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Commentary: Leading by example


Mar 2, 2009 (DVB), It is now 2009. As time passes, we cannot forget that a new year is looming before us. The year 2010 will soon be here, bringing with it important decisions for all the people of Burma.

2010 is not very far away at all. That year will be very important for Burma and its people of all ethnic groups, both inside and outside the country. We can not put off thinking about the planned election, but some people will forget about, others will pretend to forget and some will not think about it at all.

The military government has announced that there will be an election in 2010, totally ignoring the voices of its own people. Many of us who are working for change in Burma oppose the 2010 election but some people just stay quiet and close their eyes and ears to the situation. Some people may not think 2010 is important for them because they know they can make a lot of profit from the democracy movement and from the military junta however the situation develops.

So, what about the situation of the democracy movement in exile? How are they preparing for the upcoming election? We don't know exactly what their strategy will be for this important time. In fact, so much of the news we have heard is about leaders in the democracy movement who are fighting each other, undermining each other and making each other weaker and weaker. This is not for the sake of the movement or to bring about change in Burma for their own personal gain, and makes them appear stupid and undignified. We are looking for leaders we can trust and a revolutionary spirit, but we cannot find them.

I believe that the leaders are an example for young people and the new generation. All of us , young people, the new generation, leaders and the people , have to work hard to change our dictatorial system and restore democracy to Burma. Our leaders today are people who participated in the nationwide demonstrations in 1988, who sacrificed their lives for the people of Burma and who shared their feelings of solidarity with each other and the younger generation. We really do appreciate all they have done for the movement.

But now, the people we really respected are fighting each other instead of fighting against the military junta. They are spending so much time and energy finding out each other's weaknesses and trying to bring each other down. They are wasting their energy on useless matters. The trust and understanding between them is collapsing day by day.

We haven't seen any preparations for the 2010 election yet but we can see some of the activities of the so-called leaders. The issues with the resettlement programme in the refugee camps are well known. Many of the leaders are trying hard to send their family members and children abroad on the resettlement programme. Though they keep talking about commitment to the movement, some are actually committed to finding a high salary for themselves. Some of these leaders keep throwing regular parties, spending money on expensive alcohol and delicious food, but when money is needed for donations they won't even spare 100 baht from their wallets. Despite their claims of commitment, many of these people won't even write articles for papers, websites or newsletters unless they can be sure of a fee.

Within the organisations which are fighting for human rights, democracy and freedom for Burma, people are not actually practising democratic principles. Almost every organisation claims not to be following a top-down system and to welcome the participation of young people and junior staff, but in reality they have no voice in the decision making.

We are supposed to be fighting against the dictatorial system and the military government but actually we can see power struggles among our own leaders in the democracy movement. Some of them don't want to lose the positions which guarantee them a regular and generous monthly salary. Here is a question for our leaders: is the movement just a way for you to gain personal benefits? I have met many leaders who have graduated with master's degrees and PhDs from famous universities such as Harvard and Oxford. But how many of them come back to the border to work for the people of Burma after they have finished university?

2010 is very close and we should not waste timing fighting each other and looking for each other's weaknesses. Instead, we should work hard and prepare for the future of Burma. We should find the weaknesses of the military junta and use this time to prepare ourselves as well.

We have so many leaders in our movement but how many of them are really sacrificing their lives and working for the movement? This kind of situation makes me so unhappy. How can we trust these leaders to bring about a positive future for Burma? Are they going to be good leaders for us or will we just end up with another dictatorship thinking only of its own profit?

Everything we do during our struggle for change in Burma will determine the future for the next generation. Therefore, we would like to be proud of our leaders and how hard they work for us and how they have sacrificed their lives for our freedom. But if the situation continues like this, how can we expect to have a good future for our country?

We already feel ashamed wherever we go because of the military regime and we don't want to feel ashamed of our so-called leaders in the democracy movement as well. As one of the young people of Burma, I would like to ask our leaders not to pass on Burma's terrible legacy to the new generation. Please set a good example for our generation; we would like to be proud of you.


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