Monday, 1 April 2013

Weekly Highlights-Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s Political Reconciliation with Burma’s Armed Forces

25-31 March 2013
Weekly Highlights
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s Political Reconciliation with Burma’s Armed Forces

On 27 March, Burma’s Armed Forces Day was commemorated with its usual military fanfare. But this year, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi sat in the front row of the parade, raising concerns about her closeness to the army.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was similarly criticized for her comment on BBC’s Desert Island Disks radio show about her “fondness” for her father’s army. While Daw Suu appears to be cozying up the Burma Army as an attempt of political reconciliation in her push towards the 2015 elections, the public widely continues to see the country’s security forces as the perpetrators of human rights violations especially in ethnic nationality areas and of brutal crackdowns on civilians in 1988, 2007 and most recently in November 2012 against protesters and monks at the Letpadaung copper mine.

The Burma Army continued this week to launch offensives against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in northeastern Shan State, two weeks after the latest peace talks in Ruili, China. There have also been reports of shelling and looting of villages in Kachin State despite President Thein Sein insisting on his visit to Austria at the beginning of the month, “There’s no more hostilities, no more fighting all over the country, we have been able to end this kind of armed conflict.” General Gun Maw, deputy chief of the KIA said after the 11 March talks, “They wanted us to sign a ceasefire agreement first, but there are many issues to discuss about the peace process before we can reach a ceasefire.”

Furthermore, the military has been implicated in the violence in Meikhtila, which has left 43 dead and 12,000 displaced by UN estimates. The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma, Tomás Ojea Quintana, revealed, “I have received reports of State involvement in some of the acts of violence, and of instances where the military, police and other civilian law enforcement forces have been standing by while atrocities have been committed before their very eyes, including by well organised ultra-nationalist Buddhist mobs. This may indicate direct involvement by some sections of the State or implicit collusion and support for such actions.”
In President Thein Sein’s speech on 28 March, he praised the army for playing “a pivotal role in safeguarding property and assisting victims.” In reality security forces took 3 days to respond to the violence in Meikhtila, allowing the destruction of property and attacks on people to continue. Human Rights Watch has released satellite images showing the extent of the destruction in the city.
With the military implicit in such violence, it is alarming to see Daw Aung San Suu Kyi sitting front and center at military parades, showing her de facto support for the role of the military in Burma’s transition. Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said at the Armed Forces Day ceremony, “While the country is moving toward modern democracy, our military plays a leading role in national politics. We will keep on marching to strengthen the democratic administrative path wished by the entire people.”
It is clear that the military has no will to let the civilian government lead the country politically, which poses a distinct threat to the Burma’s democratic transition. The truth remains that the military stands in the way of genuine democratic transition through its 2008 Constitution, which still bars Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from running for the presidency. Recently, two former generals from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) proposed and Parliament agreed to form a commission that will review the 2008 Constitution. Even if the military and its political party, the USDP, agree to particular changes that would allow Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to run for President, without thorough amendments that reduce the military’s power in Parliament, protect human rights for all and ensure a peaceful federal union, Burma will continue to be under the boot of the military rather than a true democracy.
News Highlights
According to state media, death toll in communal violence in Meikhtila has risen to 43
Violence spreads to Pegu Region and authorities impose curfews in more townships
Inside Burma
The government warns that religious violence could threaten democratic reforms and President Thein Sein blames the riots on “political opportunists and religious extremists” and warns that he “will not hesitate to use force” to quell the unrest
The President’s Office announces the formation a 10-member Central Management Committee for Emergency Period to deal with the riots and the Meikhtila investigation commission says it is is in its final stage of its report
Ye Htut, spokesman for the President’s Office, refutes the UN Special Rapporteur Tomás Ojea Quintana’s statement about receiving reports that the state was involved in the violence in Meikhtila
Young Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and Hindus call for peace and sign an appeal for "an end to violence"
The Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) requests meeting with peace negotiator Aung Min to clarify the terms of ceasefire agreement as sporadic clashes between the Burma Army and RCSS/SSA continue
The United Wa State Army says it will continue to work toward achieving an independent state
US Ambassador Derek Mitchell and Assistant Secretary for Conflict and Stabilization Operations Fredrick Barton travel to Karenni State to discuss conflict resolution and landmine education
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees and partners provide aid to Ban Mae Surin refugee camp in Thailand after deadly fire while a police officer claiming the fire was not an accident is transferred to inactive post
Japan grants $1.2 million to the Myanmar Peace Center and $11 million to be distributed through Japanese NGOs towards resettlement of displaced persons in Karen State
The United States is providing $100,000 to help the victims of communal riots and says it is deeply concerned by the violence
Former US President Jimmy Carter plans to visit Burma to explore ways to support the ongoing democratic transition
Canada appoints Mark McDowell as first-ever Ambassador to Burma
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warns of humanitarian crisis in Arakan State

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