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HomeAnalysisThe rise of Asia’s ‘bulletocracy’

The rise of Asia’s ‘bulletocracy’

Surprisingly, the military junta of Burma has enjoyed being a media celebrity in the build up to the 2010 elections; its so-called attempt to “guide flourishing democracy”. Freedom is down to zero in the country, and thus it is easy to advertise an election because so many things have gone wrong for the people since the last polls in 1990. The fundamental question is: when will the military generals hand over power to a fairly elected government? The logical answer appears to be not any time soon.

Most of Burma’s neighbouring countries seem to prefer an election that brings a new military regime to Burma, although the trends are not a great for this either. Both the election and the general-dominated regime are similar to the twin ugly sisters, but this election will be the uglier one. Nothing can express the beauty on the political landscape of this election, because, the generals have created a unilateral game. No development is convincing people that Burma is on the path toward democracy and peace, although the junta has occasionally promised to reinstall these aspects in Burma. However, the generals are marketing their election within the international arena, in particular at the countless meetings of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Recently, 20 military generals changed from their military uniform to civilian clothes to contest this election, even though they still squat in power and have formed an election commission, which is composed of ex-generals.

The major problem with this election is the prohibiting of public assembly and the annihilating of freedom of speech. Another utterly ugly fact is that this election is being held while thousands of people have been locked up for being pro-democratic, and millions of ethnic minorities have been slaughtered since the regime came into power.  On top of this, almost all of the state’s media outlets – newspapers, radio and television – have been assigned as the junta’s spin doctors for the election. As well as the internal media being under control, international election monitoring teams are officially rejected and visa applications for foreign journalists are banned. With all this taking place, it is certain that there will be no free and fair election in Burma under the military’s election council, only a hybrid ontology: bulletocracy and helmetocracy.

The numbers of political parties have mushroomed to contest this upcoming election. In the short term, they are spoiled with attention by exiled media and encouraged by them; however, in the long term, the political picture of Burma remains typical. Any excitement for the elections is evidently difficult to find given the lack of quality media being brought out of Burma. No one running for elections has developed any significant policies yet, and party leaders are parroting on about quasi-democracy models instead of developing and promoting their own social, economic and political policies. Simultaneously, some new faces who wish to contest power have branded themselves as the ‘third force’ to get a piece of bulletocracy and helmetocracy. These chameleons have not brought any new policy either, and are just bowing to the generals’ will.

On top of this, there is no clear time frame or procedure to hand over state power after the election. The election contesters are obliged to follow the order and commands from senior general Than Shwe. No one knows what will happen next; when the election will happen and how the minority parties will line up against the regime. What the generals do sentimentally believe is that they can sell their bulletocracy to the neighbouring countries, especially China, India, Thailand, Singapore and ASEAN. As long as the gas, teak and minerals are still being traded, international legitimacy for the Burmese regime is of little interest to its neighbours. Burmese generals are breaking the record of the rise of an illiberal democracy and are making a new one: the rise of bulletocracy in the Asian Century.

With respect to the election laws and the constitutions of Burma, they were promulgated by the military generals. The latest 2008 constitution was plotted with 110 members of the 440-seat People’s Parliament (Pyithu Hluttaw), and 56 members of the 224-seat National Parliament (Amyotha Hluttaw) who were be selected by the military generals. Technically, a quarter of parliamentary seats were reserved for unelected military generals. Equally, the constitution, the election laws and Election Commission have been hegemonised by the military generals. Unsurprisingly, there is no space for individual liberty, peoples participation in the decision-making process and the market.

With respect to the economic factors, Burma’s human development index and anti-corruption index rank among some of the lowest in the world. It is one of the world’s leading narcotics exporters, but GDP has had deficits for more than five decades, wth no systematic fiscal and monetary policies implemented. Burma has neither sound international trade and is not attractive to foreign directed investment (FDI). With respect to monetary policy, it has had three genres of foreign exchange systems since 1990: current/market prices, fixed-regime prices and quasi-fixed foreign exchange certificates (FEC). Such monetary policy cannot pursue global capital investment and money markets. On top of this, the central bank of Burma prints paper money rather than deploying the inflation-targeting by adjusting official cash flow and exchange rates. Equally, there is zero incentive for middle-class creation, economic growth or exported-driven economic development. Therefore, the remedy of an election has zero interest for global money markets and transnational corporations.

The empirical fact is that the legitimate Burmese leader is Daw Aung San Suu Kyi; the trump card is in her hands. Thousands upon thousands of democracy activists have been selflessly following her leadership in domestic and international arenas. The game is not over yet, and her leadership is still overwhelmingly dominated by the new generations of Burma. The struggle between the legitimate democrats and illegitimate bulletocrats will be continuing for decades, as long as these military thugs hijack the power.


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