Burma: Sharing Beds? – OpEd


Now that the third round of negotiations of the tripartite meeting, the Myanmar democratic forces (NLD), the patriotic indigenous ethnic leaders and the Imperial Myanmar Army (Tatmadaw) have met, it is understood that there is a possibility of having another banquet again, but not so much on substance of finding ways and means of stopping the world’s longest Civil War. The biggest barrier is of course the Tatmadaw, whose Generals lust for power is so strong that even, after ruining the country for more than half a century since 1962, they are still trying their level best to knock out the civilian administration in the negotiating table.

Carefully watching the proceedings, is of course Tatmadaw’s step-father, China who has not only sustained its step-son, since its inception with arms, ammunition and economic help, but also prevented the UN and other international bodies from taking any punitive actions against his step son for the ethnic cleansing policy all through this seven decades of which Rohingya is the latest. Naturally, the biological Father, which is the entire people of Burma, represented by NLD would not agree to such an absurd idea of bringing a foreign power into the internal affairs of Burma but China’s stepson is pressuring the Father to do so.

How did we come to this scenario? Once a small but a happy family born in a little town of Panglong in Shan hills in 1947 was soon wrecked by the Mahar Myanmar spearheaded by its armed forces that managed to mechanize the killing its founding father Aung San by proxy (dressed in Aung San’s forces made a deliberate failed attempt to assassinate its arch rival U Saw compelling him to believe as if Aung San was trying to eliminate him. So U Saw took his revenge on July 19, 1947 now annually marked as Martyr’s Day in Burma). These Mahar Myanmar led by a half-cast Chinese Shu Meng (pronounced Shu Maung in Burmese) became General Ne Win, who founded the formidable Myanmar Tatmadaw now numbering some half a million, battle hardened soldiers (more than India or any of the Southeast Asian nations) and ruled the country taking it to the economic bottom of the World. But, on the 8th August 1988 (now known as 8888 democracy revolution) the people rose en masse and after some mechanization, another cruel General Than Shwe came up and installed today’s the illegitimate 2008 Nargis Constitutions giving a semblance of democracy with the real power with the army.

Knowing full well that the non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities could never unite among themselves adopted and adapted the “Divide and Rule,” policy. In fact it was not new to them as ethnic cleansing was practiced since the Myanmar kings e.g. the ethnic cleansing of the Mon by King U Aung Zeya and Rakhine by king Bodawpaya.

In spite of all these historical evidences, the simple and honest indigenous ethnic nationalities leaders believed in Democracy and Federalism and its leader Aung San and willingly signed the Panglong Accord in 1947 and modern Burma was born. Paradoxically, it was the Myanmar that did not believe in the Union and the authenticated proof of it is there were three Myanmar rebellions, the Myanmar People’s Volunteer Force, (PVO) the Myanmar Red Flag (Trostkyite) Communist and the Myanmar White Flag Communists (Marxist Leninism) that rebelled against the Union of Burma. The non-Myanmar ethnic Chins, Kachins and the Shan made supreme sacrifices to save the Union including its capital Rangoon.

But basically, Mahar Myanmar Tatmadaw was anathema to Democracy, Federalism and the Union of the country and is bent on having its own way of one country, one religion and one race at any cost. At that juncture Than Shwe foresaw that Burma might experience Ceausescu-style uprising in the wake of the Arab Spring as the army was fatigued after half a century of repression, coupled with its damaged pride and embarrassment in falling far behind its neighbours. Besides being a pariah state in the community of nations, Burma was tarnished by the image of its Tatmadaw brutally repressing the students, workers and the entire people of Burma, including the Buddhist monks, knew very well that he could no longer rely on the guns. So for a decade, he carefully crafted the 2008 Nargis Constitutions knowing very well that power would no longer be wielded by one man alone who would be strong enough to turn on him paving the way to a nominally civilian government and having an open election in 2015.

The landslide victory by the pro-democracy movement of the NLD jolted them again but still adheres to its age old standard norm of, “Lying the very concept of Truth,” when General Min Aung Hlaing (the third generation of the Serpentine brute) claims that Tatmadaw was the only organisation in the country that represented its 52 million people which highlighted its rigid insistence on peace at its own terms, rather than through an agreement reached by negotiation and compromise. His speech clearly clarified that Tatmadaw still rely very heavily on his step Father’s ideology, the dictum of Chairman Mao Zedong, “that power comes out of the barrel of the gun.” Once it gets its way will have a snow ball effect for at least another three decades of civil war to set up the new world record of a century of civil war in the Guinness Book of World Records, of which the Myanmar Generals will be proud of.

Hence, how will the civilized world react to this scenario? First the paradigm of the world’s view on the Union of Burma must be changed. The Mahar Myanmar wants to portrayed that the linear progression of Myanmar, save the colonial interlude of a century, from a Buddhist kingdom originating in Pagan to today’s modern nation-state and these Mahar Myanmar imagine themselves to be a historically cohesive nation whose organizational integration with the ethnic nationalities in the peripheries only needs to be completed either democratically or by force, for those residing in the hills the Shan, Chin, Kachin and Karenni are wild heathens and would only be incorporated into civilization by acculturations of one religion, one language and one country.

On the other hand the more numerous indigenous ethnic nationalities really believe in Federalism and Democracy, they have been independent entities since time immemorial having their own administration and even during the time of British colonial power administered them as the Frontier Administration instead of Burma proper and that they have willingly join the Union only because the Myanmar leaders of Aung San and its college promised them equality, federalism and democracy at Panglong Conference in 1947. Now that the Tatmadaw had broken that promise and they have the right to go its own way.

The more civilized democratic Myanmar led by NLD saw the writing on the wall and wanted to make peace with the ethnic nationalities, but the bully Tatmadaw would not hear of it an uncompromising stance that all the ethnic nationalities must laid down their arms and the will negotiate from the position of strength as highlighted is his speech. This is the crux of the Burmese problem today. Lurking behind is the formidable “Pauk Phaw” (meaning Chinese in Burmese) who with his BRI (One Belt, One Road) initiative is already at the bedroom door with its pipeline and high speed rail line from Burma’s west coast Arakan on to China’s heartland Kunming (now that the Rohingya has been cleansed) is looking a sign from its Step Son, (the approval of the Myitsone Dam) to come into the bed room.

In such a scenario how should the West, especially the US and EU, respond? Burma’s domestic scene has been vividly clear that the pro-democracy groups and the indigenous ethnic nationalities see eye to eye, not only in solving the problem but also national state building. Only the bully, desirous to rule in perpetuity remain as a stumbling block and since Tatmadaw believes in the Bible of power of the gun, it is as if they are forcing the option of arming the pro-democracy and the ethnic nationalities. Future ethnic cleansing (like what they did to the Rohingyas) must be stopped, and these war criminals must be taken to The Hague. The people of Burma will be happy of course to continue greet each other as “Mingalabar” instead of “No How Mar”.

Kanbawza Win

Kanbawza Win is a political scientist based in Canada

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