Trip Report 2017
On 30th March 2017, it was one year since Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy took power in Myanmar after more than half a century of military dictatorship. People had huge expectations about what could be achieved in a very short time. They now feel let down and disillusioned. On our recent trip to Moulmein (modern name Mawlamyine) an educated man in his seventies told us: “we admire ‘the lady’, but now we cannot follow her”. He believed democracy would come to the country but more slowly than people had hoped. He feared that there might be another military coup.
Over the last year the peace process and the hopes for a federal system for the ethnic nationalities who make up more than 40% of the population have made painfully slow progress. As the “2nd Panglong" conference began in October, so did the Army’s intensification of the brutal six years war in Kachin state. The original Panglong treaty signed just after independence guaranteed the ethnic minorities a right to secede from the union after several years if they were not satisfied. This was never implemented. A Chin writer, Za Uk, recently compared the relationship between minorities and the dominating military to an unhappy marriage in which one partner is abused and exploited but cannot escape.
Since October last year, 70,000 Rohinghas have fled to Bangledesh from Arakan State, following a crackdown by the Army whose brutality has provoked international outrage.