Contact: Roland Watson, firstname.lastname@example.org
AN APPEAL TO BURMA'S ETHNIC NATIONALITY LEADERS
August 27, 2015
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Dear Ethnic Nationality Leaders,
Congratulations on holding firm on the position that all the ethnic armed groups must be able to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. You are undoubtedly under enormous pressure to surrender on this, and your adherence to your principles has been laudatory. Well done.
I don't envy being in your shoes. Burma's military dictatorship; its proxies such as MPC and the regime's business cronies; international diplomats - notably from Europe, the U.S., Japan, Singapore and Thailand; international business executives; "power-brokers," starting with Harn Yawnghwe and EBO; academics; and innumerable soft-headed journalists and commentators, are all trying to persuade you to give up, to accept the idea that you can never be free. They want you to abandon your one overriding objective, which is even written into many of your names, such as Kachin INDEPENDENCE Army, Karen National LIBERATION Army, etc., and instead accept nothing less than perpetual military rule and military-owned development - in your lands! Even more, you have been offered lucrative bribes, both direct and indirect, and which some of your supposed compatriots unfortunately have been willing to take.
In the face of this withering assault, we, meaning everyone who cares about Burma, implore you to stay resolute. It is imperative that you continue to serve your only real constituency, the ethnic nationality peoples. They have been making their voices heard, including at the meetings held by the KIO, through the appeal from the International Karen Organization, and in other ways. Their voices have been uniform: reject the NCA! With this type of backing you should have no difficulty holding your ground.
It is disturbing, though, that some leaders seem to be hesitating on the idea of inclusiveness, questioning if it might be possible to accept a regime guarantee to include the six groups in dispute at a later date.
This is wishful thinking. There can never be any "guarantees." Guarantees, as just mentioned, refer to future events, and to have any confidence that they might happen you have to trust the party giving the guarantee. In this case that party is Burma's military dictatorship, meaning - ultimately - Than Shwe.
Than Shwe is a racist. He is dedicated to the belief that Burma is and always should be an ultranationalist Burman State. All the other ethnic groups should always be subservient. He and his hand-picked subordinates will never permit equality.
You can therefore never trust the dictatorship! Ever! Its guarantees are worthless! Anything that you hope to accomplish in the ceasefire has to happen BEFORE you sign, including the end of Burma Army offensives and the withdrawal of BA troops. There should be no NCA, none at all, until the BA withdraws from the ethnic areas. Focusing on the issue that all the groups have to sign has actually helped the dictatorship, by diverting the EAO Senior Delegation from this crucial point. First have a real ceasefire on the ground, and then agree to the NCA, and with EVERYONE signing. This is the only way to protect the ethnic nationality peoples.
It is a mistake to go into Burma, yet again, to plead with Thein Sein and Min Aung Hlaing. It is a pointless exercise. Thein Sein and Min Aung Hlaing have no freedom to act. They are Than Shwe's puppets. If you are not going to meet him personally, there is no reason to go, and even if you were there is still no reason to go since the racist dictator is your sworn enemy. His preferred solution is nothing less than the extermination of all the ethnic nationalities, excepting a corps of villagers to work as factory, fishing and agricultural slaves, and perhaps also excepting the Rakhine, since they have so enthusiastically joined his genocidal war against the Rohingya.
I imagine you are thinking that the upcoming meeting will be a showdown - that you can demand the Tatmadaw agree to your demands immediately, or else. If the answer is No, which is no doubt what you expect, you can then announce to the world, definitively, "We tried." You can then in turn, and finally, put the NCA negotiation aside, continue with your preparations and operations against regime attacks, and like everyone else wait and see how the dictatorship actually steals the November election.
I understand what you are trying to do, but it is still a futile exercise. It will not win you any credits with the International Community. It is far better to stick to your demands, and never to waver. The world understands determination, commitment and courage. Indeed, it is the only thing it understands, or respects.
Boiling all of this down, there is really only one point to be made: In this daunting and historic hour, be democratic. Listen to and serve your people.