Myanmar, the Price of Isolation
September 8, 2017
by Chien-Chi Chang
(From July, 2016)
When Aung San Suu Kyi took office just over 100 days ago it was supposed herald a new era in the history of a troubled land. For half a century she embodied the hopes of what Myanmar might become—democratic, prosperous, and a bastion of human rights. Under house arrest for most of the last twenty years, she quietly and gracefully defied the military junta that held her captive. To ensure her survival governments and human rights groups targeted the regime. She was given the Nobel Peace Prize and severe sanctions strangled the military government.
Yet, as the 100th day of her rule passed, supporters were struggling to explain why so little had been accomplished or even attempted. No agricultural reform. No outreach to the ethnic armies that claim large sections of the country. The lack of constitutional reform. The decision not to take apart the military’s vast state media operation in favor of a free and independent press and most surprisingly, her rejection of human rights protection for the embattled Rohyingya, a 1.5 million member ethnic group at the risk of genocide, according to some human rights groups. Critics say she refuses to delegate power, crippling the government and creating a “dictatorship of one.” Supporters say 100 days may be too short to judge her given Myanmar’s problems. “Give her time,” they argue. Leaving the question of whether the impoverished country has that time.
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