Peter Popham: This may be more than just another false start for change
Saturday 19 November 2011
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'
- 1 If you're not already angry about the migrant crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
- 2 David De Gea transfer collapses: Manchester United goalkeeper's £29m move to Real Madrid off - because paperwork 'not done in time'
- 3 Pansexual: What is it - and when did the word become popular?
- 4 Isis releases graphic video showing four Shia 'spies' being burned alive in Anbar, Iraq
- 5 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Miley Cyrus calls out hypocrisy of women’s nipples being taboo
The man who sold Minecraft to Microsoft for £2.5 billion says it's made him miserable
Nazi 'gold train': Fire engulfs suspected location of vehicle
Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Isis releases graphic video showing four Shia 'spies' being burned alive in Anbar, Iraq
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
UN investigating British Government over human rights abuses caused by IDS welfare reforms
£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you looking to take your ...
£20000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Exciting career prospect for ...
£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning company, whi...
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique & exciting opp...