Burma Struggles to Stay Afloat.
Look east, where warmongering clouds are gathering on the horizon, and both opportunity and strife arise. In this issue, we focus our analysis on the geopolitical currents in Asia.
India and Japan have both responded to China’s maritime challenge. New Delhi is increasing its clout in the Indian Ocean, and Tokyo is rebuilding its once-fearsome intelligence services. But coupled with the newly-built Washington-New Delhi strategic partnership, this could instigate a broader arms race with China in an already tense situation. Meanwhile just across India’s borders, ISIS has cast the shadow of its black flag over the troubled regions of South Asia.
Further inland, Burma/Myanmar’s fledgling democracy is at risk of drowning. Burma will go to the polls in November this year to elect its replacement for the 69-year-old junta leader Thein Sein, who has held the office of president for almost five years. But no civilian can hope to take full control of the country, since Myanmar’s military occupies 25 percent of seats in parliament and retains special veto powers.
In an interview with the BBC, President Thein Sein reiterated that it was the military regime that initiated democratic reforms in the country, but he put no time frame on reducing the military’s dominant role in politics.
Myanmar’s constitution has been amended several times since the nation’s independence from Britain in 1948. The latest amendment was made in 2008, preventing Burmese citizens whose spouse or child is a foreign citizen from holding the office of President. A non-binding referendum will take place this spring to poll voters regarding possible changes to the constitution.
Of the two political contenders for presidential office, military-backed House of Representatives speaker Shwe Mann made a point of reminding the country, however, that any changes to the constitution would not be implemented until after the new President assumes office. That effectively disqualifies his more-popular rival, Aung San Suu Ki of the National League for Democracy, from running, due to her status as a widow and mother of British nationals. The spring referendum may only serve to taunt those voters who want to see the constitution changed in time for her to run in the elections.
Thus either democratic turmoil or further junta influence lies in store for the more than 58 million newly democratic citizens of Myanmar.
A map of geopolitical forces would depict not mountain ranges but currents of tension in an ever-changing ocean—their tides shifting almost every decade. In order to keep our world free and fair for all, we must remain cognizant of newly emerging undertows and vigilant about those regions, like Burma, that find themselves in danger of sinking.
— Probir Kumar Sarkar
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