Side Views

From Gorbachev to Thein Sein — Tay Tian Yan

APRIL 4 — Aung San Suu Kyi won 99 per cent of votes in the Myanmar by-elections, a record in the history of democratic elections.

If things were to go as planned, Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy is sure to win the 2015 general election, and she will be made Myanmar’s first female president.

To the Burmese people, it’s a blessing of a lifetime.

But wait a minute! Will things always go as planned? Will the transition go really that smoothly?

To the military regime today, this thing could be a horrible turn.

These people take control of all of Myanmar’s resources, from mining resources to natural gas, as well as majority of national corporations. Even in impoverished Myanmar, these people lead luxurious lives fit for the kings.

When I visited the country several months back, local people told me these privileged people and their children were frequent visitors to plush casinos worldwide, and they bought up real estate in London, Singapore and Hong Kong. They also had in their possession the most luxurious sports cars.

Under the wind of change, these people may see their powers dissipate in a short span of three years, along with all the monetary gains that come with the powers. More disturbingly, troubles may come after them soon.

Like the dogs that are forced to the wall, do you think they will surrender themselves while they still have the powerful capacity to strike back?

Not very likely, with the guns still in their hands.

This is why I cannot be totally optimistic of Myanmar’s future.

Suu Kyi’s biggest challenge is not to win the election, but how she would deal with the power that is, so that they would hand over their authority in peace.

We need to thank President Thein Sein for making democracy possible in Myanmar.

Thein Sein is a funny man and, most possibly, a great man as well. He was born in a military family and has thus inherited the power. However, he took off his military outfit to form a civil government.

He amended the constitution so that Suu Kyi could now take part in the elections. He allowed some degree of freedom of speech and allowed people to assembly freely. He initiated the reform agendas so that the country could move closer to democracy and embrace market economy.

Something that is good for the country may not be good for the military junta. There is no turning back now. He will have to hand over his baton. His political party is poised for total disintegration and his regime’s days are numbered.

What happens in Myanmar today is a replay of Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev.

The Soviet economy was in tatters when Gorbachev took over as president. The government had lost the favour of the public and the country was not run properly.

If Gorbachev wanted to remain firmly in power, he could have followed the iron fist policies of Leonid Brezhnev, or the lacklustre performance of Yuri Andropov, or the stagnancy of Konstantin Chernenko.

Given the muscle of the Soviet Union, it wouldn’t problem for the regime to go on for another ten or twenty years.

But Gorbachev took the drastic turn, implementing Glasnost and Perestroika to open up and reform the country, resulting in the demise of the Communist Party and the dismantling of USSR.

If he could turn back time, would he take the same path again? No one can tell, because he was unprecedented.

Thein Sein is different. With the Soviet experiences in hand, he is well aware of the inevitable trends of history.

He deserves a salute if he would persist in his open policy, sacrificing himself for the sake of his nation. —

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.


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