6: Big challenges
The authorities in Burma face even more major challenges: The population consists of many ethnic minorities who for several years have been in armed conflicts with the central authorities. Ceasefire agreements have been signed with most of these. But in the state of Kachin , fighting continues. Other ethnic groups have said in solidarity that they can lift their ceasefire agreements if the government does not stop the attacks. This could be a threat to the further reform process.
Many are concerned with bringing the process forward from ceasefire agreements to lasting peace agreements that involve political solutions to the conflict between central authorities and minority groups. This means, among other things, clarifying the place and role of the ethnic minority in future Burma. What representation should they have in parliament? How should state funds also be distributed to the various “ethnic” areas?
There is talk of organizing the governance of the country as a form of federation , a word the authorities do not like given the country’s history with great difficulty in keeping the country united. They would rather talk about power sharing within the union Myanmar (a name of the country that the military junta reintroduced, while Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD still prefer to talk about Burma ).
It is therefore a challenge to create a basis for concrete discussions between the government, the ethnic groups and the democracy movement about a future political solution for the relationship between the state and the ethnic minorities. Such a solution could lay the foundation for a peaceful coexistence.
A special conflict is taking place in the state of Rakhine. Here live approx. 800,000 Muslim rohyinga . This people has lived here for hundreds of years. But they have not obtained citizenship and consider themselves exposed to various forms of discrimination.
This is not just a conflict between the government and this ethnic group; it also runs between the Buddhist- dominated population in general and the Rohyinga. Nor has Aung San Suu Kyi advocated for the demands of the Rohyingas, and Buddhist monks have demonstrated against complying with them.
7: Finances and investments
Experiences from other countries indicate that it will be important if democratic reforms and economic reforms can run in parallel . People must experience that greater freedom also brings progress in social and economic living conditions. If not, they may turn to democratization. The country needs humanitarian aid to be able to meet basic needs such as food security, health, education and infrastructure .
At the same time as democratization, a basis must be laid for new jobs, economic growth and increased tax revenues. Therefore, the country welcomes foreign investment. Parliament has adopted a law on foreign investment that will give foreign companies a more predictable framework and thus greater security for investing in Burma.
Nevertheless, foreign companies considering investing must make a thorough preparation to avoid pitfalls. Corruption is widespread, and the country lacks a functioning banking system. Several larger Norwegian companies are also considering investing in sectors and businesses that the country needs, such as telecommunications and petroleum extraction.
8: The role of the military
According to JUSTINSHOES.NET, there is great uncertainty about how the military leaders in Burma relate to political developments. Their power is probably still great, and hardly anyone really knows how far they will allow a democratic process to go. This creates uncertainty with regard to further development.
We received a signal about the military’s power and position as they continued to use harsh military force in Kashin even after the president called for a halt to hostilities.
The question is what room for maneuver the president and the reformists in the government have. In any case, they must balance carefully so as not to provoke a backlash. It will be of great importance if the military leaders also enter into dialogue with democratic forces both in their own and other countries so that they receive impulses from outside and see the benefit of freedom and cooperation.
9: Cautious optimist
Many are asking if there will now be a real democracy in Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi says: “I am a cautious optimist.” It is probably a correct summary and assessment of the situation . There are many indications that the process towards democracy has come so far that it has passed «the point of no return». Then it will be exciting to see if the process stops halfway, or if the democratic process reaches all the way.
There are challenges along the way: More reforms are needed to ensure a democratic election in 2015, political solutions must be found for the ethnic minorities and economic and social improvements must benefit the entire people. It will also be exciting to see if the government has sufficient control over the military.
In Burma, as in other countries, it is a challenge to get young people and others from civil society involved in the political process so that it becomes an “inclusive democracy”. The Oslo Center is engaged in the work of creating forums for dialogue between young people from different ethnic groups.
A lot of positive things have happened in Burma in the last couple of years. It will be exciting to follow the development further. We look forward to the people of Burma benefiting from democracy, human rights and welfare. It deserves a people who have gone through great suffering.