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Burma’s “Opening” No Human Rights Fairy Tale

The flames of intolerance spreading to new areas of Burma are a reminder that the country’s “democratic reform” period is not a happy human rights tale.

Just a couple weeks ago the town of Meikhtila was a peaceful, diverse place, where people calmly went about their lives without paying special attention to whether their neighbor was Buddhist or Muslim or Christian or whatever. Now Meikhtila is burning as rioters torch Muslim homes and businesses. The authorities declared a state of emergency and are enforcing a dusk-to-dawn curfew. Forty people have been killed and thousands displaced so far. Despite the crackdown, violence is ongoing.

Meanwhile, renowned democracy activist and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is growing closer to the Burmese military that kept her imprisoned for decades. Though the army has ceded power to a civilian government, it plans to retain a prominent role in politics, as General Min Aung Hlaing made clear during Armed Forces Day celebrations.

All this suggests that cooperation among leading political actors is the only realistic way to deal with Burma’s many problems. Suu Kyi seems to have realized this before many foreign observers, who cling to the image of her as a peacenik, and to the idea of Burma’s “opening” as an unalloyed triumph for human rights. “Unalloyed” it certainly is not.

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  • Raymond Reichelt

    Edmund Burke said it best: ‘In a democracy, the majority of the citizens is capable of exercising the most cruel oppressions upon the minority.’

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