“To be honest, party leader Aung San Suu Kyi and I were both very worried,” Nyan Win told me on Nov. 28, after national elections in Myanmar.
Nyan Win, a gentle-mannered man of 73, is a member of the Central Executive Committee in Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. At times, his eyes would sparkle as he peered through his glasses during a visit to Japan, his first at the invitation of the government.
His remark that he was “worried” was surprising because the NLD had won an expected landslide victory.
Nyan Win is said to be part of Suu Kyi’s “inner circle inside the inner circle.” However, he is not a lawmaker; rather, his days are spent dealing with party business. He won a seat in the 1990 general election, but he did not become a lawmaker then.
Just like this year, the NLD recorded a crushing election victory, but in 1990 the military government refused to accept the results. Memories of that difficult period are why Nyan Win cannot feel at ease until the transition of power actually takes place.
“If we’re going to change, it must be now. Only the NLD can change this situation,” one impassioned voter told me during the election campaign. Many others felt the same way, but I also heard people saying that “bad things happen” when change occurs in Myanmar.
While the nation appears to be moving along the path of democratization, there is still deep public distrust of the central government. A high-ranking editor of a major Myanmar newspaper told me, “Many people here still feel traumatized by the repeated swings between delight and despair.”
The modern era in Myanmar has been a dark period of history during which the “state” has trampled on the expectations of the people many times. The democratic movement that was going from strength to strength in 1988 was crushed by the military.
After the 1990 election, the military government resisted calls to release Suu Kyi from house arrest and rejected demands by democratic forces to immediately relinquish power. Instead, it kept a firm grip on the government.
It appears the military has decided not to follow the same strategy this time. Soon after this year’s election, Suu Kyi called for direct talks with Myanmar President Thein Sein, military commander in chief Min Aung Hlaing and other members of the military establishment.
At these talks, which were held in the capital, Naypyidaw, on Dec. 2, the leaders announced they would cooperate to ensure a smooth transition of power. Yet, unease lingers over whether this process really will go without a hitch.
Myanmar’s Constitution states that the heads of three key ministries — defense, home affairs and border affairs — are chosen by the head of the army, not the president. The top law also stipulates the commander in chief can “take over and exercise” state power by declaring a state of emergency. Simply put, in every important aspect of managing state affairs, the seeds of a return to military government remain.
Just before the election, I visited a settlement home for poor people on the outskirts of Yangon. I met a 50-year-old mother of five living an impoverished life, lacking even drinking water. She is an NLD supporter.
“Even if the NLD wins this election, I don’t know if a power transition will occur smoothly,” the woman said. “But I want to dream, just a little, that it will.”
A new administration is scheduled to be launched at the end of March. Deepening dialogue between Myanmar’s leaders will be the first step to wiping away the distrust held by many people. This time, the election result must not be allowed to end up as just a “dream.”
Source Japan Times