A Letter To The US Congress – OpEd


The two prominent Burmese that visited the US and UN, highlighted in the headlines news have find their way home and hopefully will implement of what they have promised to the international community..America, that led the world in imposing harsh sanctions on Burma which works admirably has opened its arms to the lady and poured out its respect. The US Congress has given Daw Aung San Suu Kyi its Medal of Honor, a rare award; President Obama has received her in the White House, the media and the public have besieged her. People everywhere have joined in saluting her courage and fortitude, and bidding her welcome after so many years in seclusion. Her popularity is not in doubt and she is set to resume the mantle of leadership that was forcefully ripped from her. 1 With these developments, the international community may have construe that a new chapter has opened in Burma.

In the meantime the 112th US Congress has only another three more months, to be exact on 3rd Jan 2013, to endorse of what President Barrack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has initiated. One of the main functions of the US Congress is to consider the perspective of sociological representation, whose ethnic, religious, racial, social, or educational background is not the same because the views of people with similar backgrounds tend to be similar in their thinking.2 Hence we would humbly like to appeal to every Congressman to study the situation in Burma before making a final decision, of the fate of the Non Myanmar (ethnic nationalities) which constitutes nearly half of the 60 million plus people in Burma.

There is no denying that Burma has made significant positive progress in many areas both political, social and economics but has not made any meaningful progress in the area of forced colonizing the Non- Myanmar, ethnic nationalities.

De-franchising and subjugating this 45% of the population became the main criteria of the ruling authorities since 1962 up to this day and has become the country’s core problem.

The hidden factor that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Thein Sein (representing a major Myanmar race) comes to US, simply because they don’t want to lose the country’s independence to the ever encroaching Chinese whose main aim is the hidden peaceful colonization and did not lift a finger about the Non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities, except the WA tribe that is akin to Chinese. The Burmese government has bowed down to this unwritten demand and had given the WA total independence except in name.3 So, the logical conclusion is that those remaining Non Myanmar, ethnic nationalities under the umbrella of United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) will be left to their fate and more patriotic ethnic nationalities will carry on the guerilla war for another a century or more.4 At the same time military conflicts initiated by the Tatmadaw have actually been increasing in the ethnic dominated areas especially in Northern and Western Burma and there were often skirmishes in Eastern Burma. The actions of the quasi military government is not conducive to what they say and clearly proves that it still believes in pursuing a military solution of what is primarily a political problem, indirectly forcing the ethnic groups no other option but to engage in an armed struggle.5

If military means were a solution to ethnic conflicts, I think Gen Ne Win would have already solved the problem. We ethnic people hold arms not because we want war, but for the purpose of self-protection.”6 was said by Ethnic Nationalities Council Chairman.

These two Burmese dignitaries seems to paint the picture that the Non Myanmar are also at fault as they refuse withdraw to the demarcation lines, somewhat similar to what, if an enemy had advanced to near the outskirts of Naypyidaw and said let us make a ceasefire. This clearly paints the picture that the Myanmar mentality could not comprehend the real Pyidoungsu (jynfaxmifpk) the Union and did not harbour any diversity and that Burma is made up of many nation states that come together by consensus in 1947 (Panglong Conference) founded by the lady’s father.

On the other hand Tatmadaw which is a state within a state, as the 1988 Nargis Constitution has enshrined, is unable to respect the other’s sovereignty, laws, customs, religions and values. This is the crux of the Burmese problem. Hence we would humbly appeal to the US Congress to reconsider the persecuted and marginalized 30 plus million people of Non-Myanmar residing in Burma.

No doubt Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is an extraordinary moral exemplar and a remarkable political leader. As she made the rounds in Washington, New York, San Fransisco and other major cities, she has spoken eloquently about the democracy cause, leaving out the aspirarions of the Non-Myanmar. Somehow, over these long years of struggle, she has managed to keep her unbending devotion to justice even while demonstrating rare qualities of eloquence, charisma and self-deprecating charm.7 But it’s not her unsurpassed ability to woo cynical Washington politicians and pundits that earns our respect, her long and tortuous non-violent struggle for human rights in Burma undeniably places her in the exalted ranks of such figures as Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Vaclav Havel. She belongs there. She’s earned it. Yet it’s also important to remember that none of these people were gods. They all made their mistakes, political as well as personal. None of them should have been off limits to criticism. They’ve all been subjected to harsh scrutiny by their contemporaries as well as by historians. And this is in the nature of things. It is, in fact, their personal failings and peccadilloes that accentuate their achievements.

The very fact that she did not utter a word about the Non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities and ethnic crisis, even as she was heaped with accolades in the niceties of the West clearly paints the picture that she did not represent the cause of the ethnic nationalities as her father did so in speaking to the British Government some seventy or so years ago. It is lamentable that all the ethnic nationalities have pinned their hope so much on her and look upon her for their liberation. Daw Suu Kyi can hardly be exempt from this process. She’s a human being, too. And her new role as a democratically elected member of her country’s Parliament means, more than ever, that she should be subject to the same public scrutiny as any other politician. Burma’s efforts to find its way toward the ranks of the world’s open societies is a hugely important but also insanely complex undertaking, replete with tactical dilemmas and difficult compromises. One cannot note that her sympathy to the Non-Myanmar the ethnic nationalities are wanting.

Every Congress man should note that after her visit to the West (EU & US), the Burmese struggle is no longer be construed as the struggle between the good democratic forces and the evil military dictatorships but has become a tripod struggle, which includes the Non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities. The world has thought that the Burmese democratic and the ethnic nationalities struggles are just two sides of a coin. But as she seems to side with the tyranny of the majority by her silence on ethnic struggle, it is far better to go back to the UN approved the tripartite Conference where the dictatorships represented by the Tatmadaw, the pro democracy movement by Daw Suu Kyi and the Non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities by the UNFC (United Nationalities Federal Council, whose delegation led by David Thakapaw is in US) should sit together to find the political solution. The alternative to this tripartite conference is continued civil war for another century at least.

Daw Suu Kyi had clearly painted the picture that she cannot represent all opposition parties (to the military regime) in Burma, who are of a different background, especially when we speak of Non-Myanmar rights enshrined both in spirit and in crystal clear word in the original “1947 Panglong Conference” initiated by her father, for the State Rights could not be confused with democratic rights of an individual right in democracy. 8

Nobody wants to see democracy triumph more than Non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities, who have endured kinds of lifelong suffering that it would be hard for “normal” citizens to imagine. In order for democracy to arise and become established, and in order for society to stay on the right path, the rule of law must be reinstated throughout the country.9 No doubt President Thein Sein, is endeavouring to secure ceasefire agreements and to sign national-level peace deals with all armed organizations and members of parliament are calling for a lasting peace. But so far, while top officials from both sides discuss the peace process, regional units of the Tatmadaw continued to advance on ethnic territories. This is a clear violation of Geneva Conventions that have resulted in the forced displacement of 100,000 Kachin civilians and to add insult to injury the government of Burma is not only providing emergency relief but is refusing to allow the free delivery of humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of internally displaced people in direct and open violation of international law.10 It’s not a promising sign and is obvious that national reconciliation process can’t be achieved without dialogue No dialogue, no reconciliation: It’s that simple.11

As an elected MP and daughter of General Aung San, talk of “unity” while staying silent on the suffering of the ethnic masses will only polarize the country further. “The important thing is to learn how to resolve problems. How to face them and how to find the right answers through discussion and debate,” the Burmese Nobel Laureate said to more than 5,000 of her countrymen in Fort Wayne, yet she did not meet the UNFC leaders, in fact the Burmese government did not even recognize the UNFC as it is embarked on dealing the individually a clear divide and rule strategy.

The Non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities are more than ready for dialogue with all the stakeholders and believe that international community involvement will help pave the way to national reconciliation and federalism is achieved as they have suffered enough but they are determine to defend their birth right.12 “Until and unless the Burmese military actually ceases its attacks against the ethnics, ‘stability and reconciliation in Burma will not be possible” said David Takapaw
Existing U.S. sanctions on Burma are based on various U.S. laws and presidential executive orders but not enacted, by Congress, and still could be imposed under existing law or executive orders, depending on the conduct of Burma’s quasi military Government and other developments in Burma.13 The new US ambassador to Myanmar Derek Mitchell has often said that it was too soon to abolish all sanctions. Keeping some measures in place was an insurance policy for the future in case things reverse.14 There is no current roadmap for further liberalization, nor can any backsliding be wholly precluded, for those who have enjoyed the fruits of power without the bother of answering to the public may fight to retain at least some of their privileges.15

“We will continue consulting with Congress and other relevant stakeholders about additional steps, while at the same time working with you and supporting those who are hoping that the reform will be permanent and progress will be continuing,” said the Secretary of State.16

Hence we would humbly like to appeal to every US Congress man to vote it with their heart and not from brains with ulterior thinking.

1. Salman Haidar, Salman; Lining up to take advantage of Burma’s moment The Nation 26-9-2012
2. Written in the US Constitution See the Functions of the US Congress
3. WA is recognised by the world as the strongest and the biggest well organized narco army in the world
4. Some of the ethnic nationalities like the Karen, Mon have fought more than 60 years.
5. Naing, Saw Yan; Burma Missing Chance to Solve Ethnic Conflicts in the Irrawaddy 2-11-2011
6. H Sakhong, Salai Lian Vice Chairperson of The |Ethnic Council at Chiang Mai Conference 2-11-2011
7. Caryl, Christian; Given the Lady a Hard Time Irrawaddy 28-9-2012
8. VOA interview with Khun Htun Oo and Saya Kyaw Zan Tha
9. The Atlantic; Burma May Have Elections—but Can It Become a Real Democracy? 27-9-2012
10. News, Kachin Land, Open letter to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi 26-9-2012
11. The Atlantic; Burma May Have Elections—but Can It Become a Real Democracy? 27-9-2012
12. K Ja, Lalit; US to ease Burmese Sanctions Irrawaddy 27-9-2012
13. Michael F. Martin; Michael F U.S. Sanctions on Burma Specialist in Asian Affairs 7-2-2012
14. Agence France-Presse – 20 July 2012
15. Salman Haidar, Salman; Lining up to take advantage of Burma’s moment The Nation 26-9-2012
16. K Ja, Lalit; US to ease Burmese Sanctions Irrawaddy 27-9-2012

Kanbawza Win

Kanbawza Win is a political scientist based in Canada

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