When the people of Myanmar went to the polling stations last November, I bet they shared the same overwhelming sentiments that swept over Indonesians back in 1999. Like their Myanmar cousins, Indonesians too were at the dawn of a momentous change – their biggest ever since breaking away from colonial rule.
Recent political discussion in Myanmar revolves around the formation of a new government and selection of a president, but not enough attention is focused on the position of the attorney general, who holds a critical function in upholding rule of law and respect for human rights.
It is a blot on the face of humanity that we have yet to eradicate slavery – of children, no less. Not only does child slavery persist; the number of child slaves, 5.5 million, has remained constant in the last two decades. They are bought and sold like animals, sometimes for less than a pack of cigarettes.
Myanmar's state-owned economic enterprises (SEEs) control vast amounts of public money. Some of these companies are amassing large sums of money in opaque accounts not subject to ordinary budget processes. If the incoming National League of Democracy government wants to make meaningful progress in improving the public sector, it will have to tackle SEE reform head-on.
Last year I was often asked who would win the 2015 general election. The answer was obvious enough: The National League for Democracy was primed to triumph in any relatively free vote. No prizes for that prediction.
On January 11 I accompanied fellow students from Australian National University on a visit to two villages in Ayeyarwady Region to deliver stationery to primary school children. The trip also provided an opportunity to witness how the grassroots has responded to Myanmar’s political and economic transformations.
As 2016 begins, an historic contest is under way over competing development models – that is, strategies to promote economic growth – between China, on the one hand, and the US and other Western countries on the other. Although this contest has been largely hidden from public view, the outcome will determine the fate of much of Eurasia for decades to come.
Myanmar is just weeks away from seeing whether the upbeat, forward-looking vocabulary of national reconciliation, trust and cooperation can be translated into workable arrangements between the ruling party, the military and the opposition when they trade places in parliament and government. In finding their own pace and tone within the confines of such concepts, Myanmar’s leaders will do well to remain mindful of the patience, effort and skill it took other leaders to move toward democracy.