World Events: Highlights of February 5, 2017
The White House expects the courts to reinstate Donald Trump’s travel ban on refugees and travelers from seven targeted Muslim-majority countries. Are they delusional?. . . Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he welcomes changes in the US and UK governments that provide new diplomatic opportunities. .Is he delusional? . . .After days of heavy protests, Romania blocks a law that would ease penalties for corruption. . . Peruvians celebrate Virgin of Candelaria with traditional costumes and dancing.
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Story Of Today, February 5, 2017
Lessons From Myanmar
You have probably heard of Aung San Suu Kyi. She is the activist in Myanmar who spent 15 years under house arrest under her country’s previous regime. She now leads her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), which is currently in power in Myanmar.
Because of a constitutional law, she is not allowed to be president. So the elected president, Htin Kyaw, created a special role for her – “State Counselor.” Essentially it means Aung San Suu Kyi is the prime minister of Myanmar.
After so many years of struggle and house arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi finally came to a position – a leadership position – where she is able to do a lot of good for her people. The question to ponder is, “Why hasn’t she? . . .
I guess that looks like a loaded question. The National League for Democracy only came to power last year. There has been much to clean up. Obviously one woman can not take care of everything alone.
One of the messes in Myanmar is the plight of the Rohingya people, an ethnic Muslim minority. In 2012 riots broke out in Rakhine State in Myanmar. To the outside world it looked as though the local Buddhist elites were engaged in ethnic cleansing as they persecuted the Rohingya people. Aung San Suu Kyi never spoke of these riots until she was asked. At the time she insisted the violence was not at all one-sided. That violence came from both sides.
There was truth in what Aung San Suu Kyi said. However, to her admirers outside and inside Myanmar she seemed to be avoiding the real issues. The real issues were how to stop the violence and persecution, and how to protect the Rohingya people. Aung San Suu Kyi has yet to speak openly to defend the Rohingya people.
Another issue that has come up in Myanmar: Members of the press have been arrested and held in jail for speaking out against the government. This is not a new thing in Myanmar. They have a law that gives the government the authority to arrest people who pose a threat to the government. The regime that preceded the government of Htin Kyaw and Aung San Suu Kyi used that law and others like it to put a lot of people in prison, including Myanmar’s current State Counselor.
You’d think members of the National League for Democracy would be extra sensitive to keeping political prisoners. You’d think they would be extra-sensitive to suppression of the press. So far, the leaders have not said anything.
The good news is that members of the press have organized sizeable protest demonstrations against these arrests. I call this good news because anytime people rise together to voice their support for freedom, I think that is a good thing.
Some reporters have been released with light penalties. That does not excuse the ongoing practice of arresting reporters. It also does not placate the many people who want Aung San Suu Kyi to take a stand for freedom of the press. She has yet to defend the press. Which leads some to conclude that Aung San Suu Kyi is looking after her own political interests.
So what can we learn from Myanmar?
We watched for years as Aung San Suu Kyi, often at her own peril, spoke out and led her people to live under more democratic rule. She even received awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize, for her actions. Yet, now when she has the power, she does not use it to set people free. Why?
In the western world, we are guided by very strong beliefs in freedom and equality. We act surprised when leaders and people in other countries around the world don’t share our beliefs.
When you think about it, the idea that people should have equal rights and equal opportunities is not a widely-spread idea. It is also a relatively new idea, at least in its current form. Look around the world. How much freedom do people enjoy in Africa, or in most of the middle-east? How much “equality” do you find throughout Asia, where racist attitudes are the norm, and where traditional caste systems still exist. Even in South and Central America, authoritarian governments persist.
One lesson is this: The government in Myanmar is a new one. We cannot expect the whole country to change overnight. We can hope that the National League for Democracy will succeed in making sweeping reforms in their country. Maybe we should not expect it to happen too soon.
Another lesson is for us: We enjoy freedoms that much of the world does not. Our belief in equality is not such a widely shared belief as we might wish. Much of the world is very slow to accept our concepts of liberty and democracy. One thing for sure is, “We should not force our ways down other people’s throats,” even if we KNOW our ways are better.
Another thing for sure is, “We should watch our own backs.” The free and equal world is getting smaller. Populist and nationalist movements are putting into power men and women who don’t believe in equality. Men and women – these are leaders in the western world – who find it easy to suppress other people’s freedoms to maintain power for themselves.
I think the recent political events in the U.S. have wakened us up. I think many, many people worldwide see how fragile are our liberties even in the United States. More than just being alarmed and waiting around in fear, people are taking to the streets. They are actively forming a resistance to threats of suppression. People are getting together like never before to put up a fight for freedom and equality.
It is the same fight they fought in Myanmar for years. Maybe the new government in Myanmar, led by the National League for Democracy, will yet show us they can set everybody in their country free. Maybe we all can do the same…
Timeline: Relevant News Stories February 5, 2017
Press freedom in Burma is under attack
from the Washington Post
Aung San Suu Kyi promised a far-reaching peace agreement to end the long-running civil war between the central government and restive ethnic minority groups. Since then, however, the conflict has only deepened. And the grim plight of the Rohingya, the beleaguered Muslim minority group whose very existence was long denied by the country’s overwhelmingly Buddhist elite, has only worsened. ….Another point of contention is the government’s recent treatment of the press. Dozens of journalists have been jailed since Aung San Suu Kyi’s government came to power.
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