In how many countries today could members of the military literally walk in to the parliament and say “stop talking about this. Now.”?
While things seem to go from bad to worse in Egypt over similar–though obviously much more exaggerated–circumstances, we cannot help but worry about the parallels at play (c.f. my recent post on Burma, Imperialism, and Buddhist-Muslim Violence) . In Burma, the military has seized thousands of acres over the years, ostensibly to build barracks in its efforts to quell violence erupting from various corners of its longstanding multi-party civil war.
However, along the way, the military appears to have abused its power (surprise, surprise) and seized extra land only to sell it for profit. Now, as the civilian government is attempting to rectify the situation, we see that the military still has the power to stop progress in its tracks (read more at irrawaddy.org) Will the people rise up in defiance of this roadblock to true democracy?
The promise of more progress in the 2015 elections will keep tempers at bay for now.
Meanwhile, the UN special rapporteur for human rights, Tomás Ojea Quintana, is attempting to assess conditions throughout the country. Disappointingly, he was told by Ko Ko Gyi, a leader of the “88 Generation Peace and Open Society”, that the displacement of Muslims in the country is required to prevent further violence. Apparently the decades or in many cases centuries of living side by side peacefully has proven only that Buddhists and Muslims in Burma cannot live side by side peacefully.
“At the moment, there is only one solution: to let them stay divided in order to avoid [further] conflict. If violence results from letting them stay together in the community, will they [the international community] come to help with security?
“He has to look at both sides, the politics and human rights, when solving this conflict. Quintana should not look only at human rights,” Ko Ko Gyi said.
It doesn’t get better, unfortunately. Quintana had to cancel his planned trip to see the Kachin Independence Organization in Kachin State after the government refused him access to the area. Violence there, including atrocities committed by the Burmese military, is still fresh in the people’s memory. A very good 11 minute video on the Kachin State as of April 2013 by the BBC can be found here. China is currently mediating peace talks there, which you can read more about here. Lastly, my post Ethnicity, Ideologies, and the unraveling of modern Burma provides some background to the very complex situation in the country and parallels elsewhere in the world.