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Divide And Rule Strategy Still At Large In Burma – OpEd

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By Zin Linn

Several ethnic politicians feel uneasy as they have to accept news on sanction lifting even though they did not have the same opinion. In fact, sanction is a sign of force that give confidence to the powerless, especially ethnic minorities who have been fighting for equal opportunity since 1948.

The military-dominated Burmese government gets hold of an enormous army, so-called state-owned land of natural resources and oppressive tools such as secret police, arbitrary courts plus prisons and so on. By using such advantageous opportunities, they always consider to take hold of supreme power forever. So, the poor powerless people, most are ethnic citizens, have been suffering under military boots for many decades.

For instance, there are nine refugee-camps where many thousands war refugees have taken shelter along the Thai-Burma border for more than two decades. Furthermore, there are nearly 100,000 refugees plus IDPs along the Sino-Burma border adjacent to Kachin rebels’ area due to harsh military offensives launched by Burma Army.

The Government’s state-owned newspaper, the New Light of Myanmar, said on March 11 that Union level peace-making group and a central delegation of Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) held peace talks for the third time at Jingcheng Hotel in Shweli in China from March 8 to 10.The two sides announced a joint-statement on 10 March after talking about the peace issues in detail.

Even though the statement said, “The peace talks will continue through political means,” no date was set for the next round of talks.

The 11-March joint-statement by government and KIO said that military tensions would be decreased as a result of the peace talks. But, the situation on the ground is quite opposite. Over the past the few months, heavy fighting took place often all along KIO-controlled territory between Namtu and Mandong townships where the massive Shwe gas-pipeline project is going forward.

The KIO has suggested that the first thing the government should agree is on distribution of armed units and their positions. KIO spokesman Brig-Gen Gun Maw said that one key point of difference between the two sides is the future of Burma Army’s bases in the KIO controlled region.

Even though the two sides have to continue talking about the outposts in conflict zones, the government armed forces do not stop deploying along the conflict areas in Kachin’s territories. Therefore, it will have to take much time to reach an agreement of ending this ongoing war.

It looks like government’ peacemaking team has no collaboration with Burma Army. In fact, Burma’s current quasi-civilian government led by President Thein Sein is not too different from previous Lt. Gen. Thein Sein’s regime, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). The point is that the military-backed winning party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), takes charge of the union government as well as all state and regional governments.

Consequently, state and regional governments have to abide by the central government’s guidelines and they cannot exercise their autonomy.

So, according to government’s peace policy, every ethnic rebel group has to talk with regional or state government separately to reach agreements for ceasefire. All ethnic armed groups know that the first step for peace is cessation of hostilities or temporary ceasefire.

But, to discuss ceasefires only with state governments would be inadequate and fruitless. Because the state governments have no authority above the respective military commands. Although there are truces in respective ethnic areas, unexpected armed clashes are still taking place. It seems military commanders do not go along with the government’s ceasefire-policy.

On the other hand, the government intends to talk to ethnic rebel groups separately, sending regrets to talk to the ethnic alliance armed oppositions groups – the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC). This kind of government’s stance is dishonest toward ethnic nationalities since it is setting up to use ‘divide-and-rule’ strategy towards the different ethnic rebel groups.

In response to the question posed by visiting UK prime minister David Cameron on 13 April, Hkun Tun Oo, leader of Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), said the danger of the regime’s refusal to return power in the 2015 polls is still an omnipresent one, especially if the National League for Democracy (NLD) wins another landslide, quoting an informed source in Rangoon, Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.) said.

“No one can deny that change has begun,” the 69 year old Hkun Tun Oo, leader of SNLD said. “But whether or not it is real or irreversible still remains a question.”

To some analysts, Thein Sein cannot run the government independently. He has to play the game in line with the eleven-member security and defense committee which is totally controlled by the military-backed USDP.

In reality, no one could predict that President Thein Sein’s regime would be on the road of democracy irreversibly. The case is that the quasi-civilian government is proficiently using ‘divide-and-rule’ strategy right through the peace talks amid ethnic groups.

Asian Correspondent

Asian Correspondent is an English-language liberal news, blogs and commentary online newspaper serving all of the Asia-Pacific region. The website covers asian business, politics, technology, the environment, education, new media and Asia society issues.

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