This is Burma, this is our reality

This week the Burmese junta officially handed over power from the military clique that has ruled the country for decades, marking what it claims is the start of a steady transition to civilian governance. That pledge has however been met with doubt: many of the key players in the junta have shed their fatigues and now hold influential positions in the new parliament, while there appears to be little mooted change in government policy and priorities. Here, 10 influential Burmese figures share their thoughts on this week’s events.

Aung San Suu Kyi, leader, National League for Democracy (NLD)

We always want to have a good relationship [with the junta] so we are hoping it will get better. This is neither from an optimists or pessimists point of view – we have to look at this objectively. We wish the relationship will get better for the sake of the country.  However, we can only speak about what we wish for, but only the concerned individuals can know what kind of relationship [the new government] will have with us. As for us, we will try to make the best of what we can.

Aye Lwin, chairman, Union of Myanmar Federation of National Politics (UMFNP)

We see that the 2008 constitution has now fully come to life so can assume that people can now fully practice their rights provided by the constitution. We have to see how the government will handle and respond to this. The constitution talks of the freedom to organise so we have to see if the formation of social organisations such as student, labour and farmer unions will be allowed, and how much freedom would be given to them to fight for their rights.

Win Tin, CEC member, National League for Democracy (NLD)

We are not pessimists – we also look on the bright side. However, we have to be aware that this government is neither civilian nor a change to a new government. Neither is it the change that some people are saying it is. There is nothing different. We do not feel very uplifted that the same people are taking office. [The NLD] will stick to our procedure which we have been working on for 20 years for national reconciliation. We even tried to approach the previous military government so we are at least planning to also try to approach and hope for something out of this government.

Thakin Chan Htun, veteran politician

“They are still the same people, just under a new title. I don’t think there’ll be any significant [change] with the new government, which will continue to be led by U Thein Sein and senior army officials. However, they’ve applied a better look as now they can say the country has switched to civilian government from the previous military rulers. I just hope to see in the near future a genuine [civilian] government that is elected by the people.”

Anonymous monk, All Burma Monks’ Alliance (ABMA)

I don’t see that any changes are coming – this is only a change in the external appearance, to prolong the military dictatorship. There is no change in essence – the same policies are still being practiced by the same people. People continue to live under oppression. Monks remain in prison while more are being arrested. There is no way we can trust [the new government] under these circumstances.

Aye Thar Aung, secretary, Committee Representing the People’s Parliament [1990]

These are parts of the procedure we already expected to take place. We just hope for a new government that will strive for the change longed for by the country and its people. But we don’t assume this government, born out of the 2008 constitution, is the kind we mentioned. So our struggle for change is likely to continue.

Thein Nyunt, deputy chairman, National Democratic Force (NDF)

This may not be up to the full standards or values we were expecting, however – the introduction to a new tradition of peaceful power transition and an official recognition of the [2010] election results. History will judge the decision not to convene the parliament according to the results of the 1990 elections.

Hpone Myint Aung, MP, National Democratic Force (NDF)

We grew up during the time of the Burmese Socialist Programme Party and mostly we had to be on the run whenever there was a change in government or the system. But today, the transition was carried out smoothly and no one is on the run – so it’s most convenient for people with experience like us.

Maung Wuntha, veteran journalist

We can see this as a change – the birth of a new government led by President Thein Sein from previous rule of a military council. We have to wait and see how much change and progress will be made. People must be granted their rights as directed by the constitution and we, as journalists, will have to remind them what their rights and responsibilities are.

Maw Than, economist

There may be a lot of changes, with regards to economic sanctions and such, if international governments believe Burma has transformed to a civilian government from the previous military junta.

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