By Sao Noan Oo
Democratization of Burma, with greater military stranglehold over other ethnic states seems to be the present policy of the Burmese military regime.
Recently there has been some political changes in Burma that have surpassed many International governments and communities' expectations. According to Thein Sein’s government, Burma at the present time, poses great opportunity for ASEAN, US, EU, China and India to be engaged in its development. Meticulously planned, the regime has managed to convince the West that Burma could become one of the most developed and advanced countries of Asia. Governments, investors and NGOs hasten to Burma to explore where to set up their investments and offices.
Until last year, Burma was targeted by the West for a regime change. After the ruling military junta sent ambassadors to Western governments, promising to change and accelerate democracy, there has been a dramatic change in the policy of Washington and the European Union towards Burma.
But, the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) urged caution for investors seeking to do business in Burma and called on the United States, Asean, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other international bodies to help Burma in developing rigorous business and investment laws that will meet international ethical standards.
Many of the international governments have also voiced a desire to increase aid to Burma, some countries such as the Danish and Japanese governments, have offered to help develop the ethnic areas where the people have been the victims of aggression and human rights violations for several years. But this may not be altogether welcomed by the regime. At present, the conflict zones, which consists of very large areas in the Shan State are still not accessible by foreigners.
No doubt, there are ceasefire agreements between the Thein Sein government and some ethnic resistance armies but even in the event of a ceasefire, the government have not withdrawn its armed forces, but instead it continues to strengthen and expand their military bases. The regime has now and again violated the ceasefire agreement and the Burmese soldiers have attacked the ethnic resistance armies in the Shan State. Fighting between the Burma Army and the Kachin has also resumed after 17 years of ceasefire.
An SSA patrol was attacked by Burma Army patrol from Infantry Battalion 64, based in Laikha, near Mark Khi Nu mountain, on 27 June.
The Shan State Army (SSA) South has sent a letter of protest to General Soe Win, Deputy Supreme Commander of the Burmese Army. There has been 24 military confrontations between the two sides since the ceasefire agreement, on 2 December 2011, and 7 times since General Soe Win first attended the negotiations on 19 May 2012. So far, there has been no response from General Soe Win.
SSA/SSPP also sent a message to President Thein Sein demanding that his Burma Army forces suspend hostilities and retire to their own agreed bases.
A Shan, Lt. Ta Long received a dinner invitation from a Burmese army officer, on 17 February, from1B 23 battalion. Having accepted the invitation, Lt. Ta Long, his wife and their three year old son travelled on a motor-cycle to Hsipaw, to the Burmese officer's army base. Along the journey they were ambushed and both he and is wife, holding the boy in her arm were killed. The where about of the son is still unknown. This angered members of SSA/SSPP, and thereby further damaging the trust they have for the Burmese dictatorial army.
The Burmese armed forces deployed in the conflict zones depend on the locals for their resources. Whatever they need they take by demand, force or looting without paying for the goods. They use forced labour and continue to commit crimes against ordinary citizens. As long as such actions continue, there will always be distrust and enmity, creating ethnic divide between the Burmans and other nationalities. Under the occupation of the military dictators generation after generation of Shan and other ethnic citizens have known nothing, but fear, terror and repression.
Since the military coup in 1962, the generals, in the name of government, have put thousands of innocent people in prison, have murdered, killed, gang-raped, tortured, confiscated farm lands and performed other deeds that are considered immoral by any religion or civilised human code of conduct. The dictators and their supporters call themselves Buddhists but they do not follow the doctrine of Buddhism. They also consider themselves above their own unjust law, which the rest of the population must obey.
All hard-lined Burmese politicians, of which the present generals are a part and the leaders of the institution, felt deeply humiliated by the fact that Burma had been colonised by Great Britain. They have accused the British of using the “divide and rule” method of governing, yet they forcibly occupied and colonised other ethnic states, and have also used the “divide and rule” method. Their method was in fact, several times worse than those used by the British. They have completely atomised ethnic societies, and instigated or encouraged hatred between the different groups, as we are now seeing in the case of the Muslims and the Buddhists in Arakan State. Likewise, they have created a wedge between the Buddhists and Christian Karens, the Pa-O/ Wa and the Shan in the Shan State. This is a ploy to prove to the world that Burma still needs a strong dictatorial army to control ethnic nationalities and to create stability in Burma
In spite of the ceasefire agreements, there has been little progress towards a long-term settlement of the conflicts in ethnic states. The issue of ethnic nationalities has also been ignored by many Western countries. They consider the political reform process has nothing to do with the conflict zones. There is a general belief that after democratization, the conflict between the regime and the ethnic nationalities will automatically disappear. The ethnic issue is also considered very complex and therefore difficult to address without alienating the Myanmar military/government.
It is far from the truth that the ethnic issue is very complex; peace can be achieved as soon as the regime withdraws its armed forces from the all the ethnic states, and principles of the “Panglong Agreement” readopted.
The Union of Burma was formed soon after Burma became independent from Britain. Based on the principles of the “Panglong Agreement” it was a Union of several member states, all of which were to have equal freedom, status and opportunity. During the fifty years of their occupation, the generals have tried to exterminate nationalities by ethnic cleansing, genocide and destruction of their culture and language, but they have not succeeded nor have they been able to create a unitary country called Myanmar.
Democratization will bring foreign-funded resources, aid and investments. Money and resources alone will not bring happiness and peace to the 50 years' victims of aggression and human rights violations. What the ethnic nationalities really require is to be free from the control and clutches of the dictatorial armed forces; free to work and live peacefully in their own homelands, where they can have the right to voice and work for the benefit of their own citizens.
If the ethnic nationalities are to trust and have faith in President Thein Sein, he must bring the Burmese military armed forces under his control. The military should be accountable to the government as the government is to the people.
The dictatorial armed forces are using the ceasefie agreement to further their present policy; they are strengthening and expanding their armed forces so that they will have greater stranglehold over the homelands of all ethnic nationalities. As long as the dictatorial armed forces do not loosen their grip, and continue to occupy the ethnic homelands there can never be peace in Burma. Without freedom, ethnic citizens will not be able to move forward economically or politically, nor be free to receive any foreign help offered to them.
The Burmese dictatorial generals should undergo self-examination and ask themselves how they would feel if others were to treat them in the same way as they treat other ethnic nationalities. Perhaps, they will then be more considerate and alter their attitude and mind-set towards other people.
During the fifty years of their forced occupation and driven by chauvinism, false pride and greed for power the regime has done a lot of harm to all other ethnic nationalities.
It is about time the generals try to repair the relationship between them and other ethnic nationalities. They cannot undo the amount of pain and suffering they have inflicted on the citizens, but they can begin to recognise and accept their mistakes and apologise to the victims for their past actions.
If peace and democratisation are what the generals wish to achieve for Burma, they must forgo their passion of having a hold over other states, and withdraw their armed forces from these regions. By readopting the “Panglong Agreement” the present regime/the generals might help to build a reputable genuine and democratic union of Burma where all the peoples can work and live together peacefully for the benefit of all concerned.
On the other hand if the generals do not change their mind-set, war between the ethnic nationalities will not stop with the Kachins but will intensify to the Shans, Karen and others. Recently, sectarian violence between the Muslims and Buddhists in Arakan State has developed, and there are signs of this violence spreading to other parts of Burma, and creeping even into Burmese societies all over the world. Hate mails against all Muslims are being sent on face-book. If this continues it will create a situation or open a door to the real Fundamentalists/terrorists to retaliate.
The contributor is the daughter of the ruling prince of Lawksawk and the author of “My Vanishing World”.