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Published on 02 April, 2013

Military still a strong influence in ‘democratic’ Burma

Burma (MNN) — There's a dichotomy in government actions in Burma.

On one hand, "They're proceeding toward democracy, and so that is encouraging," says Dyann Romeijn of Vision Beyond Borders.

But on the other, "They're actually making more military outposts deeper into the Karen areas, the Karenni, and the Kachin."

Burma's military government has a long history of persecuting these people groups, a large portion of which follow Christ.

"There's been an outright genocide…. They're trying to wipe out these people," says Romeijn. "You see an influx of more refugees and more people fleeing…because they're scared of the military."

Last week on Burma's Armed Forces Day, military leaders announced a continual strengthening and involvement in national politics.

"While the country is moving toward modern democracy, our military plays a leading role in national politics," said Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

Over 6,300 troops gathered for a public display– the first in two decades–of military power and precision. Although the military government made way for an elected one two years ago, it remains largely influential. The military is guaranteed a quarter of the seats in Parliament–enough to block constitutional amendments that would usher in true reform.

Glimpses of reform can be seen in recent democratic changes: the allowance of private schools to operate in Burma, the release of political prisoners, and the election of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to Parliament.

Romeijn can't tell whether recent developments will add to those democratic advances, or send Burma three steps back.

"It's difficult to know for sure what they will do," she says. "But in the past, the government has completely persecuted these people."

In Burma and around the world, "The persecution of Christians is increasing.

"We just need to be praying for our brothers and sisters: for strength to be able to stand amid the persecution and be a witness and a light."

Pray also that God will use the situation to draw more people to Himself.

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