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Straight from the Specialists

Myanmar: The milestones ahead


(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

The latest craze amongst destinations for the diplomatic community globally seems to be Myanmar. The deluge started with Hillary Clinton flying down in November 2011. However, is all the enthusiasm, easing of sanctions and ambassadors being deputed going to enhance the avowed objective of the democratisation of Myanmar? Is there a possibility of reforms slowing down with too much being offered too early?

A combination of America’s focus on the Pacific and the east, disallowing the Chinese greater space, and Myanmar’s rich natural resources may have pushed the pace. However, a review of the bigger issues that need resolution in Myanmar merit a debate.

The biggest challenge facing Myanmar is its 2008 constitution. The provisions of the constitution allow 25 percent military nominees in the bicameral parliament at the centre and elected houses in the regions/states. The army-backed ruling party USDP, led by Thein Sein, himself a former military general, is populated with ex-army officers who resigned to join the party before the 2011 election. The Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) nominates the Defence, Home, and Border Affairs ministers. Further, the Myanmar president can also declare an emergency by following a procedure constitutionally laid down and the C-in-C can take over both executive and judicial powers. The Myanmar version of democracy, so far, is a far cry from text book stuff.

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