Thursday, 2 October 2008

Win Tin’s Logical Principles

The Irrawaddy News

The expression, Suu Hlut Twe, offers three simple ideas to break the country’s chronic political stand off between the military and political opposition groups.

Suu stands for pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the unconditional release of all political prisoners.

Hlut stands for Hluttaw (people’s parliament) and the convening of parliament with the representatives of the 1990 elections.

Twe stands for dialogue between the military government and opposition groups.

Those were three basic ideas that prominent journalist-turned-politician Win Tin held to during his 19-year imprisonment. It was his commitment to the pro-democracy movement that helped him overcome harsh obstacles in prison, said the 79-year-old NLD opposition leader days after his release in late September.

Win Tin said he will continue to work toward those simple principles in the ongoing struggle for democracy. Win Tin, who was a secretary in Suu Kyi’s opposition National League for Democracy before his arrest in 1989, was reappointed to his old position as a member of the party’s Central Executive Committee on September 27 during the NLD’s 20th anniversary in Rangoon.

Win Tin’s principles harkens back to the NLD policies in place following the 1990 elections. In the passage of years, the military regime has consistently dismissed all NLD proposals and, instead, gone its own way—following its “road map” to democracy that simply excludes all opposition groups and main ethnic political parties.

Burma’s Foreign Minister Nyan Win told the UN General Assembly on Monday, “Peace and stability now prevails in almost all parts of the country.” The former military officer said the government’s road map offers the best chance for a return to civilian rule.

The junta’s planned election in 2010 is the next step on its road map. After the election, the junta claims it will hand over power to a civilian government. Last year the junta concluded its 14-year National Convention, which drafted a constitution, since approved that guarantees the military will control the pseudo-civilian government.

The regime’s foreign minister told the UN assembly, “All citizens, regardless of political affiliation, will have equal rights to form political parties and to conduct elections campaigns.” However, some former political prisoners and activists are likely to be banned from taking part in the election.

The NLD boycotted the junta’s National Convention in 1995 and consistently criticized the regime’s road map as illegitimate, calling it one-sided and lacking the participation of the 1990-elected members of parliament. Last week, in a statement the NLD called for the junta to review the constitution.

The head of Burma’s police, Brig-Gen Khin Yi, warned NLD’s leaders to withdraw their critical statement, saying it could provoke citizens to make critical comments against the government, which—by law—is illegal in Burma because it could provoke instability.

Similar demand by the UN special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, was also ignored by the regime.

On Saturday, the UN’s Group of Friends of Myanmar—composed of the United States, Britain, China, Southeast Asian countries and the European Union—again called for the release of all political prisoners.

But it’s quite unlikely. The junta’s recent release of less than 10 political prisoners, including Win Tin, won it praise from some countries. The release was part of a general amnesty for about 9,000 prisoners convicted of criminal offenses.

The remaining 2,000 political prisoners are unlikely to enjoy an amnesty anytime soon. The junta considers the jailed pro-democracy advocates “destructive elements of the country” and, as a result, most of them have no chance of release until after the 2010 election.

Recently, The Irrawaddy learned from intelligence sources that an election law for the upcoming 2010 election is now on Than Shwe’s desk in Naypyidaw waiting to be signed. He’s still the only person who has the power to determine Burma’s course.

Win Tin’s Suu Hlut Twe policy is logical. Like everything in Burma, however, the ideas have to be acceptable to Than Shwe.

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