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Asian Correspondent: What does Burma have to face in a new year?

What does Burma have to face in a new year? (click to view article)

Burma approaches a new year in its traditional calendar. What does it have to solve in a brand new year?

On April 17, 2013, after four peaceful days of water festival – unlike the 2010celebrations, which were sullied by a bomb blast – Burma welcomed its traditional new year of 1375. As the icing on the cake, many in the Burma public voted for Aung San Suu Kyi for the Time most influential face-off, and the iconic leader beat Lady Gaga in the final round. What will a new year for Burma be like?

Violence everywhere
At the same time that the country's reforms started to take place on international news headlines, clashes and riots began to break out. The list does not only include conflicts between Rakhine and Rohingya or Buddhists and Muslims, but also crackdowns on protestors and civil war. None of them were straightforward and the root causes lie with loose immigration laws, and a lack of transparency within the government's procedures under the umbrella of military involvement.

Aung San Suu Kyi mentioned in her recent Japan trip that Muslims in Myanmar "must be made to feel secure". If the government failed to stabilize the country by protecting every citizen in the country to be safe and secure, the momentum of the country's development would be hugely affected.

The government should also lead their people to promote the idea that appreciating diversity can help the country develope faster. To achieve that, transparency in all of the government's movements will be vital. Without providing the statistics of religious building in the country, it is impossible to convince either Muslims or Buddhists to stop debating about Islamization or extremist Buddhists. Without fulfilling absolute media freedom in country, it is impossible to induce that they are providing unfabricated truths to the public. Without publicizing a future plan on citizenship law and household statistics, it is impossible to stop ethnic conflicts.

Technology, Technology, Technology

Last year was a successful first step to go further with technology in Burma, where internet penetration rate is extremely low. First ATMs were installed and legal international money transfers became possible. Google chairman Eric Schmidt visited Myanmar and unblocked several Google services to the Burmese. Facebook began to offer a Burmese version by initiating localization of the site. Mobile SIM card prices were reduced till $2 from more than $2,000 five years ago. Plus, many International Telcos are queuing to provide mobile services to the country.

Still, there is no online or mobile payment system, no e-commerce site and no adequate infrastructure for start-ups and entrepreneurs. Internet connection is horribly slow and unstable, which is a huge block for young learners and international investors. Government must quickly look into it as Internet business has great potential to contribute the country's development. Many young individual developers are waiting for the time where they can sell their mobile apps with their own payment account or run an online store conveniently.

E-government becomes nothing new in Burma as a term. However, no proper e-government services that satisfy the public has emerged yet. Existing services end up with creating agents who assist the public from using new technology for certain fees. Since well-organised e-government systems can increase transparency in government's procedures, uncorrupted public services can be made available.

Election in 2015

A new electoral system is under discussion. Although there are two more years left to go, people are starting to talk about elections that might fulfill their hope for change.The National League for Democracy (NLD) may massively win as in a previous by-election in 2012 or nationwide election in 1990. However, in 2015, the NLD will not be the only opposition to compete with the militar- backed Union of Solidarity Development Party (USDP). 88 generations student group announced that they will form a party. In some states, ethnic parties have better chances than both the ruling and opposition parties.

What matters is that there be a free and fair election in which people can vote for who they believe could represent them to voice their needs and concerns and work for their hunger of technology, their hope for peace and their dream for country's development.

Burma still has a long way to go. Among many other issues to be tackled, government should emphasize peace and stability in order for the country to move forward.
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