Earlier in the year I wrote a report for New York-based Freedom House on Myanmar as a “country at the crossroads“. My analysis is available here. It is divided into sections such as Accountability and Public Voice, Civil Liberties, and Rule of Law. The goal of such reports is to provide an opportunity for meaningful comparisons between countries, and over time.
The standard format of these reports also includes a section for recommendations to the government in question. I think these are worth reproducing in the interest of opening up a discussion about exactly what further reforms Myanmar requires. Please bear in mind that they were written early in 2012. What I suggested was:
The government of Burma has embarked on a political transition that has been welcomed by the Burmese people. To reinforce recent positive moves and generate confidence that progress toward democratic governance is irreversible, the government should:
- Implement an immediate release of all remaining prisoners of conscience and disavow any future incarcerations for political crimes.
- Encourage the plurality of public opinion by abolishing the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division and resisting the temptation to create a new body for coercive media regulation.
- Declare a unilateral ceasefire in the civil war with the Kachin Independence Army, demonstrating goodwill and encouraging the Kachin leadership to begin negotiations for a final peace treaty.
- Implement a truth and reconciliation process to account for human rights abuses committed by current and former members of the armed forces, law enforcement agencies, and intelligence services during the years of military rule.
Of course, while the report was in press number two on this list eventuated. The Press Scrutiny and Registration Division is gone and time will tell whether the authorities resist the temptation to re-institute its draconian controls. At this stage it’s unclear, at least to me, exactly how much appetite remains for immediate moves on the other three.
Perhaps some of these are still achievable in the short-term. What do you think? I have heard it said that the key issue for Myanmar’s reforms is getting the sequencing right. So what do you think the Myanmar government should do next?