The Straits Times: “Myanmar: Blood, dreams and gold”

October 29, 2015 | Hans W. Vriens

Myanmar is holding what is shaping up to be its first credible parliamentary elections in decades on Nov 8. And there is even more good news.

After more than six decades of civil war, eight armed ethnic minorities signed a nationwide ceasefire at a grand ceremony in the capital Naypyitaw on Oct 15. During the ceremony, President Thein Sein expressed optimism that additional armed ethnic groups will sign later on. The signing ends almost two years of negotiations.

Credible parliamentary elections and a nationwide ceasefire are two important milestones in a complex and far-reaching reform process that the ruling generals embarked upon more than four years ago. Simultaneously, they are trying to introduce a modicum of democracy while keeping control of the process. The army is guaranteed 25 per cent of the seats in Parliament and Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and leader of the opposition National League for Democracy, is barred from running for the presidency because her children hold foreign passports.

In short, Myanmar has never been a peaceful, rich, well-functioning nation state, and one election can only be a step in its overhaul. A complex and profound transformation has only just begun. “One point of writing Blood, Dreams And Gold was to uncover just how rundown and pauperised people had become in Myanmar in the name of Burmanisation, so we have a more clear-sighted view of exactly how far the country still has to go,” Mr Cockett writes.

Indeed, Myanmar has a mountain to climb, but it remains impressive how much has been set in motion in the last four years.

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