Contact: Roland Watson, firstname.lastname@example.org
BURMA'S ETHNIC ARMED ORGANIZATIONS: WAIT AND SEE
January 1, 2016
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There is a new front in the military dictatorship of Burma's propaganda war. Through a variety of forums, the Ethnic Armed Organizations that did not sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (because the dictatorship refused to stop its attacks against them and to allow all the resistance groups to participate), are now being pressured to join the "political dialogue" starting on January 12th. The EAOs should refuse the invitation to take part, since to do so would effectively mean their surrender.
For Burma's generals, the NCA is old news. It will never be truly nationwide. They simply don't care. (It will go down in history as a farce.)
They have moved on to their dialogue, as the next stage of their program to ensure never-ending dominance. If the ethnic resistance can be pressured to attend, then they will have accepted this program - once again, they will have surrendered, just as much as if they had signed the NCA.
Hundreds of people will be at the meeting. Frankly, it doesn't matter if there are thousands. The only participants of note are the turncoat ethnic leaders, from the KNU, SSA-S, and PNLO, and since they represent only a fraction of the resistance soldiers, even their inclusion is meaningless. The whole exercise is pointless.
The only thing that counts is what Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD do, for the peace process and for the overall establishment of a federal democracy, once they are finally allowed to form a new government (although they will have zero control over crucial ministries that are reserved for the military). Therefore, the only logical action for the ethnic groups now is to wait, and see what happens. As long as the Burma Army continues its aggression, they must resist; maintain their independence and preparedness; and work to increase their inter-group cooperation.
Interestingly, the Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN), perhaps the leading ethnic nationality media outlet, in an unsigned editorial on December 29th (Peace Process: Time for non-signatories to make up their mind), backed the regime's propaganda by calling on the ethnic groups to both agree to the NCA, without their demands being met, and to observe the dialogue. The editorial even went so far as to make a threat, using second-hand hearsay from Suu Kyi: "One thing in the way, sources say, is that the non-signatories will continue to be unlawful organizations until they become signatories. She wants nothing to do with them until they are delisted." SHAN is saying that it has sources connected to Suu Kyi, and who claim that she will not talk to the ethnic resistance groups until they capitulate to the military dictatorship.
In the face of this remarkable statement, one wonders:
Is it true? Does SHAN have a source that has presented Suu Kyi's position accurately? This, by the way, would be surprising, since she went out of her way during the NCA negotiation to caution the EAOs about signing hastily.
Also, if it is not true, why would a SHAN editorialist say that it is? Why is SHAN trying to use Suu Kyi to threaten the ethnic resistance?
SHAN does of course have the right to say whatever it wants. I'm not trying to censor its opinion. I just wonder where it came from. What, and whose, agenda lies behind this?
SHAN has been kind enough to post a number of my statements, and for which I am very grateful. I am curious, though, why they would publish this opinion unsigned, rather than with the author named (as Irrawaddy used to do with its many op-eds by dictatorship ally - and now well-paid MPC propagandist - Aung Naing Oo). Is this really the media outlet's formal position on the peace process, that the EAOs should just give up?
SHAN also now seems to be siding with Yawd Serk and the SSA-S, who have given up, and which through their recent actions are asserting entitlement to additional territory. SSA-S territory for years has been limited to defined areas in Southern and Central Shan States. Its supporters are now arguing, in the face of its clashes with the TNLA, one of the groups that the Burman generals want to exclude, that it actually has a legitimate right to all of the State - even KIA areas of control in the north. Indeed, the TNLA has reported eleven battles with the SSA-S in the last month, and with the Burma Army fighting together with the SSA-S in several. A few commentators have even described the SSA-S, following its signing of the NCA, as a new regime Border Guard Force.
As part of this, SHAN appears to have turned its back on the other major Shan army, the SSA-N, which has been the victim of a new Burma Army offensive in recent weeks (not to mention the thousands of local villagers who have had to flee their homes). Shan State is a large and distinct land mass, occupied by many different ethnic groups and their associated resistance armies. These residents further, under the terms of the Panglong Agreement, have the legal power to demand independence and to form their own country. One wonders why SHAN, editorially at least, now seems to be backing one group to the exclusion of the interests of all the others, even if it means dooming the State's residents to perpetual fear, as well as the denial of their right under Panglong, if they deem it necessary, to seek independence.
In any case, it would be a huge mistake for the EAOs to attend the political dialogue. Instead, they should wait and see what develops, on a number of issues that are critical not only to the ethnic nationalities but to the entire country:
Before the new Parliament is formed, will Suu Kyi as a sitting MP approve the amnesty bill for Thein Sein, and the reduction of voting power for the President in the NDSC?
When the NLD has a parliamentary majority, will she push for the regime to end its offensives in the ethnic homelands, and to change the Constitution to implement a true Federal system, including by eliminating its veto?
More than anything, will she end her silence about the dictatorship's decades of atrocities, from crimes against humanity against the ethnic peoples, to the arrest and torture of political prisoners? Burma's military dictatorship is one of the very worst - certainly in the top ten - political dictatorships in the modern age. Its crimes are so brutal and so many that you could fill a library with their descriptions. (This is why she, as a representative of the country, was awarded the Peace Prize.) Will she ever change her position, her warm feelings for the Burma Army, and recognize it - publicly - for what it really is?
This is the most important question of all. If she will not end her denial and accept this truth, nothing that she and the NLD do in Parliament can possibly lead Burma to real freedom and democracy. Instead, she will accomplish the opposite: entrench the dictatorship and extend its impunity even more.