Democracy in Myanmar

Myanmar’s first democratically elected Parliament in quite a while opened this week:

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi entered the parliamentary chambers in Naypyidaw, the capital, through a side door. The chamber was swathed in orange — the color of her National League for Democracy Party, which overwhelmingly won a landmark election on Nov. 8. The military, as part of a complex political transition that has unfolded since 2010, retains 25 percent of the seats in both houses; its members wore green uniforms.

At least 110 of the party’s 390 members in the new Parliament are, like Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, former political prisoners. They were formally installed on Monday following an unusually jubilant celebration on Friday, with karaoke singing and dancing, to mark the end of the military-led Parliament.

This is a very big step forward. Still there are many problems that loom, including one that Nicholas Kristof talks about here:

A recent Yale study suggested that the abuse of the more than one million Rohingya may amount to genocide; at the least, a confidential United Nations report to the Security Council says it may constitute “crimes against humanity under international criminal law.”

Yet Aung San Suu Kyi seems to plan to continue this Myanmar version of apartheid. She is now a politician, and oppressing a minority like the Rohingya is popular with mostly Buddhist voters.

The Myanmar government is not only oppressing individuals; it is also trying to eradicate the Rohingya people as an ethnic group, by claiming that it does not exist. The authorities don’t use the word Rohingya and claim that these are just illegal immigrants from Bangladesh (this is preposterous; historical documents refer to the Rohingya). In November, the government arrested five men simply for printing a 2016 calendar making references to the Rohingya as an ethnic group.

Aung San Suu Kyi avoids even saying “Rohingya.” The United States Embassy in Myanmar likewise seems to sidestep the word in its official statements, a cringeworthy capitulation.

What this means is that there needs to be continued pressure. Aung San Suu Kyi is a politician and won’t do things that hurt her politically, even for things like ending crimes against humanity.

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