Democratic Party for a New Society
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (October 2009)|
The Democratic Party for New Society (DPNS) is a Burmese political party founded in 1988 by Moe Thee Zun, the then General Secretary of ABSU, which was de facto outlawed by State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), in order to engage in the political process from within the legal fold in the aftermath of 18 September coup. At the time of creation, DPNS was by far the largest party after National League for Democracy (NLD) and attracted many younger students, both from high schools and university, many of whom are members of ABSU. Initially, DPNS was used as a legal political wing of ABSU and worked with NLD and all other democratic parties. The main aim of DPNS was to build a democratic society based on freedom, national reconciliation, social justice, equality and human rights.
Under the rule of a one party system created by the Burma Socialist Program Party (BSPP), a series of demonstrations took place successively in 1988. During that period, there was no freedom of speech, writing, freedom of assembly and so on. The BSPP was merely a military regime. Under that system, the Burmese people faced many difficulties. Mismanagement of the unskilled so-called socialists, turned the resource-wealthy country into one of the ten poorest nations in the world. Corruption and economic malaise had impoverished the nation. People joined the pro-democratic demonstrations and soon the entire country seemed to be on the streets calling for the BSPP to step down and an interim government to lead our motherland back to democracy. The military junta however, responded with arrests, killings, and staged a coup, establishing martial law on September 18, 1988. Many people including students and youths were killed during these turbulent days. Many popular leaders were rounded up, imprisoned and executed overnight.
The junta however could not resist the pressure of the entire people and allowed the establishment of political parties promising to hold multi-party elections only to later cheat the people. Under the political circumstances in Burma at that time, the leadership of students and youth decided that part of the young activists should establish a legal political party and participate in a non-violent form of struggle. Thus the student and youth activists organized and formed the Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS) on October 14, 1988.
During the organizational campaign of the DPNS, the party targeted the youths of grass-roots sectors of the population such as peasants, workers, and the urban poor. After six months, the DPNS emerged as the second most powerful political party in the legal fold. We were able to form branches in more than 250 townships and could produce 1500 qualified organizers. The figure of party members was extended to 250,000. The DPNS became the most reliable alliance of the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
In spite of such achievement, the DPNS was the target of the junta’s oppression. A few months after the party was formed, the chairman had to flee to the eastern border. Meanwhile more than one hundred party members were apprehended by the military regime. No less than three hundred members of the DPNS were imprisoned within six months and two of them died in jail. During its 2-year life as a political party, almost all leaders had been imprisoned. Many are still in the prison today.
The DPNS never intended to contest in the general election held on May 27,1990. The party instead aimed at participating in the election campaign in order to establish political rights and to create a democratic atmosphere. It then adopted a strategy to concentrate all its efforts in the support of the NLD.
After the general election, the DPNS adopted a four point program as follows:
- To convene the parliament as earliest as possible
- To release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners
- To bring an end to the civil war
- To convene a national convention where all political groups are able to participate
The military government responded by making restrictions on printing permission and dissemination of DPNS political pamphlets and newsletters, prohibiting publicity practice, and raiding the party’s branch offices in Rangoon as well as other parts of the country. Moreover, the authority launched a severe offensive against the DPNS. The chairman and most of the party’s leaders were imprisoned and the party headquarters was sealed.
The Central Committee of the DPNS, therefore, was forced to carry out its activities underground. At that time some of the party’s leaders contacted the DAB. At that time, the party chairman and eleven other leading members were secretly taken out of Rangoon in November 1991 to Manerplaw where the party headquarters was re-established.
After arriving in the liberated area, the DPNS became a member of the Democratic Alliance of Burma (DAB) and later, a member of the National Council of Union of Burma (NCUB). The DPNS has since then continued its political tasks joining hands in hands with other democratic forces including the ethnic nationality organizations to win its political objectives.
I. Political stand – basic ideologies
stand up for the oppressed and marginalized
1. The emblem of the DPNS’s four stars stands for four strata of people– workers, farmers, petty bourgeois and national capitalists– though DPNS will not limit its movement to just historical background of class conflicts but rather engage more broadly with ethnic conflicts, religious conflicts, gender discrimination, linguistic, sustainable development and environmental impact etc.
2. Efforts to solve problems in the country, region, and world must be done from a multi-dimensional approach.
3. DPNS will actively take part in the international and domestic movements for democracy and peace.
4. DPNS believes that the only means, which could end the current crises in Burma, is through peace, national reconciliation, and social justice. DPNS also holds up the idea of decentralization and federalism for ethnic nationalities rights and national unity.
5. DPNS stands in the support of empowerment of the people to participate in decision making at local and national level.
II. DPNS Views on Current Issues
View on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
DPNS honours Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as an admirable and beloved leader of all the people of Burma. DPNS believes that her leading role in dealing with Burma’s issues is currently, and in the future, indispensable.
View on the current Burmese Military (Tatmadaw)
Since 1948, the military in Burma has become an oppressive tool used by the successive ruling regimes, including military dictators, against all the people of Burma.
Views on the Dialogue with the Military Regime
In order to reach a genuine peace in Burma, DPNS recognizes that there is a need for a dialogue as a political means to overcome the current political crises, but we shall oppose any efforts at dialogue that ignore the interests of the people.
DPNS believes that the dialogue which shall consist of the military regime and democracy movements including ethnic minority groups could answer the political questions and lead towards national reconciliation, long lasting peace and democratization in Burma.
Starting with a talk between the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the military regime, it needs to move towards a political dialogue consisting of all political stakeholders, particularly all ethnic minority groups.
DPNS believes that an all-inclusive talk based on free and equal participation is imperative to the success of such a political programme in the interest of our nation.
Views on the National League for Democracy (NLD)
The National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, is entrusted with a mandate by the people of Burma through their ballots in the 1990 elections. Thus, DPNS honours NLD’s landslide victory in the 1990 elections and recognizes its vital role in Burma’s current political development.
Views on the Political Alliances
DPNS has worked in partnership with all democratic forces and ethnic nationalities to strengthen the process of democratization and achieve national reconciliation. The current political situation in Burma demands a genuinely united political front based on common political aspirations.
The National Council of the Union of Burma (NCUB), the National Democratic Front (NDF), and the Democratic Alliances of Burma (DAB) are also important opposition forces. They have uniquely played in the struggles against the oppressive military regimes.
The Forum for Democracy in Burma (FDB), an umbrella organization of political forces from the ’88 generation’ in Burmese politics, is regarded as a platform for the emergence of a united political front for the future. Since its formation, DPNS has been actively involved in FDB’s political and organizational programmes.
III. A New Society: Vision for a New Burma
Democratic, people representative government
The government should
- practice in accordance with transparency, accountability and good governance.
- respect the will and the rights of all the ethnic nationalities. In the federal constitution, there should be two houses of parliament—one house should be composed of the popular elected representatives, the other should be composed of representatives of the various states, including the ethnic nationality states.
- be run efficiently and effectively in a manner that respects and encourages the rights and equality of people (civil rights, cultural rights, social rights and labor rights).
- exercise a tangible reform free from unnecessary ranks, posts, programs which could waste national budgets and taxpayers’ money.
- publicize ‘Rule of Law’ – laws and regulations which are comprehensive and available to the people; accessible and affordable legal aid to everyone with independence of the judiciary.
- encourage the political parties to operate freely with clear legal guidelines and non-discrimination. The legal guidelines shall be clear and objective.
- promote and protect fundamental human rights: freedom of association, freedom of speech and of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of belief, and public participation in all aspects of the governance of the country.
- increase bargaining power for marginal groups and create mechanisms to encourage the poor and underprivileged to have a voice.
- uphold the labor rights and safeguard against exploitation, mistreatment, and various forms of forced-labor.
- practice civilian control whilst maintaining a professional army with compulsory or voluntary military service of two years.
The government should oppose all forms of dictatorship and promote peace.
Decentralization & Federalism
equality for people of all races
- The government should uphold and protect federalism, and separation and balance of powers between the federal government, the state governments, and the local governing structures abiding by the national constitution.
- Each state should have its own constitution with substantial legislative, administrative and judicial power.
- Local (District and Township) empowerment: local government should have significant authority and autonomy.
benefits for the nation and society
The government should
- encourage the development of independent/private institutions that can perform various tasks such as job training, research and development, capacity building, social welfare functions, and education.
- respect private property rights given to that of public benefit and interest.
- support public participation in the development of every area of society and the nation.
- strengthen civil society and allow freedom of their movements.
- encourage public/private partnership and the involvement of NGO’s (Non-Governmental Organizations), PVO’s (Private Voluntary Organization) and other private sector actors.
make available to the entire society
The government should
- promote responsible and sensible privatization.
- minimize economic gaps between urban and rural areas.
- eradicate price controls on most items, unreasonable trade licensing/restrictions that inhibit fair economic opportunity of the citizens.
- guarantee property rights and land rights.
- create a proper environment for investment (including thorough judicial and banking reform.)
- encourage the growth and spread of (sustainable and locally produced) technology.
- focus on rural infrastructure: recognize the immediate need to develop and diversify the agricultural sectors, primarily through reducing government controls in farming, while also creating an environment where other sectors of the economy can be developed.
- support job training programs—through public/private partnership—to increase the skill level of the workforce.
- provide a social safeguard and strengthen local empowerment in order to minimize the negative impacts of globalization.
the rights rest on human dignity
The government should
- promote the equality and common welfare of the people; particularly better quality of life for rural people.
- take responsibility for promoting the protection of the environment and for sustainable, responsible development, and respect public opinion regarding the environmental impact of developmental projects in their particular areas. (All people are entitled to enjoy the diversity of nature and the well being it provides.)
- constitute ‘education for all’ – compulsory education until secondary school, and some governmental supports for all other educational programs.
- promote the idea of ‘education is a right, not a privilege’ and focus on rights and responsible freedom related subjects in school curricula.
- provide free public health care regardless of race, religion, nationality, characteristics and their social and economic origins.
- promote and preserve the family values, culture and tradition of all ethnic nationalities.
- develop gender equality and rights within the government and society.
- promote disability aids and make every attempt to assist those who are unable to care for themselves, such as the elderly, orphans, the disabled, and single parents with children of tender age
- encourage formation of independent anti-corruption commission and national human rights commission
- immediately restructure prison policies and conditions towards a correction center with human values, rather than a punishment center.
- immediately take charge of a comprehensive refugee resettlement program with the assistance of international humanitarian agencies.
all human beings worldwide are equal in worth
The government should
- enhance its international relations with every country on the basis of respect, equality, interdependence, mutual interests.
- support the worldwide movements for democracy, peace, human rights, social and educational activities.
- promote regional stability, peace, and cooperation on issues of mutual concern such as drug trafficking, arms smuggling, money laundering, flesh trade, crimes and human rights violations.
- work within regional and international organizations and groupings in support of cultural, political, and economic self determination, in accordance with the idea of all human beings worldwide are equal in worth.