labour and human resource that will follow after a certain system into consideration. Whether the problems concerning the human rights may arise or not has to be considered.
There may be some expense due to human rights violation. It should also consider whether the policy adopted can engender the direct benefit or not. The successive governments have been deemed weak in this capacity. There was moves in the previous and incumbent governments.
It was actually not the transition. It needs to carry on to realize the requirements. As the State Counsellor said, instead of blaming each other in national reconciliation, determination of the time with target should be adopted.
Regarding the questioning in the Hluttaw, Hluttaw representative U Phyo Zeya Thaw replied that question can be raised freely. As the ministers are not present all the time in Hluttaw according to the Hluttaw System, the questions have to be given in advance. He continued that he wanted to explain why the questions and motions of NLD representatives were limited. The NLD party had targeted to build a democratic country since the founding of the party. Now we were still in the transition process and as the questions that can lead to misunderstanding and the present time is not suitable for some questions, the questions were postponed. The questions that did not hinder the democratization process were allowed to pose.
The question on whether there was time frame in democratic transition was answered by U Aung Kyi Nyunt. He stressed that different countries had different historical background and there could be no ideal model to copy. We had to consider on the works to be carried out in transition period.
In determining the time frame we had to try to take the time as short as possible. If we go forward with responsibility, but not with personal benefit we hoped we could reduce the span of time frame.
Stock-taking: where is Myanmar in its Transition?
Afterward, Mizzima Media Group director Daw Thin Thin Aung moderated the panel discussion on “Stock-taking: where is Myanmar in its Transition?” with panellists U Tin Maung Than of Myanmar Development Resource Institute, Pyithu Hluttaw representative U Phyo Zeya Thaw and Amyotha Hluttaw representative U Aung Kyi Nyunt.
U Tin Maung Than said democracy transition are observed to be not in stages, differing from country to country as well as in time. Existence of political prisoners and groups yielding veto power can be viewed as only reaching part way through the journey.
When measured with (existence of) independent political party, ability to live with disagreement, (existence of) political prisoner and (degree of) human rights, weaknesses still exists and there is a need to setup a wide ranging strategy. A Time Bound Action Plan need to be drawn up and the situation should be measured with the indicators. Work need to be done by the government, hluttaw and civil society organisations should be identified. An Open Government Partnership that includes government setup, check and balance system and participation of the people should be strengthened.
Armed organisations such as the military, police, ethnic armed groups must be made to understand more the concept of human rights. All must respect and abide by human rights and democracy. The government need to fulfil minority right and not only the government but civil society organisations also need to cooperate in this. Civil society organisations need to enable the grass root people to express their opinions and views on the daily issues they faced. Hluttaw also need to repeal laws that are hindering human rights. 1923 National Secret Act need to be reviewed to enable news collection. Laws protecting workers and farmers should be enacted.
Pyithu Hluttaw representative U Phyo Zeya Thaw said in Myanmar political transition process, mindsets need to be changed as mentioned by the State Counsellor. If the mindsets are as in the past, it will be an obstacle to the transition process. Similarly, the State Counsellor has guided us not to be trapped in the past.
In the past, the opposition didn’t dwell in the losses but thought and worked together with an optimistic view for the goodness and development of the country, for the birth of a true and a democratic nation and a democratic system that is acceptable by all ethnic nationals. Thus the military and civil services are urged to overcome what was done in past and work for a better future.
The strongest organisation in the present transition process is the hluttaw. It had repealed the laws that are causing a burden and difficulties to the people while enacting laws that protect and benefitted the people.
Amyotha Hluttaw representative U Aung Kyi Nyunt discussed that although he is satisfied with present situation, much still need to be done. The present situation is to be accepted as an historical existence.
2008 Constitution can be observed as a constitution that had primary emphasis placed on security out of apprehension. There is no argument against preventing the disintegration of the nation. But the path toward the final destination was made with a single law and a single force resulting in an unending problem that exists up to the present.
Setting up a federal democracy union for Myanmar’s future at the Union Peace Conference – 21st Century Panglong is considered as a huge transition. Organisations involved need to meet repeatedly and through this (good) relation and understanding will be attained. Additionally, the aspirations of the each organisations will be known and must be made known transparently to the people of the country who are making the decision. This part will involve the media. Civil society organisation with good aims must be encouraged to implement with full power. It is expected that through this there will be transition and progress.
In the afternoon, a penal discussion under the same title was conducted with international ambassadors that were moderated by Mizzima Media Group Managing Director U Soe Myint and panellists were Singapore Ambassador to Myanmar H.E. Mr. Chua Hian Kong Robert and Norway Ambassador to Myanmar H.E. Ms Tone Tinnes.
Singapore Ambassador H.E. Mr. Chua Hian Kong Robert said Myanmar had more than 130 nationals and there were ongoing conflicts with some ethnic nationals. Myanmar is believed to continue with it works for democracy. Myanmar Summer is better than Arab Spring. Successful nation are disciplined and united. Myanmar’s independent architect Bogyoke was very far sighted. The need for unity was mentioned in his 1947 speeches.
People of Myanmar can formulate Myanmar’s democracy. The government need to handle political processes with unity and wisdom. The government is seen to be inviting all stakeholders to the roundtable for peace. Work also needs to be done for economic development. Peace and democracy must be continued to be established with the government and people working together.
In economic, Myanmar is trying to become a middle-income country by 2030. Civil services reforms and capacity building will be provided by working in cooperation with international organisations. There are challenges of ethnic conflict in social development. An appropriate solution for the country should be sought with the help of international organisations. For social development in Myanmar, international organisations can assist in education and health sector and social discipline. These are just his view for Myanmar. He is confident that Myanmar will move forward to democracy. The cost will be enormous if there is back tracking.
Norway Ambassador to Myanmar H.E. Ms. Tone Tinnes said discussions made at the Forum on Myanmar Democratic Transition is related not only to Myanmar alone but also the entire world. I’ve heard of differences. Political transition, peace process and economic transition were being done. We will help Myanmar in its transition and share our experience. There are affective progresses in the economic sector. Laws are enacted to attract foreign and local investors. The challenge of attracting good investment is the same challenge faced by other countries.
Many countries are encouraging freedom of speech. What can be done and what is restricted need to be discussed in Myanmar in the same way as was discussed in Norway. Peace process was started in the political transition. This is a process that need to be done long term. There were important progresses. We have different experiences and the best experience need to be studied. Myanmar need to strive to become a middle income country from a least developed country. Norway and Myanmar is similar in being rich in natural resources. Norway will share its experience in these sectors. Norway can help in good management practise to get the best benefit from natural resources.
Afterward, forum attendees’ questions were answered by the panellists.—Myanmar News Agency