Myanmar on the path of democracy

Updated: Apr 08, 2012, 08:29 AM IST

Preeti Panwar

“The democracy process provides for political and social change without violence. The struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma is a struggle for life and dignity. It is a struggle that encompasses our political, social and economic aspirations.”

Pro-democracy icon, Aung San Suu Kyi’s words portray her emotions and her determination. They encompass the sacrifices of the woman who has dedicated her entire life to bring change in her homeland. She was ready to face any challenges that came her way to achieve her dreams. For the future of Myanmar and for the betterment of her countrymen, she stood her ground in the face of adversity and scarified much in the process, even her family life.

Ironically, the soft-spoken leader who raised her voice to bring democracy in a country ruled by the military junta for the last half century was kept under house arrest since1989 for almost two decades. This was Myanmar’s dictatorial Army’s way of trying to suppress the dreams of Suu Kyi and end her political career.

Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest on November 13, 2010 with global leaders hailing the move and hoping that it would pave the way for restoration of real democracy in the country.

From living a housewife’s life in England to winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, the petite Suu Kyi has indeed come a long way. Suu Kyi’s determination and strength is in her blood. Her father was General Aung San, an independence hero assassinated in 1947, and her mother was Khin Kyi, also a prominent figure.

Keen to continue her father`s legacy, she entered politics and founded the National League for Democracy (NLD) in 1988 becoming its secretary-general and calling for an end to a military rule that has left thousands dead. Her release in November 2010 was seen as the beginning of an inclusive reconciliation in Myanmar. With her mesmerising influence over the people, she is capable of drawing big crowds and with few words can win the hearts of those who are in love with the ideals of democracy.

Now, the global icon for democracy will at last ascend towards Parliament for the first time.

Sunday’s by-elections in Myanmar marked the NLD`s foray into politics after 1990 with a landslide win which was annulled by the then military. The landslide victory of 43 seats out of 45 vacant parliamentary seats gave a crushing blow to the ruling party of Myanmar, Union Solidarity and Development Party, (USDP) reversing the fate of what happened twelve years ago in 1990 when the military ignored her party’s win. For one of the world’s most prominent political prisoner to make a debut in the Parliament, Suu Kyi has to now resurrect the hopes and desires of her countrymen.

After her release, this humungous victory will add more strength and power to the people, who have lived under brutal suppression for years, and it will also mark the comprehensive transformation after decades of military rule that ended last year.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) will be the main Opposition in the Parliament of Myanmar paving the way for the demands of a democratic nation by the common people. Suu Kyi’s win is definitely a turning point in the country’s history.

Within less than 17 months after her release and with fears of irregularities and unfairness during voting, very few would have imagined that Suu Kyi will rise from an advocate of democracy to an elected seat, paving the way for a potential presidential run in 2015. All of this has been made possible by the lakhs of supporters who want democracy to come to their country.

Two days before the by-polls, Suu Kyi said that her party`s aim remained the same - to help people "free themselves from the fear and indifference in which they have been sunk”.

It’s an unprecedented feat that Suu Kyi has been able to bend the military junta. The Junta has now swapped their military uniform for civilian suits, releasing hundreds of political prisoners, signing ceasefires with rebels, relaxing media censorship and opening a direct dialogue with Suu Kyi.

Her victory has galvanized the browbeaten masses, giving hope where only the smallest sliver existed before.

This victory of NLD, although without changing the balance of power, is a preview to the full general elections due in 2015.

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