Towards a federal state

The National League for Democracy is facing many challenges, and these include the revival of militant Buddhism favored by the Party for the union, the solidarity and the development that supports the military’s role in the life of the country which is why, in the last election, it experienced a resunding defeat. The standard bearer of the movement, which claims to oppose an alleged privileged relationship of the League with the Muslim minority, is Mabatha, Committee for the Protection of Race and Religion.


Despite assertions to the contrary, also of Aung San Suu Kyi herself, the pressure of Mabatha and in particular of its charismatic leader, the monk Asin Wirathu, has forced the now majority party not to present – for the first time in its history – any candidate of the Muslim faith. Following the victory of the League on 8 November 2015 Wirathu, while still continuing to hold anti-Islamic meetings, was forced on the defensive and the risk of dissolution hangs over his group, since it doesn’t have any real religious authority. In addition, the recent statement of the Burmese Sangha, the main decision-making body of the majority faith in the country, made it clear that since it had never had official recognition it could be dissolved in the future by the Sangha itself, seems to be fundamental.


What does remain open is the ‘front’ of the relationships between the democratic movement, in power after decades of persecution by the military, and the men in uniform, whose claims to control are essentially based on two pillars: the situation of conflict still open in several areas and their economic interests in various sectors, including energy, forest and mineral resources, precious stones and opium. In essence, a concrete and lasting peace in the settlements inhabited by ethnic minorities, located mostly in border areas would deprive the armed forces of much of their influence. In terms of dialogue, the commitment of Aung San Suu Kyi has been concrete and consolidated the prospects for the Panglong Peace Conference of the 21st century (which ideally recalls that of 12 February 1947 which gave birth to the Union of Burma independent of British colonial power), hosted in Naypyitaw from 31 August to 3 September. An event that gathered vast membership and which was also attended by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon. The concrete result was the agreement to resume the peace process to end the hostilities, especially in Kachin and Shan states, and start a dialogue on a federal format for Myanmar.


These possibilities not only highlight the positive relationship between the Democratic leadership and the minorities, but also between Aug San Suu Kyi and the military leadership after the tense weeks following the elections. The talks between the Nobel Prize winner and the Army Chief, General Min Aung Hlaing have multiplied in recent months, and made increasingly public, signalling a real thaw. For analysts, the Burmese public is ready to give full support to the government up to a year before the elections, but then this could be weakened should positive developments be lacking.(S.V.)


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