Recently, I have watched a video interview by VOA Burmese reporter with Myanmar’s Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin. By observing the terms and tone expressed by the minister, I feel really discouraged about having a good faith in Myanmar’s current reform process.
The most striking thing to me is his categorical denial about the existence of political prisoners in Burma. What he is saying is all the prominent activists such as Min Ko Naing are jailed for breaking the existing laws and order, but not for doing politics. We all know all these charges are politically motivated, and anyone who criticizes the government can be jailed under previous SPDC regime. Anyhow, let examine the claims made by the minister analytically.
1. Breaking the existing laws? These laws they charge against political activists are broadly and arbitrarily defined. If we put these laws in the light of judgement by credible independent body, we will find them very controversial and subtle in its use.
2. How was the court process when making judicial decisions for political prisoner? It was ZERO transparency and absolutely opaque. The judges were just a parrot, nothing more than reading out the decisions already made by the generals, even before court process begins.
With this kind of unfair and incredible judicial system existed under former military regime, how can he claim there is no political prisoner? If I were a reporter there, I would like to ask him what is the definition of political prisoner accepted by their government and if there is an instance of such cases, please let us know who he/she is.
Implications of such categorical denial are very profound for Burma’s future for moving forward to a democratic society. It simply means engaging in politics or freedom of expression such as criticizing the government is a crime. If we cannot get such basic rights, there will never be a functioning democracy but only a fake one in the sake of its name.
While I am not an advocate for 100% truly democratic society in Burma in overnights, I believe to build a good and clean government as claimed by President Thein Sein, you need to acknowledge certain basic rights of the people to provide a good feedback mechanism to the government and wider participation by people for development of the country.