Socialist Worker

Celebrations greet Suu Kyi win in Burma, but new dangers await

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2297

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi could be set to join the government.

Her National League for Democracy (NLD) claimed to have won 44 of the 45 seats in by-elections this week. Official results are due next week.

On the same day as the election, Burma floated its currency on international exchanges for the first time.

The country has been formally under civilian rule for less than two years, but the military maintains enormous influence over the government of former general Thein Sein.

Parliamentary elections took place in 2010, but these were widely seen as fraudulent. Some 25 percent of the seats were reserved for the military.

Since then the regime has released hundreds of political prisoners, legalised trade unions and signed ceasefires in civil wars that have raged for decades. Only the war against the ethnic Kachin continues.

And Burma’s rulers have embarked on a programme of economic liberalisation. A new deep sea port in Dawei will bring the country’s first “economic processing zone”.

The generals want to end years of political and military isolation. Decades of sanctions have left the economy one of the least developed in the world.


Both the US and the European Union have raised the prospect of lifting trade sanctions. For them, normalising relations with Burma can open up a lucrative new market in China’s backyard.

Suu Kyi built up her influence through a life of opposition to the repressive junta. There were celebrations in the street at the news of her election victory.

But she has used her position legitimise Thein Sein’s reforms.

Joining the government would be a dangerous game. Suu Kyi will soon find herself in an alliance with Burmese generals and Western capitalists as they impose neoliberalism in one of south east Asia’s poorest countries.

Even in the darkest days of military rule, thousands of ordinary Burmese people fought back against the brutal regime.

Now they have been promised a better future with more jobs and more freedom—and will be in a better position to fight back if this is denied to them.

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