[Opinion] As Aung San Suu Kyi looks set to take control in Myanmar’s historic election, could this signal the birth of Asia’s next superpower?
Myanmar, a moderate-sized country in Southeast Asia, with a population of approximately 51 million people last census, has recently held a historic election.
The country, which has experienced life as the colony of Burma, suffered violent ethnic conflicts and lived under the rule of military junta, organised the open vote on the next presidency – a crucial step in the ascension towards democracy within the country.
As the results of that election continue to trickle in, Myanmar’s so-named democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi and her long-oppressed National League for Democracy (NLD) party look set to take control of most regional assemblies as well as forming the central government, a triumph that will reshape the political landscape in the Asian nation.
While, under the constitution drawn up by Myanmar’s former junta, Suu Kyi is barred from taking up the presidency herself – due to a clause, which few doubt was inserted specifically to rule her out, that bans an individual with children that are foreign nations from taking office.
However, the nobel prize laureate has remained undeterred by the constitutional clause and, during two interviews, said regardless of whoever was appointed president by the newly elected houses of parliament, she would be calling the shots.
So, with a clear win for the democratic party looking inevitable, the question has to be asked of what implications this will have on the nation of Myanmar, whose political landscape will surely be changed indefinitely.
The simple answer is that nobody knows. It would be impossible to accurately predict the effects on a nation in Myanmar’s position when given this sudden shift to a more democratic government system.
Nevertheless, there is certainly both argument and evidence to suggest that with this more democratic government, this Myanmar election could be responsible for the birth of Asia’s next superpower.
The reasoning behind this; Myanmar’s actions and development during the build up to and since the dissolution of the ruling junta in 2011.
Naypyitaw, Myanmar’s new capital city, is the grandest testament to this change.
In 2005, the capital city of Myanmar was moved from the country’s largest city, Yangon, to a greenfield site 320km north. This was to become the site of the new capital, officially named Naypyitaw in 2006.
Naypyitaw is an interesting situation, and one that bodes well for Myanmar, because of the manner in which it is being constructed. A planned city, the capital is being built in vast scale that currently seems overly grandiose and unnecessary, with virtually unused four-lane highways – which are being expanded to six – connecting it with the former capital Yangon.
However, while the scale of the construction may seem unwise at the moment, it could actually prove very useful for the country. The problem that is facing most capitals and large cities in developing nations, especially rapidly developing nations, is that they have too little space. This causes prices to rise astronomically, and puts off many businesses from locating in that country, hindering its further development.
Naypyitaw has the opposite. It currently has too much space in the capital. This provides cheap space for businesses to purchase and locate to, as well as well established infrastructure for the future.
Myanmar is also a country rich in jade and gems, oil, natural gas and other mineral resources, so there are incentives for countries to locate operations in other parts of the country, with headquarters based in the new capital.
However, Myanmar is still faced with its own problems – such as possessing one of the largest income gaps in the world – but that is the benefit of the new democratic government. These lawmakers should provide a voice to the people of Myanmar that they have never had before; a fair and open system where problems can be raised and addressed.
Obviously, as with every political system in the world, it will have its issues and may not ever turn out to have the impact that it could, and is hoped to have.
Yet, that is also no reason why it shouldn’t provide hope for not only the people of Myanmar, but also the rest of the world. Providing a new Asian superpower could be extremely lucrative for world trade and for international partnerships with the rest of the developed world.
The future looks bright for Myanmar, and if some countries and corporations are willing to take a risk, the situation growing in the Southeast Asian nation might just blossom into something brilliant for the global economic market.