Myanmar’s Slow Transition To Democracy

Myanmar’s Slow Transition To Democracy


Coming to Myanmar is for me a profoundly personal journey into my own family history, My father was born here, and carved out a successful career as a doctor until the military siezed control in 1962 Targeted by the state for being an Indian national, he was
forced to abandon his home and flee overseas As part of a mass exodus of an estimated 300,000 ethnic Indians. Modern day Myanmar is still racked by ethnic divisions,
but life here is transforming. One of the biggest changes is in free speech. Tonight a live comedy show is being broadcast to the nation to mark international peace day. The organiser is Zarganer. Myanmar’s most famous comedian, and a former political prisoner. Zarganar, what does tonight symbolise? We can say this is the first time in the history
of our country that everybody can watch and every comedian can speak their
jokes freely. There is no censor, no ban. Over the 35 numbers of the Ministers will
come to here, and sit there and they can listen how they criticise them, the comedians. Former Major General Aung Min is a Government
Minister and a key peace negotiator. He is taking up Zarganar’s invitation to hear the
comedians barbs first hand. But the opening act begins with an unexpectedly serious message. I’d like to criticise the military offensives.
We really….we really pity the suffering of the victims, our fellow citizens. Please
stop the military offensives. Please be united, our fellow ethnic nationalities. The jokes that follow take aim at the Government’s
economic mismanagement, the soaring price of living and widespread corruption. In hell, the electricity meter is stuffed
down the officials’ throats!  Even though they happily chew on them! They are very happy even though they are in
hell! The humour may seem mild but this is a country where until recently comedians had to submit
their gags to Government censors. Tonight even the Minister is laughing along. What have you witnessed as far as the pace
of change in Myanmar? Things have definitely quickened up immensely.
It wasn’t so long ago that people were riding around with push bikes. Few Australians are watching the transition
to democracy as avidly as Ross Dunkley, the country’s only foreign media magnate. People are enjoying their first taste of
democracy in half a century. He arrived here 13 years ago, building a unique
and sometimes testy relationship with the generals to set up the nation’s first independent
weekly newspaper. A lot of people were critical about the
‘Myanmar Times’, that we were lackeys of the Junta that we were prostitutes. We were just
on the ground engaging with the military dictatorship. We were of the view that it’s better to be
on the field and playing than off the field and screaming. Like some hysterical housewife.
Every week we were attempting to lift the bar just a little bit higher. While newspaper readership is collapsing elsewhere
in the world, in Myanmar business is booming. It was only in April this year that the Government
ended a state monopoly on the daily press. For the previous five decades it had been
more interested in censoring, jailing or torturing journalists deemed critical of the State. You know, here in Myanmar it’s a booming
media scene and with the relaxation of censorship in the last six months we’ve had 13 dailies
open up. That’s incredible – 13 dailies in six months. Here is a selection of the dailies, ‘The
Voice’, ‘The Yangon Times’, ‘The Seven Day Daily’. The freedom of speech for me has got
to be at the forefront of any change. Unless you can have a free and open media, how can
you claim to have any sort of democracy? For me that’s the baseline. Whose land is it in Mikyaung Kan? Our land!  Our land! Does the land belong to the military? No, no. This protest is about one of the most contentious
issues in the new Myanmar. Land grabbed by the former military rulers. Just a few years
ago, a gathering like this would never have been tolerated by the authorities. These people
have been fighting for more than 20 years to regain their land in south-east Yangon. The army forced all of us to move out at gunpoint.
Some fearful people moved out but some didn’t. The army bulldozed the land and sent them
to Insein Prison. A 1,000 families lost their homes. It’s the kind of injustice we hear again and again. We dared not speak up in the past.  Now we
dare to because we have been given the right. We think the president and the government
will consider our demand favourably.  So we are demanding very bravely. Under old laws still in place, demonstrators
can face hefty jail sentences simply for protesting without permission. In this case, the authorities
had agreed but protestors were being closely watched. Around the corner, we found four
truckloads of police ready to react to any trouble. May the whole country be peaceful! May Burma
be peaceful! We are here because we need peace.  Also
because of the 2008 constitution we have so many problem and we have so many conflict
in our country. For activists like this Generation Wave leader
Ko Moe Thway, political change isn’t much easier. Last year he led a peace rally without
getting permission. He and eight other organisers now face up to 20 years in prison and a gruelling
trial process that’s more like a full-time job. How many times have you been to court? I think more than once at a time we have
been in the court 130 times. 130 times, wow.  How do you view this particular
Government? I would say that the country has changed
than before but the thing is, we need to wait and watch carefully where this change is leading
to. So we cannot say everything will be good. One of the key milestones of Myanmar’s reforms has been the release of hundreds of political
prisoners. But many remain behind bars, with new arrests and trials still being reported
every month. I’ve come to see Than Maw, a woman who knows only too well how those viewed
as troublemakers are treated. Her husband Ko Htin Kyaw is a veteran political campaigner. I am really proud of him.  I couldn’t have
done it. How does it make you feel when you look at pictures of your husband? Only a few politicians can nurture that
kind of political commitment.  So I am proud of him, not just as a husband, but as a good
citizen of the country. We don’t want crony-ocracy!!! We don’t want it!! At a protest three months ago he planned to
make a citizens arrest on a businessman he accused of land grabbing but he ended up in
custody himself, charged with insulting the state, he faces two years in jail. The government must solve the problems
the people are facing, if the government ignores the suffering of the people we cannot call
it a democratic government.  It is a crony-ocracy government that protects the cronies. Than Maw is three months pregnant and is faced
with bringing up her baby alone. Despite them saying the country is changing, we cannot say we see any noticeable changes. 
In the past anyone who called for democracy was jailed.  Now the government itself calls
for democracy, but it’s just rhetoric. I think that this government is about 10 percent better
than the last government. Talky, Shell and Bobo are former political prisoners, between them they have spent 30
years in jail. Faced with the difficulties you have life on the outside, they set up
Golden Harp, a taxi company with a difference. Hi, can I hop in? Thanks. There’s a deep stigma attached to being a
political prisoner in today’s Myanmar. It’s hard to find employment or to be accepted
by society. The main objective of Golden harp is to help and support the former political prisoners
as much as we can. Golden Harp provides valuable stability for former prisoners. It also gives drivers like
Shell a chance to educate their mainly foreign passengers. We share our Burmese politics with them and
we highlight the abuses and wrongdoings of the previous government with constructive
criticism. We are on our way to a place well-known to
employees of Golden Harp, Yangon’s sprawling Insein prison. Notorious for the mental and
physical torture inflicted on its inmates. The most difficult time for me was being alone
in prison without a visitor for more than a year. I was not allowed to talk to anyone
and I was starving.  We tried to endure in the prisons.  Some people went mad. Some
people have stayed mad. Some people have lost their speech. Once some of our friends were
released from prison, they died soon afterwards because of what they’d suffered. I feel really
sad about that. Have you ever asked Shell to stop being involved in politics? Sometimes I will like him to stop, but
he doesn’t want to stop, but he does not want to stop. Shell’s wife Lwin Mar says like everybody
in Myanmar, all they want is a life free from oppression. But even now that the couple are
worried that Shell could be arrested at any time. Even nowadays I worry for his health, because
he was mentally or physically tortured for nearly 14 years. Do you still see evidence of all of that time
that Shell spent in prison? Sometimes he doesn’t want to stay alone in
the home because he thought he will be captured, so he will always try and go out if I’m not
at home. oh my goodness! Because he was locked in the isolated for many many years – this is our life we cannot
stop it. It’s the younger generation lapping up new freedoms and pushing boundaries. None more
so than the Me N Ma girls. Modelled on Britain’s Spice Girls they are the country’s first all
girl group, and today they have invited me to their Yangon studio to watch a rehearsal
for their latest single. I am strong # Got to stand tall # This is my world # Nothing is going to shake it. We girls stand for like everybody who are
sad, down and who feel unhappy about their life. Because now everything is changing and
it starts to change right now. # I’m stronger now # So it’s goodbye. The Me N Ma Girls are out to smash the stereotype
that the women in Myanmar are timid and modest. Breaking the mould has its challenging even
for a pop band. In the past the girls have had their lyrics and their fashions censored
by the State. So these days do you feel like you are allowed
to sing about whatever you want? We can sing whatever we want but we have to sing within the boundaries. We know how far
we can go so we are in the boundaries but we are still pushing the boundaries. The girls have been working hard for years
to cut through the conservatism of their country. Now with growing freedoms, these talented
young women see a bright future. What do you think about the direction of this country right now? I believe our President and he is going really
well, and also we support our President to get good democracy. I do believe and I want
to believe that this will last forever. We just want to go forward, that’s all we need
to do and all we want to do. With its exposure to the world Myanmar is attracting plenty of attention. The country
has thrown its doors open to visitors. In the last year, the number of tourists has
doubled and investors are flocking. So how does Myanmar’s Government rate its progress?
I’ve come to one of the capital emptiest cities to find out. Naypyidaw was born in 2005, when
parliament was built on a Greenfield site 300km north of Yangon. Here, farmers live
in the shadow of Myanmar’s most powerful people and constant reminders of military rule. If there’s a symbol of the bad old days it’s
this, a 20-lane Highway running past Parliament that rarely sees more than a handful of cars,
the sort of waste of the former military Government everybody hopes is consigned to the past as
Myanmar travels its own road to democracy. U Ye Htut is the Information Minister and
spokesman for the President. U Ye Htut, thank you very much for speaking to us today. First of all, where are we on
the path to democracy in this country? So now we are entering the second 2.5 years of our transition to democracy. So if we look
back at those past 2.5 years we made a lot of achievements. But now we also have a lot
of challenges. Let’s talk about the issue of political prisoners. How many are there in jail right
now in Myanmar? I cannot tell that in exact number. Around about? I think just maybe 200 or 300. It does seem entirely contradictory to the
notion of democracy though that there would be any political prisoners in jail right now? The President promised that at the end
of this year there will be no more political prisoners in our country. And yet people who are protesting on political
grounds are still finding themselves in prison for violating Article 18…. Yes. ….which is about not getting permission
to protest. That seems to me and to many others I’m sure watching this, nowhere near a serious
enough issue to go to jail for, not even for a day. Yeah but that’s a law. So that now
that law was approved by the Parliament. Now the Parliament is trying to review that particular
article, Article 18. It wasn’t that long ago that somebody would be jailed for criticising the administration.
How does it feel now to be on the side where you are being criticised? In the first years we are not very used
to that kind of criticism. So sometimes some of the Government officials are angry about
that criticism. But the President said you have to face this kind of criticism and what
you have to do is to present the truth and to present the transparency of the government
– the best thing to deal with the media. How do you want the world to see Myanmar? I want the world to see that Myanmar
as you know, the country and the people who are trying their best to achieve their democratic
goal. Sometimes we lack the experience. So we want the international community to see
we are struggling to achieve our goal and try instead of blaming us, to please give
your helping hand to us. Elections in 2015 will do much to test the Government’s appetite for change and the eyes
of the world are watching. Today former US President Jimmy Carter is paying a visit after
a series of meetings to check on democracy’s progress. In the middle of the journalistic
throng, veteran newspaper journalist and political prisoner, Thiha Saw. Man up the front? Thank you Mr President. Are we moving?
Are we moving in the right direction, in the right place? I think the entire world has been pleasantly
surprised at the degree of progress that has already been made in just a brief 2.5 years
since the last election. But a lot of change still needs to be made here. The magnitude of what this country still faces
is daunting. Ethnic conflicts are ongoing, hundreds of laws have to be rewritten and
the constitution that bars Aung San Suu Kyi from ever becoming President needs to be overhauled.
Thiha Sau says the people of Myanmar must be patient. As far as Myanmar’s path to democracy,
where are we at this present moment in time? We still have a long way to go and then we are not really sure that we could reach
there and then that may take three years, maybe 20 years, we don’t know. Hopefully we
have taken the first few steps in the right direction. Sometimes lack of experience, lack of human
resources and lack of financial and technical knowledge is a problem on our process. So
to be seen as children who try to grow up and to enter the world, so you have to help
us.

95 Comments on "Myanmar’s Slow Transition To Democracy"


  1. Every single pro-democracy needs to be sure to show footage of a modern girl-band, whose music is of course written by older men, decorating themselves with foreign makeup brands and fashions which make sure to embellish their sexiness as if natural beauty just isn't attractive.

    What the heck does that have to do with democracy again?

    Reply

  2. this isn't about real change, all this is about is globalist corporations want to make more money and they see a market in burma, and the military junta is cash strapped. The fact that they are starting to replace it with bullshit pop culture says a lot.

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  3. this is bullshit this is a lie. Life will not change for the vast majority of these people and may even get worse.

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  4. This is not about really democracy this is only about surface issues. Actually it is only about a free trade agreement and Obama's asia pivot. The idea is to make people think the gov in burma is improving w surface issues so they can justify trading w these people to their publics. Its all a lie life for these people will get worse and the poorer will get even poorer if that's possible. This whole video is a propaganda piece.

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  5. devastating that as the fledgling signs of 'democracy' (freedom for citizens) begin to appear, the first item through the floodgates is westernised media trash. twisted ideals combine with lack of perception for all apart from greed – you can almost see the factory line fledglings preparing to fall one by one into the blender! get rid of the australian bastard from your media!!! 

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  6. ျမန္မာျပည္မွာ ဒီလိုပံုစံနဲ႔ အဝတ္အစာ စတိုင္းဟာ ဖာသည္မေတြ မိန္းမပ်က္ေတြသာဝတ္တာ

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  7. This is a typical ruling Military Junta Propaganda. Whilst there may be little changes in Burma, It is only for the good of the Military as they are very oppressive and ruthless who will not tolerate any kind of freedom of speech or expression. Do you think the military is going to reform after controlling power since 1961 and just give it up by embracing democracy. Not Bloody Likely.

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  8. hee hee hee ,German's laughy Democrecy, the whole Myanmar is to be fucked by Chineses,why this peoples don't want to give us the truth,l don't know
    lt is not a up.
    lt is a down.
    l'm not just a bad side viewer,
    l'll give a positive idea
    Where is their SamSung?
    Where is their LG ?
    How about the clearance of their government's past activities?

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  9. they(the foreign Democraciers) are driving the whole peoples to become no afraid,no afraid same as chickens.Do u know the difference of the meanings of words Afraid and Fear.l can see this in their eyes,they are no afraid but fearing and worrying.
    Why like this ,same same chinese's communic army
    lf u want to give the truth,make them no fear as same as DASSKyi.
    Go play with childrens , bitches!!!!!

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  10. l think ,expect Mr.ZarGaNa (continuing to the comment about afraid and fear located under this short comment)

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  11. Germans are surprise! To destroy the world , they don't even care their assholes broken. Sure ,if l have an Strong Army,l declare war to Germans,it is finish of them.

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  12. Germans are surprise! To destroy the world , they don't even care their assholes broken. Sure ,if l have an Strong Army,l declare war to Germans,it is finish of them.

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  13. we must not identify democracy is majority rule alone. it is complex demand,. freedom and liberality. repasting of legal entitalment ,.free and unsenseship  distribution   of   fair command 
    go Myanmar .I fight to democracy in Burma arm and peace.

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  14. Fantastic programme which provided a lot of information about the evolving political issues facing Myanmar.  Very interesting interview with the families of political prisoners as well as the Government spokesman.  Thanks for uploading this video.

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  15. Is there any chance of making this interesting? I do not mean sensationalise, just not, well, tedious. Is this really the way life appears to you? Is this sponsored by the leftist BBC? Marxism? Should we try to make this into another African disaster?

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  16. small size less developed country becomes democracy means they become western bitch and cheap sex tourism destination.

    only idiots want western democracy in these countries, just to become another failed country like Philippine  

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  17. democracy is bitch for these countries, for country like Burma the first thing to do is to get industrialized, not democratized 

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  18. I live in Myanmar and this is quite a nice video though it lacks deep analysis. 
    I believe some of the primary factors that's stopping the nation's steps towards democracy are
    1. Struggle for power within Political parties
    2. Former Military leaders trying to cover their tracks
    3. People believes "Daw Aung San Su Kyi" is the only person capable of leading the nation. They believe no other individuals can take the role as the head of the nation which I strongly disagree. 

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  19. i wish myanmar the best of luck…welcome to the asean to the asia and to the world

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  20. Burma has more free press than Malaysia now, hahaha. And at least, its government can say "we lack experience, please see us as children who are trying to grow up and enter the world".

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  21. Myanmar government is doing ethnic cleansing right now. Keep pushing out their own citizen like Rohingya… As we know this practism is abuse the UN human right policy, How can they want to be a democracy country if this problem still exist until today…

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  22. Dateline chose to ignore Thein Sein's role in the ongoing persecution and murder of hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingyas. Many have been brutally slaughtered; have perished at sea; or live in squalor without clean water or medical care. Why not mention that, as this crisis escalated, U.S. diplomatic and economic relations increased? Clearly, the U.S. government and U.S. corporate media are willing to turn a blind eye to the ongoing and brutal oppression and extermination of the Rohingyas. http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/why-burma-s-rohingya-muslims-are-among-the-world-s-most-persecuted-people-1.3086261

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  23. Democracy, but certain ethnic [Read : Rohingya] are not allowed to vote ?
    And 1/4 of the seats are reserved for military?

    Err, I think Myanmar needs to get her act correct;
    assimilation, industrialising the country, then only we discuss democracy.

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  24. shit country.
    very dirty, they sell their bodies and kids to the dirty tourists from Germany, France, Holland.

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  25. What was the point of Obama going there when he did not address the genocide against the Rohingya? Oil and gas companies should not be dealing with the evil and genocidal Burmese Government and military. Peoiple like Thein Sein are evil racists who promote genocide against the Muslims in Burma. But what is happening to Muslims today will be happening to the agressors in the coming years – call it Karma or whatever you like.

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  26. i live in another part of asia, the far east, and there is a community weaved by myanmar people, they sometimes speak own language, which i didn't understand at all. i went there mainly for shopping, and i heard many people travelled to myanmar that there was a great and friendly 'human condition' rooted there. i hope, really, the democracy and political movement might be important, but the good side of heritage is far more precious. it's alright for journalists visit and care, but don't mess up people's mind, they might really have far more good things compared with rest of the world.

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  27. Kerry Erle..Thein Seam..his not murder.. ok
    his without justice
    about Rohimya..they're come with second war world..from British colonies lower Burma..

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  28. What did the Lady say to help the Rohingya – nothing.  The ethnic groups refuse to learn the lesson united you stand divided you will fall.  The Lady is not part of an ethnic minority she is proper Burmese.  She is after power no less.

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  29. MYANMAR community to join with us here
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/178142692566859/

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  30. I actually think there is more press censorship in the EU than Myanmar. Say anything against Muslim mass immigration and the rape crisis that it has caused in the press and you are immediately branded a fascist. It is especially bad in Sweden

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  31. I really hope that change is coming quickly now. The beautiful people of Myanmar deserve it!

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  32. Why on erath there are too many democracy haters comment right here? What does it matter of be a democracies of the country?

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  33. I can understand them throwing out Indain people. They are very cunning and filthy people

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  34. democracy ha! you're all now slaves to a global cartel. one world, one religion, one order

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  35. duh none of them ever realize that democracy is just a fraud. it is a trap design to catch stupid people

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  36. Inpossible for burma to be democracy, but burma army kill the many innocent 7 ethnic group. They women and kill child

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  37. cancerous democracy
    taboo for eastern world
    democracy destroying civilization
    democracy only lead to cheap prostitution

    Reply

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