Today you will be seeing the wonderful scenes in newspapers and on TV of people celebrating Aung San Suu Kyi’s election victory. It looks as if the National League for Democracy has won most, if not all, of the 44 seats they contested.
In the past we always thought that Aung San Suu Kyi entering Parliament would be the final step on the path to democracy. As it turns out, it looks like this is just the first step. The NLD will only have around five percent of the seats in Parliament, while the military and the pro-military party have over 80 percent. Parliament itself has little power, and the Military have an effective veto over decisions by Parliament.
This is why, when Aung San Suu Kyi was asked last week to rank how democratic Burma is on a scale of one to ten, she answered: ‘On the way to one’.
Let’s not be in any doubt, Burma’s military rulers didn’t wake up one morning and suddenly decide they wanted Burma to be a democracy. They were under economic and political pressure, and they wanted that pressure lifted. The sanctions and diplomatic pressure we have all worked so hard for over many years are now having an impact. Some reforms have happened, but there is still a long way to go.
Hundreds of political prisoners remain in jail, they must not be left behind. Human rights abuses actually increased last year, with the Burmese Army killing, raping and torturing.
Aung San Suu Kyi will try to use Parliament as a platform for further change, repealing repressive laws and changing the constitution, but the challenges she faces are immense. This is why we must continue to stand with her and all those still struggling for democracy in Burma.
Today is a day for celebration, but tomorrow it’s back to work. There is still a long road ahead.
The pressure is working. Please make a donation today to ensure we can keep supporting the people of Burma until they truly win their freedom. You can donate online here.
Burma Campaign UK
PS: Burma Campaign UK helped journalists from all over the world report on the by-elections from Burma. It’s one of the many ways we work hard behind the scenes ensuring the voices of people from Burma can be heard.
We also published a briefing paper here.