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Restoring justice through healing political trauma towards National Reconciliation in Myanmar: Practices and options to the diverse people of Burma / Myanmar

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Part two:

The role of government ministers and the professional services

Our leaders and our newly elected Ministers have pledged that our country will be a new government, a new vision and a new social and political transition over the past few days. It is the aspiration of the people that we are devoted to live in peace, search for better living conditions and enjoy our basic human dignity in our own land. It is one of the most beautiful regions in Asia. We deserve it, as our past inhabitants built the cities, villages, pagodas, temples and other buildings that they inherited to us. It is the most aspirational people and land that we have within the universe.

Map of Myanmar/Burma with major ethnic groups (Photo: the Economist)
Map of Myanmar/Burma with major ethnic groups (Photo: the Economist)

Healing the wounds of past trauma in individuals and communities is not just a process but it is rather a journey to be accompanied with the dignity of the people. The IRCT stated that ‘It is important to note that while the pursuit of legal action and acquisition of reparations can have a positive therapeutic effect on the torture victims involved, there is also a risk that the process can further traumatise victims by forcing them to revisit the horrible treatment that was inflicted upon them, raising false hopes or exposing them to threats and pressure. Seeking legal redress in a way that minimizes potential negative consequences to victims and maximizes reparations is vitally important to a well-functioning criminal justice system’. Therefore, our leaders and Ministers in the newly elected government shall be looking to a workable legal mechanism and community expectation in dealing with the trauma of the past but the only option is that we, as a nation have to take the burden of it because we had been experienced the trauma of our own making within our tribal people either through armed or political oppressions by all sides / groups of actors in the last over 68 years. This is a historical fact that our leaders admitted the wrong doing of the past to enable a pathway to reconciliation and peace in our country at large.

Restoring faith between the State and Society:

Restoring hope, faith in politics and national unity through national reconciliation is a journey of our people and nation in the 21stcentury. We have never lacked legal knowledge, and other customary laws but we have lacked the courage and will, especially in our leaders across the entire spectrum of the nation. Our leaders blame one another – the socialist mocks the communist and vice versa, and the communist mocks the capitalist and ethnic nationalist circle. We have been hearing words such as ‘dictator’ and ‘abuser’ in the past 30 years in our own country while we have been struggling to live with basic dignity but the era of ‘human rights’ stimulated in our mind the late 1980s. This is a moment of truth that our leaders and Minister approach the issues in both legal and moral terms in the next five years. However, the TNI (2016), policy briefing warns that ‘While conflict continues, the gender implications of such suffering and marginalisation are rarely factored in during discussions or initiatives for national reform. This neglect now has to end. In fact, although men have been the highest casualties in combat, it is very often women in Myanmar who have been the prime victims of conflict, whether through sexual violence, human trafficking and other rights abuses or such indirect consequences as reduced access to clean water and health services, the increase in female-headed households, and the inordinate burdens for women and girls in conflict-zones’. In fact, women are targeted for all form of human rights violations due to gender and power abused by the title of the ‘Man’, under the sun and the sky.

Healing through kindness, care and tolerance:

Healing is the best medicine in mental health but we are facing various human problems within our own hands. It is therefore, that our leaders ‘recognises the vital role of the IRCT that rehabilitation centres play in supporting this process, by giving psycho-social and legal support to victims, gathering data on torture in their populations and generating evidence to be used in pursuing legal ends. Our initiatives, consequently, aim to support the work of member centres in these areas’. It is wise that our newly elected government work and assist local, national and international services to provide the healing programs in line with the context our social, cultural and political narrative. It is a doable project within a year if our leaders open their minds and time to the legal avenue and other community programs at large in the country.

After half of the century of internal armed conflict, discrimination based on race and religion in the country, our country requires new system of governance, legal and professional administration in addressing the national reconciliation process, at least healing the trauma within our own inhabitants. It is time we called upon our leaders to approach the issues with moral authority being legally and professionally accommodated on the ground. The process is quite complex but the IRCT is able to work with our country as the peak body is committed, ‘in order for torture victims to have access to an effective remedy and reparations it is imperative that effective national mechanisms and procedures are in place. The IRCT promotes this through its international and regional advocacy work targeting a wide range of bodies including the relevant UN human rights mechanisms, EU institutions, the Council of Europe, the Inter-American Human Rights System and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’. Our legal scholars, community leaders, and democratic activists have to open their minds and eyes to the issues that our world is facing with social problems, poverty, displaced persons, climate change and other threats on ‘terror’ as we are informed by the world’s media daily. Our leaders can at least address the issues on hand with assistance from legal and restorative justice programs. We are living with the uncertainty of a human made crisis and natural disasters as we have seen in the last five years as flood, fire and Tsunami have eroded in our country.

National reconciliation within diverse perspectives:

Peace, harmony and justice are three common words used in liberal literature but we are yet to reach within us in Burma for half of the century. Scholars and writers from Burma and abroad assert the notion but the people of Burma have failed to restore them in the last leadership. However, we are seeking to enjoy them in the new transition. Sai Wansai, a Shan writer and analyst, asserted (2016) that ‘after so many decades of disappointments and suffering, our country could indeed be on the brink of better change, if leaders and parties on all sides commit themselves to the cause of achieving ethnic peace and reform. But it goes without saying that altruism, political will and the genuine wish to compromise are essential ingredients that are needed to overcome all the obstacles on the difficult road ahead. Without these, we will continue to muddle through, as in previous political eras, without ever coming nearer to fulfilling our long-held aspirations for national peace, harmony and justice. In this endeavour, it is vital that all parties reflect on ways to bridge the conceptual differences in history that have come to underpin and sustain conflict, and this should be accompanied by constructive political dialogue that is based on recognition of the necessity and mutual benefit of national power and resource-sharing. It can be done and is very much what the leaders of the peoples at independence agreed and aspired to’.

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