RECENT political developments in Myanmar may have sparked doubts over the country's outlook among analysts, but not with the Thai ambassador, who believes that the promised "free and fair election" and the hoped-for signing of a nationwide ceasefire ag
Ambassador Pisanu Suvanajata is convinced that the general election will take place on November 8 as planned, and that the situation in the country in the next few months will be positive for Thailand.
“One hundred per cent of the diplomats in Myanmar are certain that the election will be held on that day. This is a historic moment that captures the interest of the entire nation and the international community. Expectations are so high that the parties that help make it possible will win praise,” he said at a seminar held last week by the Thai Business Association of Myanmar to woo more investment from Thailand.
Some critics have said the dismissal of Thura Shwe Mann as the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party’s (USDP) chairman two weeks ago could lead to unexpected events, including postponement of the election date.
Having been posted in the country for four years, Pisanu maintains an optimistic view that regardless of political developments, Myanmar will proceed with political and economic reforms.
“No Myanmar leader has said it will be the most democratic election [as claimed by some international analysts], but they have given an assurance that it will be the most free and fair election,” he said.
Pisanu shares the view of analysts that the National League for Democracy (NLD) will win a landslide victory in the election.
Analysts, however, are keeping their fingers crossed on the NLD’s political influence. The reshuffle at the USDP has convinced many that the ruling party is set to maintain its power, with help from the military, which is guaranteed 25 per cent of the seats in parliament.
The USDP announced on August 12 that 50 government officials and 59 military officers, including several generals, would represent the party in the election.
“Committed to democracy”
Showing the unwavering power of the military, Senior General Than Shwe last week also received British Ambassador Andrew Patrick in Nay Pyi Taw.
He posted on his Facebook page that the military was committed to democracy and the people out of a sense of unity.
Upper House USDP MP Hla Swe confirmed this through an interview with the Myanmar Cable Network.
He said the party could take the lead in forming the new government, if it won 26 per cent of the parliamentary seats in the election. With the USDP and military’s majority control in parliament, the NLD had no chance of nominating the next president, he added.
“By doing this, the USDP and military have become one. We will get more votes. This is important. If our party wins 26 per cent of the seats, then we can add this percentage to the 25 per cent [bloc of] military personnel and we can form a government. Our party has been wavering, so the move [reshuffle] seems to have made the party and military merge together,” Hla Swe explained.
Pisanu did not touch on the political future of the country, merely saying that after the election, the new government – whichever party led it – would remain under pressure to proceed with reforms.
Meanwhile, he is optimistic that a nationwide ceasefire agreement with armed ethnic groups could be signed in mid-September, as expected by the government.
Pushing for the agreement, President Thein Sein is due to meet ethnic leaders in Nay Pyi Taw on August 25 to continue discussions. He has invited 15 out of 21 armed ethnic groups to participate in the agreement.
It has been reported that at the signing, 10 witnesses – including NLD chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi – will also sign the agreement upon the request of the armed groups.
The government’s Union Peacemaking Working Committee has also agreed to the inclusion of United Nations envoys and delegations from neighbouring countries, such as China, India and Thailand.
Both parties have also agreed to sign the ceasefire in the presence of delegates from the US, the UK, Japan and Norway.
To the Thai ambassador, the ceasefire agreement should bring peace to areas bordering Thailand, and this could spur bilateral trade, which would benefit Thai traders.
Thailand recorded an annual trade surplus with Myanmar for the first time last year.
“Connectivity permitted this, aside from the increase in purchasing power of Myanmar people,” he said.