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Transition comes before democracy in Myanmar

(Global Times)

08:39, July 06, 2012

Tin Maung Thann

Editor's Note:

Myanmar's rapid political changes last year surprised the world, and have received widespread positive comments. The government and the National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi are now in a tentative dialogue as reforms continue. Can Suu Kyi fulfill people's hopes? What new attitude will Myanmar take to China? Global Times (GT) reporter Yu Jincui talked to Tin Maung Thann (Thann), president of Myanmar Egress, a government think tank, on these issues.

GT: Many Myanmese see Suu Kyi as the hope of the country. Can Suu Kyi meet people's expectations?

Thann: Sui Kyi's role is clear. She is a democratic icon. If you follow her statements, they are very much politically correct from a moral perspective. But implementing this will be the biggest challenge for her now.

She is 67 years old, and without a strong will, she couldn't be as active as she is. But we know she is a very strong lady.

But her party, the NLD, never had the chance to institutionalize party building. For the last 20 years, they have had to struggle underground. They haven't had any time to build a base.

If she wants to deliver all the things she promises the people, she needs a strong base, but this isn't the case at present.

Whether she will fulfill her promises depends on how she will deliver. Of course she can do a lot of things we cannot do, but she needs people on the ground. It will be a very difficult time for her.

GT: How do you view the relations between Suu Kyi and the government?

Thann: It's a political compromise for both sides. Suu Kyi has changed her party's position and her own. It is a negotiated agreement. The only thing promised is that neither Suu Kyi nor the government will backstab each other. But if we cannot develop this into real political confidence, that would be a big challenge. Both sides behave, but generally speaking, there is no systematic forum to talk.

GT: Some see the recent conflicts in the state of Rakhaing as a backward step on Myanmar's path to democracy. How do you view this?

Thann: No, this has nothing to do with democratic reform. In Asian societies, this kind of social problem can happen at any time with any small spark. Like this time, the tensions are there because of population pressure.

We have to tackle the identity of the minority groups, they are part of our nation, and we should provide them with the fundamental freedom of human rights.

Citizenship is a big question, and we have to settle this one through the political process.

The previous government did not offer that kind of process, they did not have political dialogue with the society, but now it's possible. There's a long way to go, but we need to cool down and restart the dialogue.

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