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“To those who have visited even briefly, Myanmar is one of the most attractive and intriguing places in Asia. It has vast potential for economic growth thanks to its natural resources. And its human resources are equally promising. Indeed, it was expected that after independence the country would do as well as most countries and better than those less endowed.”

This kind of statement was frequently made by academics during the period immediately before and after Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, gained its independence in January 1948.

But military dictatorships have held power for nearly four of the five decades that have since passed. The essential conditions for economic and social progress, political stability and the rule of law, have been absent. The military government uses corruption both as a political tactic to control people and out of sheer greed. Worst of all, people have to live under constant fear for their safety and economic well being.

Although conditions have slightly improved recently, it is too early to feel hope for the nation. While dissident U Tin Oo and more than 80 recently detained youths have been suddenly and unexpectedly released, National League for Democracy Party leader Aung San Suu Kyi is still under house arrest and her colleagues remain in prison. Suu Kyi’s colleagues are in their 70s, and should be freed on humanitarian grounds alone. By doing so, the military regime would raise its credibility and give fresh hope to all Myanmarese.

If Myanmarese do not commit themselves to prepare for total reconciliation, the journey to democracy could be long and unpredictable. Therefore it is very important for all citizens to be ready to forgive the military regime and forget what has happened in the past.

We should not press the generals to accept the establishment of a body based on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Council. If we so insist, the road to reconciliation will be become impassible.

Myanmar’s military government put three tasks — political, economic and social — ahead of everything. While this was appropriate, it should have been done in deeds as well as in words.

Politics is too heavy a burden to be shouldered only by soldiers, who by the nature of their profession have limitations.

It would be very good timing if the present government decided to hand over power to a popularly elected body. If this is not agreeable, Suu Kyi and other politicians have left open the possibility of sharing power, something the generals should start to seriously discuss.

The third secretary general of the United Nations, the late U Thant of Myanmar, once said:

“We live in an imperfect world and have to learn to accept imperfect solutions, which become more acceptable as we learn to live with them and as time passes. . .”

If such a coalition government is successfully established, great progress can be made in rebuilding the country’s economy and educational system.

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