“You most likely know it as Myanmar, but it will always be Burma to me.” —J. Peterman
Last Sunday, the Burmese headed to polling stations. It has been twenty years since the last election in Burma, the results of which were annulled by the ruling military junta because Ang Suu Kyi’s party won overwhelmingly. However, there is nothing to expect from this bayonet-led election, an exercise the junta has dubbed a “discipline-flourishing democracy.” Ahead of the election, ten political parties had been dissolved by the government. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed “concern” over this act, and he will continue to express his concern, while the junta will continue to ignore him.
Anyone in their right mind knows that this election was a sham from the very beginning. A quarter of the parliament has been reserved for military personnel appointed by the Commander-in-Chief, Than Shwe. The army will legally be able to dissolve the new “civilian” government – as if they needed a legality to do something they are already expert at.
By the White House’s standards, Burma should have been occupied long ago for the sake of democracy. But to them, the junta poses no harm, though they act like mad dogs. Despite economic sanctions, there’s still a lot of good business to be done in Burma. Western oil companies like Total SA and Chevron continue to operate there. Every good capitalist knows that profits don’t take democracy into account.
The military junta is now building what they call the Fourth Empire. History is rewritten. New museums are erected to educate the people about the central role of the junta throughout Burma’s history, so that it can place itself as the worthy heir of the Burma’s three past emperors. Like every ruler, the junta is hungry for grandeur. They have constructed a new capital, known as Naypyidaw, or “Abode of Kings,” out of a wasteland. With massive sterile structures, Naypyidaw has a large pagoda at the centre of it, named the “Peace Pagoda” – as if to mock the people suffering under this dictatorship.
But this abode will fall like a house of cards. It is not a question of when, or even how, but where it will go from here. With such an acute oppression of the minorities, the national question in this land will tear Burma apart if not dealt with carefully. Let’s not hope for UN intervention here. The people of Burma need no saviour from without, especially one that comes from such an impotent institution.
They also don’t need John Rambo to come rescue them with his .50-calibre machine gun, disemboweling the Burmese army. The last time Rambo helped liberate a country, it turned into a backward state led by a group of misogynistic men who misuse the Koran to justify their rule. Yes, I’m talking about Rambo III, where hand-in-hand with Mujahideen forces, the precursor of Taliban, Rambo helps topple a progressive government in Afghanistan which had given women equal rights.
The November 7 election won’t offer a glimmer of change despite some pundits’ hope. It’s merely another brick in the foundation of Myanmar’s Fourth Empire, another step in the junta’s illusory quest to immortalize themselves. Maybe the Red Shirt pro-democracy movement in Thailand has reminded them of their own mortality.