Burma in 2010: A Critical Year in Ethnic Politics

TNI-BCN Burma Policy Briefing Nr 1
08 June 2010
Policy briefing

Resolution of Burma's longstanding ethnic crises is integral to the achievement of real peace, democracy and constitutional government

2010 is set to become Burma’s most important and defining year in two decades. The general election scheduled by the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) could well determine the country’s political landscape for another generation. All institutions and parties are faced with the uncertainties of political transformation.

At this critical moment in Burma’s history, it is still not certain whether the general election will prove an accepted step in the SPDC’s seven-stage roadmap for political reform or become the basis for a new generation of grievances. As the election countdown continues, new divisions are emerging in Burmese politics, warning that a unique opportunity for dialogue and national reconciliation could be lost.

An inclusive discussion and focus on the election are vital if its conduct and consequences are to have common meaning – whether in Burma (Myanmar) or the international community. Burma’s first election in twenty years (and third in fifty) marks a rare moment of supposedly national participation in deciding the representatives of central and local government. Its historic importance cannot be ignored.

Conclusions and Recommendations

• The 2010 general election could mark the most defining moment in a generation, but new divisions in Burmese politics are undermining prospects for democracy and national reconciliation

• Resolution of Burma’s long-standing ethnic crises is integral to the achievement of real peace, democracy and constitutional government.

• The UN and international community need to establish a common focus on the election and its political consequences.

• Political and ethnic inclusion is essential if Burma’s long history of state failure is to be addressed.

• To establish sustainable ethnic peace, there must be conflict resolution, humanitarian progress and equitable participation in the economy, bringing rights and benefits to all the country’s peoples and regions.

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