New Twists in Burmese Politics

By Saberi Roy

There are many new twists in the tale of Aung San Suu Kyi’s eternal house arrest in Burma. The Burmese leader has been imprisoned for more than 10 years continuously and more than 14 years during the last 20 years and it was widely expected that she will find ways to participate in the next Burmese elections and her political party the NLD will overthrow the Burmese military regime. It is now reported that new Burmese law requires political parties to expel members who had court conviction if they want to participate in elections and this new law has led NLD to boycott the forthcoming elections.

It seems that laws in Burma can be changed in accordance with the needs of the military regime which suggests that the legal process in Burma is itself a sham and has no credibility. Even the Supreme Court rejected Aung San Suu Kyi’s appeal for release from her more than ten years of house arrest without giving any reasons. The legal system being completely in the hands of the junta, the credibility of the country and its government is highly questionable. In fact the legal system of any country is first answerable to law, justice and the people and the Burmese judiciary makes a joke of these very concepts that a legal structure is based on. The foundation of any country is based primarily on the legal system and if citizens of a nation cannot depend on the law, they have no support structure, no guarantee for protection against crimes.

The decision of the Supreme Court and the new law that requires Burmese political parties to expel members with court conviction (which obviously means that the NLD will be required by law to expel their leader, Suu Kyi) highlights more than just a corrupted political structure in Burma. The entire legal and social system in Burma seems corrupted as well and it is obvious that citizens live without basic protection that a government is supposed to provide. The implications of the Suu Kyi trial, go far beyond a criminal political agenda of the regime, it speaks of a wider rot in nearly every institution of Burma.

Suu Kyi stands for truth, her supporters represent the real Burma and they do need the help of the international community to release them from a wide cultural, social, legal and political rot they are seemingly living in. Considering that the legal system of Burma is also highly corrupted and controlled by the Burmese regime, there can be no national solution to the problem. We cannot expect Burmese people or the political process to take its course as political processes are also controlled by the law. In this situation, it is appropriate and even necessary for the international community to act. In some recent developments, as reported by the Guardian and other newspapers, the UN has rightly if too late, called for war crimes investigation against the Burmese rulers and the UN draft calling for such action has pointed out to gross human rights violations that involve Burmese leaders in the executive, military and judiciary at all levels. These violations could be considered as ‘war crimes’ under terms of statute of the International Criminal Court. This means that if there is a large scale support of the UN call for action against Burma and the if there is a ‘war crimes’ investigation, the Burmese leaders could face the possibility of being tried and convicted by the International community.

The UK government has already supported the UN move to refer to the Burmese military government to the International Criminal Court. Although Barack Obama’s government has been maintaining increased diplomatic pressure on Burma, it is possible that the US would finally support a war crimes investigation albeit with some initial hesitation. Supporting a war crimes investigation could be well in accordance with the US political interests. Burma maintains close military ties with Pyongyang and Beijing, a fact that the US may not be too comfortable with. France and other European nations could follow the British policy and they are expected to support the UN move as well. The UN report now means that tables are turning and that the days of the Burmese junta are limited. This could also suggest that after years of waiting there is finally a promise of action from the International Community and this call for action has come only a day after it was all too clear that the judiciary of Burma is ready to change laws to keep Suu Kyi away from the political process altogether.

Burma represents a modern day lesson of truth against injustice, human rights against oppression and highlights all the values that humanity should rightly stand for. The Burmese military leaders may have played the game too long and now they have even taken it a bit too far, but with the actions of US, UK, European nations and the UN, Aung San Suu Kyi and her party who stand for not just the basic survival of the Burmese people but also the noble virtues of humanity could definitely have the final laugh.