Tales of Ruling and Opposition Parties

When the US President Barack Obama visited Rangoon in November, he met with President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The news of their meetings was headlined and indeed hailed around the world, showing how the two leaders worked together to promote ongoing economic and democratic reforms in their country. Their central message to the American dignitary and the world at large was simple: despite their past differences and antagonism, they are now diligently working together to move Burma forward. They have a common objective of integrating Burma into the international community and eventually overtaking the other member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

At this juncture, no other country in Asean witnesses such close collaboration between the ruling party and the opposition. Normally, regional politics is filled with partisanship characterized by confrontation and competition for power and control. In November, during his stopover in Thailand, Obama did not bother to meet the Thai opposition leader, Abhisit Vejjajiva, a former prime minister who met him several times during his premiership from 2010-11. Nor did he make any attempt to see representatives of the Cambodian opposition during his two-day stopover in Phnom Penh to attend the Asean-US summit and the East Asia Summit. Obama did not want to antagonize his hosts. Except for the Philippines and Indonesia, Asean countries are not very tolerant of opposition parties. They often perceive them as troublemakers trying to undermine policies and programs initiated by the ruling government.

U Myint Thin is a Burmese pseudonym for a veteran Thai journalist residing in Rangoon. His regular column, Across Irrawaddy, appears every Wednesday.

Myint Thin is a Burmese pseudonym for a veteran Thai journalist residing in Rangoon. His regular column, Across Irrawaddy, appears every Wednesday.

Burma, then, is a special case. Both Thein Sein and Suu Kyi are considered indispensable members of the country’s reconciliation and reconstruction Dream Team. They understand the old adage, “together we stand, divided we fall.” Wherever Suu Kyi goes, she has been given state-level receptions. In return, Thein Sein’s status has also been elevated. Singapore’s The Straits Times recently named him person of the year. When Suu Kyi attended the World Economic Forum in Bangkok in early May following her landslide victory in April 1 by-elections, the Thai government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra went out of its way to welcome her and facilitate visits to various Burmese communities near Bangkok and on the Thai-Burmese border. Suu Kyi even told her compatriots to pay attention to developments in Thailand, especially changes of rules and regulations that would affect their livelihood. Such a scene would not have been possible anywhere else.

One could easily recall the controversial visit by former US Vice President Al Gore to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1998 for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, where he called on the host country to respect democracy and human rights. Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad was outraged and accused the US of interference in domestic politics. His remark soured Malaysia-US relations for a long time. A few weeks ago, during his trip to Malaysia, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono cried foul to his Malaysian colleague Najib Tun Razak over the controversial remark made by a former Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin that then Indonesia President B.J. Habibie was a traitor to allow East Timor to secede in 1999.

Naypyidaw was wise enough not to bring up the irregular protocols related to Suu Kyi’s oversea trips. Obviously, similar diplomatic gestures within Asean, especially when granted to opposition leaders, would not be tolerated. The government under former PM Abhisit criticized Laos, Brunei and Cambodia for meddling in Thailand’s domestic politics by welcoming the fugitive Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra in their countries. So, whenever Thein Sein and Suu Kyi stand side by side, they boost the confidence of their own people as well as the international community.

Nobody knows how long the Dream Team will last, especially amid domestic and foreign dynamics. Ahead of assuming the Asean chair in 2014, Burma will be the main focus of the grouping’s community building and integration. In addition, as the planned 2015 general election draws near, political players, including those from ethnic minorities, have strengthened their platforms. For the time being, Burma can enjoy this unique condition and continue to attract broad support, foreign investment and assistance, to the envy of neighboring countries.

3 Responses to Tales of Ruling and Opposition Parties

  1. The Dream Team was created by elite reconciliation and a very personal one at that wherein lies its main weakness. Both 67 and going on 70 in 2015, both working toward elite prosperity and consolidation. The rest cannot but admire and gawp at them, expect little more than a few crumbs of trickle down. They are on a roll, aren’t they?

  2. George Than Setkyar Heine

    So, whenever Thein Sein and Suu Kyi stand side by side, they boost the confidence of their own people as well as the international community.
    I really DON’T THINK SO man!
    Yes, Daw Suu DRAWS the CROWDS of course both domestically and internationally as evidenced of course.
    HARD LUCK Thein Sein is JUST UNFORTUNATE for that matter as well.
    Of course BAD COMPANY is the END RESULT no doubt.
    Since day one Thein Sein was GIVEN the HANDLE by no less than Than Shwe just to CRANK UP the DEAD ENGINE only.
    And Thein Sein COMMANDEERED the SERVICES of Daw Suu for that matter as evidenced today no less.
    Believe me Daw Suu also is PLAYING POSSUM in the GAME knowing and fully aware of the RUSE given her high intellect, education and savvy in politics as well.
    Of course Thein Sein has NO HIDDEN DAGGER behind his back or possession in this matter I believe.
    However, he is only a CLERK of Than Shwe’s and at the BECK and CALL of the MASTER as well lest you fail to note.
    In fact, the OUTFIT running the country from Naypyidaw is certainly a JUMBLED/MIXED LOT to say the least as PUT in PLACE by Than Shwe since day one until today.
    Thein Sein, the TOOTHLESS TIGER is given the LEADING ROLE while Shwe Mann relatively the POISONOUS ONE holds the LOWER HOUSE.
    The nameless Khin Aung Myint holds the NATIONAL PARLIAMENT while Nyan Win took the place (vice president post) of most lethal Tin Aung Myint Oo downed with a terminal illness today.
    Min Aung Hlaing (China Chosen C-in-C, Burma Army) holds the helm of the NATIONAL DEFENSE and SECURITY COUNCIL, EMBEDDED in Than Shwe’s Nargis constitution is ABOVE the PRESIDENT, PARLIAMENT and the LAW as well lest you guys forget.
    The toothless tiger ROARED (quit the fighting in Kachin State) on several occasions and since more than one year ago.
    And Min Aung Hlaing’s hordes are at the DOOR of LAIZA today, READY to FINISH the JOB (secure Kachin State) for the Reds in Beijing as PAID for and ORDERED as well.
    Thein Sein is saying to CRACK DOWN ON CORRUPTION today.
    However, I would say he is just SHOOTING THE BREEZE only as there is NO SPECIFIC POINT/DATA/RULES for that matter cited in his recently given speech like they say.
    To SUM UP: Than Shwe has PUT ON STAGE a MOTLEY LOT of HIS just to HOODWINK the PEOPLE of BURMA and specifically Obama led WEST no less to ACHIEVE HIS VAUNTED OBJECTIVE (get complete lifting of sanctions and the WEST’S MONEY/INVESTMENT as well) while STILL HANGING ONTO the PANTS of the REDS in Beijing and HOLDING PUTIN’S PAJAMAS as well for their VETO WEAPONS at the United Nations Security Council in return for Burma’s national resources (assets and uranium etc.), land and Burmese women as concubines if not wives for the Chinese communist peasants as well before ANNEXING the COUNTRY ultimately.
    NO THANKS to Than Shwe for SELLING BURMA and ITS WOMEN to the CHINESE REDS just to COVER HIS ASS I say!

  3. In politic, there is no friend, for mutual benefit, nor foe, for self benefit. Today, they, authority and opposition, will shake their hands and say that the meeting is like brother-sister relationship. In a few days later, the sister will be in Insein jail. As I have said long long time before, military will use Daw Suu as a Joker of deck of palying card- she will be any desirable card to win the game.

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