By HTET AUNG
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
After a seven-year public absence from Burma's political scene, Aung San Suu Kyi reappeared to the cheering jubilation of a huge crowd of supporters. The adulation she received, coupled with her first public comments, demonstrated that nothing about Suu Kyi has changed except the wrinkles on her face.
Unfortunately, however, the rigged and fraudulent manner in which the junta conducted the recent election shows that nothing about the Burmese military regime has changed either, except maybe moving the capital to Naypyidaw during her house arrest.
Despite being under house arrest for 15 of the last 21 years, Suu Kyi has clearly been able to maintain her influential role in politics and remains a symbol of hope for the Burmese people, whose support for her has not diminished during her two-decade struggle to achieve democracy in a country ruled by a ruthless regime.
The 65-year-old pro-democracy leader's political charisma still captivates her followers, who are ready and willing to heed her commands. Once again, however, this will surely be interpreted by the junta as a threat to its power.
Her first political speech, delivered on Sunday, briefly laid out a political road map that picked up exactly where she left off when placed under house arrest in 2003.
Suu Kyi reaffirmed that without the people's involvement, change is impossible. She also revealed her strategy for getting the people involved: the formation of a network of people to pursue her unfinished non-violent democratic struggle.
The grass-roots strategy of mobilizing her supporters to get personally involved in the cause is the same approach Suu Kyi used during her countrywide tour in 2003, when she traveled from the northern part of Kachin State down to the central Burma before her convoy was attacked by thugs near Depayin, where she was rearrested and about one hundred of her followers were reportedly killed.
In an interview with the BBC on Tuesday, Suu Kyi pushed the political envelope further when she said she wants to bring about a “nonviolent revolution.” She said that such a nonviolent revolution would consist of “a radical change” in Burma brought about in a peaceful manner, which she went on to describe as a “noticeable change” and a “great change for the better.”
That is a far cry from the junta's vision of building “a modern developed nation” under the leadership of the military in politics. And the question that must now be asked is: How will Suu Kyi mobilize a “people's network” to bring about a “nonviolent revolution” while avoiding another Depayin?
Despite the fact that the generals released Suu Kyi, the methods they used to rig the election show that the junta leaders are still of the same oppressive mindset as they have been for two decades and are not willing to risk any loss of their iron grip on power.
The regime still considers Suu Kyi their primary nemesis, and although Suu Kyi reiterated that the goal of her political discourse has always been dialogue with the generals rather than confrontation, her first public comments following release may have set the stage for another showdown.
In the near future, the junta will carry out the last two steps of its seven-step political road map when the first session of the new parliament is convened within 90 days after the election and a president is subsequently elected and forms the executive and judiciary branches of government.
As Suu Kyi was excluded from the election and her party, the National League for Democracy, chose not to participate because they believed the process was undemocratic, both will be absent from Burma's institutional political scene for the foreseeable future.
In this context, it is difficult to see how positive future change in the relationship between Suu Kyi and the generals will occur. So just as before, the junta and Suu Kyi's opposition will likely remain two parallel lines going in opposite directions.
The more things change in the junta's Burma, it seems, the more they remain the same.