The reactions by some of Burmese opposition groups at home and abroad have been pretty negative to the recent release of prisoners which include over 200 political prisoners. Why can’t you welcome and appreciate the new initiative steps taken by the new government?
Slow down your rhetoric! This is my message to opposition groups.
We know, the number of political prisoner release is smaller than we wanted to. However, we must see this progress in the light of where the government is heading. Government wants to make rebuild the nation and it knows this requires “national reconciliation” although their definition and criteria might be a little skewed and not totally right. But I am very sure if opposition groups can negotiate and make their demands known through a healthy political culture such as by participating in parliament. Of course, not all your wants and demands will be met by the government. This is even true in a genuine democracy where everybody has to make concessions and get only parts of their demands.
We know, the current parliament and political system of so called “discipline democracy” is not exactly what we wanted such as a truly free democracy. But this is our job later to demand the political system to be more inclusive over time after we demonstrate we can always resolve our issues peacefully through political means. Here I would like to note that we Myanmar people never governed ourselves in truly democratic manner or system ever. This partly has to do with our culture where criticisms are not tolerated and respect to elders were often confused with authoritarian practices and bribery. In other word, we all still need to learn a lot about how to appreciate differences and resolves them through discussion and objective analysis.
A quarter of the current Myanmar parliament is seated by military representatives and the political system is highly dominated by the army. However, given the lack of strong civil society and ongoing civil wars in the country after decades of turbulence and dictatorship, the presence of military participation in the parliament is highly practical. However, I strongly despised the non-transparent election process and rigged voting last year. Anyhow, I believe things will progress and move towards to more civilian-dominated government over time if we civilian politicians can demonstrate the country can move forward under their leadership maintaining the three principles the successive military regimes utter most: non-integration of the Union, preservation of the sovereignty of the nation and solidarity of Union spirit among our ethnic nationalities. Here, these three principles are also very practical objectives although I greatly differ with how they are approaching to reach these goals.
So in summary, please slow down your rhetoric, work together with the government, build confidence and trust between each other, then I definitely believe release of remaining political prisoners will follow when you reach to a point to be able to convince the military side that we are “workable” partners with the same goal of putting the country first. Again if you feel in the shoes of the “pro-military” groups or whatever you want to call, it is not their interest to lock up and jail their own citizens. They know it is ugly and despicable in the international community. I am not being hyper-apologist for military men but suggesting to understand their stakes and get what you want cleverly.