Difficult for Slorc to make a confession
The Nation, Wednesday, January 19, 1994
Aung Zaw on why the Burmese ruling junta, the State Law and Order Restoration Council, still wants to hang on power.
Aung Tay Za, who claimed himself as Secretary General of the Lawyers Union of Burma, sent a letter to the Chairman of the National League for Democracy (NLD) on October 29, 1993. It was one month after the so-called National Convention to deliberate upon the new constitution was stopped.
The letter urged the NLD representatives not to continue attending the National Convention which will be resumed in the month. The Lawyers Union does not officially exist in Burma as it is an underground organization. The Lawyers Union also said “the NLD must follow original policies.” It is not the first time such a statement was secretly distributed about the convention. Prior to the convention there were many statements made by the NLD local units, students and individuals. They secretly circulated pamphlets urging to boycott the Slorc-sponsored convention.
Everyone seems to “understand” why the Rangoon regime wanted to hold the “National Convention.” At the National Convention, Slorc’s main proposal was to guarantee a leading role to the Tatmadaw (armed forces) in Burma’s national politics. It is obvious that the Burmese military does not intend to stay in barracks but to govern the country as they did before.
“The [the Tamadaw] believe that to govern and control the country is their affair and that is their tradition” said and intellectual in Rangoon. In 1992, the Rangoon regime, known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc) formed the Convening Commission of the national convention with 18 members. Of which 15 are Slorc military members. The committee picked the delegates for the convention as Slorc desired.
The convention began in the early of 1993 while most of the 1990 election winners were being detained in jail or forced to flee the country. “It is a signal to people at home and abroad that the military will do what they want,” a dissident at the border said. He elaborated that the Slorc will not respect the 1990 election results and will cling to power forever. In 1993 the 10-month long convention was and on again and off again process. They adjourned at least five times.
Despite Slorc’s careful selection there was strong opposition towards Slorc’s proposal that the army play a leading role in future politics. Both the NLD and SNLD (Shan National League for Democracy) strongly protested Slorc’s proposals during the meeting. The delegates were taken to sight-seeing trips, dancing performances, and given time to study consult with people at home about differences in constitutions. The junta also threatened that organizations or persons that try to disrupt the stability and oppose the convention will face effective action.
By September, the Slorc had arrested approximately 100 students, some members of the NLD, certain intellectuals, and the delegate Dr Aung Khin Sintall of whom protested against the convention. The arrested opponents were sentenced to 20 years jail. A delegate, Khun Marko Ban fled and joined the opposition groups at the border. He branded the convention as a “disgusting sham.”
Since the formation of the Convening Committee in 1992, Burmese, the world community and opposition groups branded the convention as a “farce”. The oversea-Burmese groups around the world held protests outside Burmese embassies. Inside Burma, those who were against the convention were rounded up by Slorc. Within the NLD, the winner of the 1990 election, the local units condemned their present leadership for cooperating with Slorc and failing to implement the will of the people.
In September just before the convention was stopped for 1993, Aung Toe, Chief of Justice and Chairman of the Convening Commission, announced the basic principles adopted by the convention. It included “given the armed forces chief authority to take power over the state in the event of national emergencies” and to appoint military personal to the legislature and administer future governments. The army was also given the right to independently administer all affairs concerning the armed forces.
It was believed that the two strongest opposition parties, the NLD and SNLD, had been kept off the panel. “They have no choice but to agree with that Slorc wanted” a diplomat in Rangoon said. Besides, the leaders of the two parties were summoned by military officers and were threatened not to oppose Slorc’s clause in the new constitution or they will face “effective action” by the junta.
Looking at the Slorc-sponsored convention in 1993 there is enough evidence that the Slorc’s convention will not give any hope to Burmese who want to live in a free democratic country. The convention is only a “ploy” by the junta to legitimize its control. Since the Slorc Convening Commission forced the delegates to adopt its principles, the never-ending convention lacked democracy, freedom and peace for Burma.
Though the Slorc officials blatantly said there’s no time limit some analysts are saying the Slorc may wait for some new ethnic armed groups who are currently talking with Slorc, to participate. The KIOthe Kachin Independence Organizationmay send representatives to the convention.
Since the 1988 nationwide pro-democracy movement, the Slorc eliminated its democratic opponents in many ways. In some respects they have gained confidence. Recently the Slorc formed the Union Solidarity and Development Association [USDA] and has begun to organize the people to join as members. The association’s real hope is for the ruling junta to set up a mass movement. “Their real aim is to back the new civilian government,” said a Burma watcher based in Bangkok.
A foreign student who has been studying in Burma since the 1988 crisis said recently that “It is like a game of chess; Slorc [with Thai cooperation on the border] is slowly but surely moving the political and ethnic opposition into a position of ‘check’.
“However to win and ‘checkmate’ they must deal with Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of NLD and Nobel Peace Prize winner. The way in which they do this will be an important indicator of how confident they are about their political control of Burmese society.
“They may forcibly remove her from the country when her five year term of house arrest is due to expire in July. Explaining further, the student said, “Slorc may be prepared to weather the short-lived international condemnation for forcing her out, on the basis that Aung San Suu Kyi being free but out of Burma is not nearly as threatening to them as the symbol she represents to the Burmese as a prisoner”.
For Slorc the last problem is Aung San Suu Kyi. Will the Slorc release her or not? After she is out of the country there will be no more thorn in the side for Slorc. On the other hand Slorc may put her on trial to extend her detention.
However, there is an opinion by Aung Saw Oo, a secretary of NLD (Liberated Area) based in Manerplaw that “Our leader is Aung San Suu Kyi. We will follow her vision for Burma. We also sent a clear message to Burma urging people to boycott the upcoming convention.” He said that what Slorc is doing with the new constitution is as illegal as Slorc itself. Aung continued to say that the 1990 election result was stolen by Slorc. But Aung said, “A thief does not want to confess his crime!”
This article appeared in the The Nation newspaper, Wednesday, January 19, 1994.