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Myanmar will never be a democracy until the military fully relinquishes power, according to a veteran pro-democracy campaigner who believes that Aung San Suu Kyi is too conciliatory towards the former junta.
Win Tin speaks to reporters after his release from Yangon's Insein Prison, on Sept 23, 2008. The senior NLD figure still wears a blue shirt, the colour of his prison uniform, and says he will not wear any other colour until every political prisoner in Myanmar is free. (Reuters photo)Win Tin, 83, was tortured and kept in solitary confinement for 19 years after he was arrested and imprisoned in 1989 for inciting “anti-government propaganda”.
The senior National League for Democracy (NLD) figure said that the party’s leader, Mrs Suu Kyi, isn’t going far enough in efforts to push through reforms following five decades of military rule.
“Some of us would like to push the military into the Bay of Bengal. She only wants to push them into Kandawgyi Lake,” he told the Washington Post in an interview published on Wednesday, referring to a lake in the centre of Yangon.
“She thinks she can persuade all the military leaders to become her friends and come to her side.
“But people suffered a lot [under military rule]. Without pushing the military out, we won’t achieve any democracy, any human rights.”
Despite his concerns, Mr Win Tin said that he respects Mrs Suu Kyi and strongly believes in her commitment to democracy. He added that while he has reservations about her tactics, if anyone can tame the generals, she can.
The military’s grip on control of Myanmar loosened in 2011, with nods made to democracy by President Thein Sein, including the release of political prisoners and elections that saw Mrs Suu Kyi elected to parliament.
Mr Win says that despite the reforms, Myanmar remains far from reaching his democratic ideals.
“Although I am a free man, I feel my whole country is still in jail,” he said
“There are no great prison walls, but we are still in chains.”
Myanmar’s constitution was re-written in 2010, guaranteeing the military a quarter of parliamentary seats, allowing it to declare a state of emergency and to dismiss a democratically elected government.
Mrs Suu Kyi would be blocked from becoming president, even if the NLD were to win an election.
“Some of us would like to withdraw this constitution and create a new one,” Mr Win said.
Myanmar scrapped pre-publication censorship rules in August 2012, ending controls that applied to everything from newspapers to song lyrics, and will permit private daily newspapers to be printed from April 1.
Media groups reacted with dismay earlier this month, however, over a proposed law to regulate the press that has raised fears the government could be reneging on its promise to loosen its grip on the long-shackled industry.
The printing and publishing bill, drafted by the ministry of information, has listed a number of restrictions, including reporting on clashes between ethnic groups and producing articles that "violate" the constitution.
Mr Win, who writes an uncensored weekly column and broadcasts a weekly radio show that mocks the government, the military and their business allies, said that the media should push for greater freedom.
“Many journalists, many politicians may think the situation they are in is good enough,” he said.
“They are quite contented, and they do not want to attack the government. They don’t want to be outspoken. That is a problem.”