The by-elections for 19 seats in Burma’s parliament were held on April 1, 2017, which was contested by 94 candidates [18 each from the Nationalities League for Democracy (NLD) and Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), 51 from different ethnic political parties and seven individual candidates] from 24 political parties.
As a British diplomat fresh in the country in 1990, Vicky Bowman dove enthusiastically into Burmese culture, mastering the language and making friends among the dissidents that operated, surreptitiously, in Yangon’s arts and literary scene—at a time when encounters with foreigners could earn locals heavy police harassment.
What has happened on March 30 when State counselor Aung San Suu Kyi hurriedly issued a statement on the heels of her televised speech assessment of the first year, anniversary of National League for Democracy (NLD) coming to power, is a desperate move to show or take credit that her administration is achieving positive result after all.
For weeks, since the Panghsang or Pangkham meeting of seven, non-signatory of Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) at the United Wa State Party/Army (UWSP/UWSA) headquarters, in February, the further existence of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) has been called into question, as its two strongest members, the Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/KIA) and the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) were participants of the gathering, where “a new peace process approach”, rather the present NCA-based negotiation pattern was advocated, with the formation of “political negotiation committee – interim” poised to negotiate with the government, on a new track.
With the United Nationalities Alliance (UNA) taking up position on the naming of the bridge as “Bogyoke Aung San”, in Mon State known as “Thanlwin” bridge, the controversial issue has taken an active spin, which was followed by a massive protest on March 19 Sunday, to keep to the old name that is preferred by the local people.
As the National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government prepares for another round of historic peace talks later this month, ethnic Mon leaders are planning the second protest in as many weeks over the party’s policies. But the anger simmering in the state has nothing to do with disarmament, profit-sharing or other intractable issues of multiparty peace negotiations. No, the thing that the NLD has done to upset a broad swath of the Mon people is to name a bridge.
For the seventy years since independence, Myanmar’s ruling military elites have had a singular role in setting the country’s direction. Their stated political objectives, which for many years were hard to avoid seeing at the beginning of books and in public places, detailed a vision for a harmonious country: