Peter Popham: This may be more than just another false start for change

Comment

Barack Obama got it just right: what we have seen in Burma are "flickers" of progress. In 1992, the newly-promoted senior general, Than Shwe, freed political prisoners, spoke of talks with the National League for Democracy (NLD), met its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and released her from detention.

In 2002, Ms Suu Kyi was again freed from detention amid talk of political accommodation. Both events were accompanied by much excitement but died away without changing the horrendous realities. Hillary Clinton's decision to visit Burma shows that this time the US believes the situation is different. President Thein Sein is a retired general, but the initiatives he has taken in recent months show a consistency of effort that is new.

He has legalised trade unions, told parliament to revise bad laws and frozen work on an unpopular dam across the Irrawaddy river. He has also changed the law on party registration: the existing law barred parties with members in detention, so to compete in last year's election, the NLD would have had to expel Ms Suu Kyi and other political prisoners. It is now expected that she will stand in a Rangoon by-election as early as next month.

When she wins, she will have regained the popular mandate her party enjoyed in 1990 when it won a general election but was denied power. Now she will have a legitimate position.

While some NLD members say it is too early to make peace with a regime holding political prisoners, Ms Suu Kyi's reasoning is persuasive. Since its de-registration last year, the NLD has been unable to prove its legitimacy through the ballot box. In parliament, it will be less vulnerable and Ms Suu Kyi will become in name what she has already long been in fact: leader of the opposition.

Peter Popham is the author of 'The Lady And The Peacock: The Life Of Aung San Suu Kyi'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you looking to take your ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Exciting career prospect for ...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Media Sales - OTE up to £30,000

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning company, whi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Software Developer

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique & exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935