October 20, 2011

THANKS, MRS. BUSH:

The shifting of the guard (Peter Popham, 17 October 2011, New cStatesman)

[T]he signs of change have come fast. The UN's special rapporteur on human rights was given a visa, after a year of delay. Photos of and reports about Suu Kyi began to appear in the Burmese press for the first time since 1989, including an interview with her that had been awaiting the censor's decision for ten months - all the political content had been filleted from it, but no matter. The government set up a human rights commission - composed, it is true, of military hacks from the previous regime. It also set up a commission to review and revise existing laws, taking advice from international bodies including the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Most impressive and unexpected was the action taken over the Myitsone Dam, a Chinese-financed project to dam the Irrawaddy River to generate electricity - 90 per cent of which for export to China. A protest movement swelled rapidly, combining patriotism - the Irrawaddy is a national symbol - with anti-Chinese sentiment and sympathy for the ethnic-minority Kachin, who would be severely affected, and whose insurgency against the Burmese army recently reignited. After Suu Kyi endorsed the protests, the president called a halt to construction, saying it was "against the will of the people" - a remarkable reason for a government in Burma to claim to do anything.

Now, the government has launched another striking initiative. More than 600 prisoners have been released, including some prominent political detainees. When Suu Kyi, as leader of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), was set free last November, the failure to release anybody else was what made it look like a gimmick. A partial amnesty a few months later looked equally cynical, as it affected very few prisoners found guilty of political crimes.


One of the most bizarre reactions to the End of History is the Realists and Leftists hope that some places stay authoritarian just to cast doubt on the theory.

Posted by at October 20, 2011 6:46 AM
  

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