By BosNewsLife Asia Service
RANGOON, BURMA (BosNewsLife)– A leading Christian rights group warned Thursday, March 31, that dissolving Burma’s military government will not lead to “true democratic reform” for the Asian nation.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) made the announcement shortly after state media said the military government was officially disbanded and a civilian government sworn in after decades of military rule.
Military loyalists, however, still dominate the new government of Burma, also known as Myanmar.
Former Prime Minister Thein Sein was sworn in as president Wednesday, March 30, along with a new administration chosen after a controversial election in November.
Burma’s long-time ruler Than Shwe was replaced by General Min Aung Hlaing as head of the armed forces. The historic handover, though, is tempered by concerns that military rule will continue through proxies loyal to the military.
Political parties affiliated to the military regime won the majority of seats. Under the new constitution, the military is guaranteed 25 per cent of the parliamentary seats “and immunity for past, present and future crimes,”CSW said.
It also offers no meaningful autonomy for ethnic nationalities, including the predominantly Christian Karen minority, and no genuine protection for human rights, CSW explained. “There is no real change in Burma at all. The process which the regime has completed is a cosmetic change, but the brutal military dictatorship remains in power,” commented CSW’s East Asia Team Leader Benedict Rogers.
Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was banned from participating and her National League for Democracy (NLD), the main opposition, was disbanded as a political party for boycotting the election.
NLD spokesperson Nyan Win told reporters that they accept there is a new government and are open to dialogue, but also will watch closely for signs of military control.
“We are always concerned [whether there will be] military control over the government or not. We don’t know exactly. We will wait and see,” the Voice of America (VOA) network quoted Win as saying.
The NLD won Burma’s last election in 1990, but the military ignored the results and kept Aung San Suu Kyi locked up for most of the last two decades. She was released from house arrest last year, just days after the election.
The military government, which was known as the State Peace and Development Council, described Burma’s first elections in over 20 years however as “a move towards democracy”. But CSW has it doubts.
Last year’s elections were “marred by reports of harassment, intimidation, violence and arrests in several of Burma’s ethnic states, both on polling day and in the days afterwards,” the group said.
Among those being targeted were Christian Karens, who have been fighting for more autonomy and equal rights, BosNewsLife established.
Also, shortly after polling began, fighting between the Burma Army and a faction of the pro-junta Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) resulted in tens of thousands of refugees fleeing across the border into Thailand,according to CSW investigators.
CSW has urged the international community to pressure Burma to release all political prisoners, end reported attacks on ethnic civilians, and enter into dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy movement and ethnic nationalities.
It also wants sanctions to be maintained till genuine progress on reforms is reported and asks the United Nations to investigate alleged crimes against humanity.
The military government has ruled Burma, since 1988, but the impoverished country has been under some form of military rule for half a century.