Elections in Myanmar: between tensions and hopes
The lady as it is now popularly known, Nobel Prize for Peace in 1991, chose her Facebook page to send an official message in English which can be caught by his countrymen (who addressed then a text in the local language), but also by international public opinion. In the video message Aung San Suu Kyi stressed that the vote of 8 November will be a “crossroads” in the history of Myanmar. “For the first time in decades – he adds – our people will have a real chance to bring about real change. This is a chance that we must not miss.”
Daughter of the man who is considered the father of independent Myanmar (the former Burma), Aung San Suu Kyi lost her father at the age of two years, when the country was able to obtain the liberation from British colonialism. Killed by a political opponent, the leader left his wife a political legacy and the indomitable little daughter a markedly over the years has led it to be the image of the opposition to the regime that held the Asian country blocked for decades, both in the economic process that in most elementary norms of individual and social freedom.
After his return in 1988, triumphantly welcomed, the Burmese leader has faced years of house arrest and humiliation of all kinds. To prevent her from becoming President was approved a new Constitution that prohibits those who have any family relationship with foreigners to access this charge. The Aung San Suu Kyi was, in fact, married to an Englishman known in New York when he served at the United Nations after completing his studies at Oxford.
In the country there is now an air of great hope. Already in 1990 it was hoped that the election result, which saw the triumph of the slight iron woman, could give a new direction to Myanmar. The outcome of the polls was overturned by the intervention of the brutal regime that forced the opposition leader under house arrest, but in 2010 sparking demonstrations by Buddhist monks who filled the streets of Yangon to demonstrate for freedom.
In the exercise of 8 November election will be over 30 million citizens eligible to vote, many of them for the first time. For the first time the main political parties of the country will be present. Vying there are approximately between 90 political parties and movements of various kinds and extraction, a number unthinkable a few years ago in the South-east Asian nation ruled by a strict military dictatorship.
Parliament will then elect the President. The main favorite to win remains the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), a branch of the former junta, which together with the 25% of which is reserved for military law somewhere Assembly, controls the political and institutional life of the Country.
The social situation of the country is far from simple. As mentioned, Myanmar has known for a few years a new economic recovery that is rapidly changing the face of the country especially in urban areas. Yangon has trasformed in recent years, while still showing problems of economic and structural which distinguishes the country from neighboring Thailand. A further cause for concern is the growth of Buddhist fundamentalism, a new but worrying phenomenon.
Aside from the painful situation of the minority of Rohingas, a community rejected by everyone in Southeast Asia in recent times, they have been imposed rules to regulate polygamy and conversions. Strongly desired by Ma Ba Tha, a Buddhist group that represents the lunatic fringe of the Burmese Theravada Buddhism, to hit the Muslim minority (and not only that), they are likely to destroy the hope of a united, democratic and modern Myanmar. It’s a series of decisions that, according to activists and experts, affect the rights and traditions of the Muslim minority (5% of the total) and the Christian one (about 8%).
To point out these dangers, on the eve of democratic elections, Card. Charles Maung Bo, archbishop of Yangon, has complained that the Parliament under pressure from a religious elite has approved (and President Thein Sein signed) four “black laws”. Standards, he adds, that “were not designed by the representatives elected by the people of Myanmar”, but an “extra-parliamentary fringe” that foments hatred, division and represents a danger to democracy.
There are four laws within the package “Read in defense of race and religion,” which includes, among other things, the need for an “approval” of the authorities to change their religion. The Burmese government denies that the rules have been written specifically for the Muslim community, which accounts for about 5% of the total in Myanmar. Cardinal Yangoon wished to draw the millennial teachings of the Buddha and Buddhism that promote peace, mercy, compassion, within which “there is no room for hatred.”
“Every effort to distort the image of pristine Buddhism and his message of universal love – says Cardinal Bo – must be fought by every inhabitant of our nation. The narratives of hatred in the name of religion are an insult to the teachings of the Great Masters. “These four laws,” reaffirms the cardinal, “are the result of this deep hatred” and this is why the legislature “should review them” to avert the danger “of other decades of conflict to come.”
Finally, Cardinal Bo finds the real challenge to which the country, its people,its religious leaders and its political class should give a concrete answer. The biggest danger, he warns, are not religious conversions but “poverty…that is the common religion of the majority of people. 30% of our people live in poverty – he remembers – a fact that in the Rakhine [home to the Rohingya] and Chin reaches peaks of 70%.” “As a nation – said the prelate – we require a true conversion for that 30% of the population forced to endure an oppressive religion called poverty”.