Aung San Suu Kyi has completed two successful and delightful long-distance inland political journeys since her release from a second house arrest about 10 weeks ago. The State Peace and Development Council, or SPDC, the military regime, has provided full security for her travels in Mandalay and Mon states. Several thousands of people came out to greet and listen to her.
Suu Kyi returned her hospitality to the regime by visiting projects such as a hydroelectric dam. These developments are real positives, encouraging our people as well as Myanmar-watchers.
I acknowledge the concerns of some critics who warned that these developments were mere cosmetics for a regime that needed outside investment and assistance. Their opinions as a whole were pessimistic, and Western countries were cautioned not to make contributions. I could not see the wisdom in that, as health and education needs are serious, let alone other issues. What did our people have as alternatives?
One must consider the fundamental mindset of the Myanmar people. We normally prefer to be patient, as we have been brought up in a Buddhist culture. Buddha teaches us to be moderate and humble and to kill our greed, anger and harmful illusions. I assume most Westerners are Christians, and Jesus teaches them to love their enemy. We want real and long-term reconciliation and a peaceful transformation.
Our charismatic leader, Suu Kyi, has all but ruled out changing the political system by violent means. In her logic, it would perpetuate the cycle of violence without end. That’s why she did not ask people to come out in the streets and shout slogans during her two periods of house arrest. Apart from that, the Myanmar people have accepted unfortunate events in life as karmic consequences.
What we ask of regime leaders is that they not sow bad seeds that will produce bitter fruit in their lives. They cannot escape the mental lamentations of their wrongdoings against innocent people. A true Buddhist cannot mix good and bad actions; there is no exception for the generals. Instead, we would like to reunite as a happy family. Let the regime leaders be among our guardians, at least for the time being, if that is the intent of their egos.
Japan has acted cautiously to help our people. It has been a difficult job because, on one hand, political progress is slow and, on the other, the United States has exerted pressure against rewarding the regime. Still, Japan has taken a flexible approach toward Myanmar — adopting, especially on the question of aid, persuasive engagement rather than sanctions and unfruitful words.
Japan is more friendly and trustful of the Myanmar regime than the West because of special, sometimes personal, relationships between the two nations that date back before World War II. Though Japan could not honor genuine independence for Myanmar, it was Japan who helped us, sacrificing the lives of several of its sons, to drive out our longtime oppressor, the British colonial government, in 1942.
Reuters recently reported that Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi may visit Myanmar this month. If that happens, people will view it as a positive and very important engagement. This will be a very high-level and effective effort in support of reconciliation. Suu Kyi and the generals should cohost a talk with their guest.
In the interest of my people, I have one serious request to make of the Japanese program for Official Development Assistance. For the time being, Japan has extended ODA to improve the country’s hydroelectric capability. I would like to appeal to the Japanese government that it bind all ODA to grants from the regime aimed primarily at benefiting needy people. For instance, the electricity generated as a result of ODA would have to reach ordinary people. As it is, even in the capital, Yangon, there are blackouts three to four days a week in most wards unless important people are scheduled to be in an area.
Because Japan is doing a great job in at least trying to help our people, it can ask the regime, as a broker in essence, for fairness and efficiency in what is given away. This would make our people more supportive and affectionate toward Japan. We understand that ODA comes from the sweat of Japanese taxpayers, and they deserve the heartfelt gratitude of our people.
Japan’s role as a peacemaker, or catalyst, in enhancing the reconciliation of our divided leaders is an irreplaceable one. Although the United Nations, through its special envoy Razali Ismail, has achieved some progress, the appearance of a new form of a government that’s acceptable and honorable is still far away. Japan can help bring it closer through high-level engagement aided by a thorough research team. The methods of the West only worsen situations related to health, education etc. for the needy people of our country.
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