Burma Eyes Indonesia-Style Reforms

Negotiations that resulted in peace in the once restive Aceh province may be emulated in Burma.
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A family member of a prisoner waits outside the Insein prison in Rangoon, May 17, 2011. Many of Burma's political prisoners are locked up inside.
A family member of a prisoner waits outside the Insein prison in Rangoon, May 17, 2011. Many of Burma's political prisoners are locked up inside.

Burma wants to emulate once military-ruled Indonesia's transition to democracy, including the process that ended a long-standing insurgency in the northern Indonesian province of Aceh, Burmese President Thein Sein's political adviser said Monday.

But Nay Zin Latt, who led a team of officials on a recent visit to Indonesia, said the Burmese government will try to avoid some of the "mistakes" that were made during the transition from Indonesian dictator Suharto's ouster in 1998 after bloody pro-democracy protests.

In Burma, several ethnic militias have battled government troops for decades to preserve the de facto autonomy of groups like the Shan, Wa, Kachin, Karen, and Mon.

Thein Sein's nominally civilian government has invited armed ethnic groups to hold peace talks as part of a series of reforms introduced since it came to power in March.

"There were some mistakes in the Indonesian transition period. So we have to avoid those kinds of mistakes as we learn from Indonesia," Nay Zin Latt told RFA. He did not elaborate on the "mistakes" made during the transition.
Suharto, a former military general, had ruled Indonesia with an iron hand for more than 30 years and was one of the most corrupt and brutal leaders in recent history. During his reign, the military was accused of blatant human rights abuses.

Thein Sein’s government, made up largely of retired army generals, replaced the country’s longtime military junta leadership that has also been accused of wide-ranging rights abuses.

His government has launched talks with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi as part of a program of reform initiatives, but is also under pressure to release some 2,000 political prisoners and forge a peace pact with armed ethnic groups to underline its seriousness toward achieving democracy and freedom.

'Top-down change'

Nay Zin Latt said that while the transition process for Burma could "not be the same" as that of Indonesia, "we have to learn from Indonesia."

"Burma's style is a top-down change and we may go faster [in adopting changes] than Indonesia," he said. 
He said a key element that could be used as a model for change in Burma was an agreement that ended a three-decade insurgency in Aceh in the northern tip of Indonesia's large Sumatra island.

The 2005 agreement between the Indonesian government and the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) resulted in Aceh receiving a special regional status. Former GAM guerrillas also came to power after winning the first post-conflict elections.

"At the end of the negotiations, they [the Aceh rebel group] gave up their demands for independence, and the government gave Aceh autonomy," Nay Zin Latt said.

He said the Burmese government will not allow any states or regions in the country to break away but added that they "will have appropriate rights."

Nay Zin Latt said many groups in Indonesia have welcomed the "cooperation" between the Burmese president and Aung San Suu Kyi that he said had resulted in, among other decisions, last week's suspension of work on a massive Chinese dam project in Burma's northern Kachin state following opposition from environmentalists and other groups. 

"We have to learn from Indonesia's negotiation style," he said.

Reported by Khin Khin Ei for RFA's Burmese service. Translated by Maung Maung Nyo and Khin Maung Soe. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

Comments (1)

Anonymous Reader

Who broke, or separated the Union? The ethnic people or the Burmese generals? The ethnic people have no rights to enjoy their own state rights even they do not have the rights of self-determination. So, what kind of this Union? The name in Burmses" Byi Tawng Suu" is so sweet. But in practice, it is so cruel. Federal union in form but unitary in practice and guarantee no rights to ethnic States as well as its own people. Why the Burmese general, official and government are afraid of Nation-wide cease-fire peace talk, National Reconciliation, releasing all political prisoners and tripartite dialogue which include government, democratic opposition parties and all ethnic?

Oct 04, 2011 01:03 AM





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