Thursday, September 28, 2006

Blue Print for Burma

By Prof. Kanbawza Win

No matter what religion one profess, it is undisputable that the prayers of the people of Burma have been heard and now the misery and the suffering of the Burmese will be officially accepted by the United Nations Security Council and the world at large, because it is already in the agenda by a large margin of votes. Our next move should concentrate on what resolutions will the Security Council passed? Will it achieved our cherished goal of democracy, human rights and self-determination? Surely the UN is not the Junta, even though the overwhelming margin of votes at the UNSC agenda is comparable to the overwhelming of votes that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD gets in the 1990 elections, the two negative votes by the veto wielding permanent powers cast a shadow of the Junta's mentality at the UN.

Friends of the People of Burma

The voting pattern clearly indicates, who are the friends of the people of Burma? Not that we are out to antagonizing any one who vote against us, but it reveals their nature and inner conscience, mentality and their historical background. Obviously those with a long background of Tsars or Communist (lovingly label as dictatorship of the proletariat) or countries with its long history of killing off the heroes (Patrice Lumumba or Dak Harmjold) will vote it otherwise and one could not blame them for their business always rules their conscience.

We should concentrate and cooperate more with our friends and endeavour for a monolithic unity. Our heartfelt and sincere thanks goes to Japan, who at the last minute switch sides and throw its lot with the people of Burma, if not with the world, against the tyrannical regime. It seems that looking at the track record of the Junta the Japanese leaders are convinced that UNSC is the only place where the Junta can come to senses. The point that drives home is the fact is the mentality of those countries that voted against the inclusion of Burma, in the agenda of the UNSC, is not conducive to make this global village a happier or a holistic place and as such should not be at the helm of world leadership.

The ten countries who voted for us can be considered as the genuine friends of the people of Burma for they know how to differentiate between the people and the government of Burma and they know who are the legitimate leaders chosen by the people of Burma. Moreover they harbour the humanitarian considerations for the sufferings of the people of Burma and unlike the dictatorial regimes did not give the pretext of adhering to the principles of the big book.

The Chinese Factor

The Chinese residing in every nook and corner of Burma always seems to dominate the local economy either by hook or by crook in as much as China, the only country that sells $ 1.4 billion worth of military hardware to the Burmese army. Even though it is rather hard for an average Burmese to understand their business, the Chinese domination of the Burmese economy is paramount.

Considering the superb Chinese diplomacy of being able to marginalize, the lone superpower, the United States of America, in the regional associations of ASEAN, ASEM and most importantly the defence pact of ARF, not to mention the geo strategic position vis a vis India and the American fleet in Diego Garcia, it is no wonder that the Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya, was furious and said it was "preposterous" to put a country on the Security Council's agenda because of issues of human rights, refugees, drugs and AIDS, that he construe as not affecting the regional security. In the light of the Chinese criticism Wang noted that most countries in SEA did not consider, "the situation in Burma as being any threat to regional peace and security," there is every possibility that the Chinese will take a hard stance.

But considering the Chinese stance on Iran, where she has invested millions of dollars and a great portion of her oil supply comes, she did not use the veto at the UNSC. Of course she tried to persuade Iran diplomatically to compromise and keep the crisis from coming up to the UN. But when Iran did not listen, she simply stays neutral letting the UN to take it course. So also with North Korea, China has fought in the Korean War and had tried her level best to convince Kim Jo Ill that his nuclear defense problem should not reach the UN but when she could not do it, China simply stays neutral. Hence if we read some of the parliamentary papers of the Iranian government they accused China and Russia to be the follower of US, while Kim Jo Ill simply accused the Chinese as unreliable friend. So also from this example is Burma worth defending by using the veto? If so what will be her image as a gracious leader of Asia if not the world?

The uncountable visits of the Burmese and Chinese dignitaries to each other country is an authentic proof that the Chinese has been silently requesting the Burmese brass to compromise with the people's representative Daw Suu and prevent the problem reaching to the UNSC. But the Generals ignore the Chinese advice and never make a meaningful move. Again the narco production on the side of Burma in the Golden Triangle is causing a lot of problems to the Chinese government who admitted that it has over one million narco addicts in China because of the Junta's indirect policy of encouraging the narco barons and its production. So from these examples and hypothesis, I have great reservations of China using the veto, if the UN would ever decided to wield a big stick on these naughty and nutty Generals?

The United Nations

Burma is not at the top of anyone's agenda in the Security Council as the UNSC is beset with several others more important international affairs (to be exact 143 crisis in the agenda), but it offers the United Nations, a chance to show that it can deal with a threat to global security before it explodes onto the front page. Surely, Burma is not engaging in nuclear blackmail, and it has not attacked a neighboring country. But its malevolent dictatorship does represent a threat to peace. Its depredations at home such as mass rapes, enforced child labor, burning of farms and villages, push masses of refugees across its borders. Its economic failures make it a locus of AIDS and other diseases. Its corruption makes it a leading source of illegal drugs. And its population of 50 million plus suffers under a regime whose repression has set up the world record.

In the face of this anguish, the beleaguered democrats of Southeast Asian nations are convinced that only the Security Council can put the stop to their misery on its agenda. We are not expecting the U.N.-mandated sanctions, let alone peacekeepers or intervention -- only some attention from the UN and the international body that promised, not so long ago, not to let notions of national sovereignty keep it from standing up for human rights.

It seems that the Security Council needs to adopt a resolution calling for the release of the one and only Nobel laureate and pro democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the release of all political prisoners; for a process of national reconciliation with the democrats and ethnic leaders at the table; for U.N. and other international aid to flow directly to Burma's most vulnerable people, not through the corrupt bureaucracy; and for the UN to report back regularly on progress made on all these points. The United Nations would enhance its own stature by associating itself with Burma's nonviolent democrats and ethnic leaders.

The Burmese case has come up to the UN General Assembly several times for more than a decade and several resolutions have been passed with no effect on the Generals, who not only laugh at these resolutions but did not give a damn thing about it. They viewed it as nothing but a debating society. The Junta has swindle the UN, Secretary Generals' representative Razali Ismail, and have banned Professor Paulo Sergio Pinhiero, UN Human Rights Special Reporteur. Now all these has come to a climax and it has reached a point where it no longer ignore the UN. The very fact that it has come to the Security Council indicates that the term either or has arrived and the Junta's version of neither nor has ended.

If every man is for himself, then the logical conclusion is that every country is for itself, including our big gracious neighbors, China and India. The ASEAN countries with its grandiose Constructive Engagement Policy has paid a dear price and are silently gloating that the UN has come to the rescue, even though individual countries tries its level best to exploit Burma' vast natural and human resources.

India, which loves to be surrounded by dictatorial countries, as she has made it clear that it is not in her interest to promote democracy in Burma, now will have to think twice when the Security Council takes the matter into its hands. The biggest democratic country is the world can no longer exploit the people of its biggest neighbor. Other than the Western countries led by the US, the barometer that will decide the fate of Burma in the Security Council is self-interest.

Danger of the Extremists

Even though Burma was brought up at the Security Council, the fate of Burma will have to be decided by the people of Burma themselves and not by the United Nations or by any foreign power. This is an undeniable and undisputable fact. The Security Council is just giving a push to the cart, which will have to roll down hill in its own steam. In the struggle against the Burmese military dictatorship there are two groups, the pro democracy and the autonomy groups and though the majority, see eye to eye there are several extremists on both sides of the groups that could easily hijacked the good and noble cause and play havoc.

The most prominent in the pro democracy group are the Myanmar Chauvinist, who put out the theory that the struggle for democracy is more important than the problem of the ethnic nationalities. Their aim is to sideline, if not to marginalize the ethnic nationalities and goes back to the pre 1962 era, where both the government and the people could crush the ethnic aspirations and pretend that Burma is a monolithic whole. In other words these Myanmar Chauvinist want to practice the tyranny of the majority as in the democratic days of 1948 to 62.

This category of people seems to forget of why the army was able to make a successful military coup in 1962. If the military does not come to power, then there will be no struggle for democracy? There may be several justifications but the main cause is that the civilian government could not solve the ethnic problem. Hence the military came to power with the slogan that it has unwilling taken over power because the Union was about to fall into the deep abyss. This is the crux of the Burmese problem. Until and unless we can solve the ethnic problem, the Burmese crisis will crop up again and again, with a vicious cycle. There must be some sort of Concordat, Federal or whatever to meet the aspirations of the ethnic nationalities on the lines of the Panglong Conference, if we want to solve the problem of Burma from its root cause.

But there are many Myanmar who shares their aspirations with the non-Myanmar, now that they have fought shoulder to shoulder with their ethnic brothers against the common enemy. They have also bitterly tasted the soup of what it is to be a minority living in a foreign land where the language, culture, values and climate is not the same. They are slowly building together in the real spirit of Pyidaungsu, which we hope will be the foundation stone of the real genuine Federal Union of Burma and not the Union of Myanmar with a chauvinist tone, which is both politically and phonetically wrong (the word Myanmar, r is extra and should be Myanma pronounced softly as the word, Mother in English).

The second type of extremist is the racist attitude harbor among the ethnic nationalities, they have their dreams and aspiration to the British colonial days when they have their own territory and governed as their conscience may dictates and fancies may please. This is because the British has given them a free hand in the internal administrations to acquire their allegiance. These racist leaders are unwittingly or indirectly encouraging the Burmese army version of Balkanization and that the army is the only institution that can maintain the country together. We must realize that it was with this version of Balkanization that the Junta got the support from its neighboring giants of China and India not to mention the ASEAN countries that have more ethnic minorities than ours. These neighboring countries are really afraid that the ethnic cauldron would ever spill into their country. No wonder their practice the Constructive Engagement Policy since 1988.

In short there are several lessons to be learnt and now with the putting of the Burma in the Security Council, it is time to reflect our ways. This is the golden chance to grab it or leave it as it will come only in a lifetime. Everybody seems to sense that by throwing their lot with the ethno-democratic forces they could overcome this formidable evil force.

Wavering Leadership

"Like Father like Son(Daughter)", Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is the only person where all the people of Burma, including the ethnic nationalities trust. Whether we like it or not, it is to be admitted that by arresting her incommunicado, the Junta was able to score a major point over the opposition both the democracy and the ethnic groups as there was not personality of her status to command allegiance.

Roughly, the pro democracy groups in Diaspora are under the umbrella of the UB group and the ethnic under the umbrella of EN groups. The leaders in the peripherals of Burma and those residing in the West often waver and lack vision. In order for the Burmese people to ‘know what they don’t know’ – know what is being kept a secret', it is time to make a post mortem of our struggles with the aim of restoring confidence in our selected leaders that were weak all these one and half dozen years. Though we wish to avoid “witch-hunt” atmosphere, attempting to assign blame to a wide range of groups and organizations, we are reluctant of “naming names” it is time for them to mend their ways and take a more responsible task.

We want dynamic, vigorous and resolute leaders and there is no place for those who have a faint heart and wavers, arguing that putting up the UNSC is impossible as even now there are hypothesis that China and Russia will used the veto and so on. Knowing full well that the Junta's days are numbered, many of the so called people on our sides, not only from the native Burmese but also some farangs, the so called Burmese sympathizers, especially those who have enthusiastically attended the Wilton Park Conference want to soften us.

We will have to set up a system to hold people accountable, for what they have done and without making basic reforms or structural changes, that could prevent future failures, we will not succeed even if the UN is behind us. This basic principle of establishing accountability and responsibility for public servants is essential to a working democracy for demotions, terminations and even recall are part of the democratic traditions. Unless people and groups are held accountable for their actions and inactions, they have no incentive to change and no cause to put the public interest first. All groups serve at the behest of the people, and it is a sacred trust.

(a) Transparency and Accountability: to day in the resistance groups, the basic inquiries into lines of duty, administrative responsibility, organizational restructuring, disciplinary actions, courts of inquiry, performance review, legal actions, or even courts martial have not been visibly activated, which are essential for the success of our noble cause. Accountability is not irrational blame or the search for a scapegoat, it should be a regular and open process of evaluation, reassessment and change. Understandably the primary accountability rest with the top leaders, but there is an additional accountability that must be considered and investigated on the executives who failed, despite numerous warnings and preparations against such failures to perform in ways consistent with their effective responses in the past and their standard emergency procedures.

Lamentably only a handful of officials and administrators have had the decency to date to acknowledge their accountability or to apologize for their shortcomings or failures. There are several people who wish to keep their secrets in their Pandora's box. We want an honest response or to shed light on the critical information necessary for public understanding and the will to change to attain our goal. In this way we can prove that our democracy works as one.

(b) Unanswered and unasked questions: As an ethno democratic forces a mass movement that continue to work in the peripherals of Burma and in the West there are bound to be several omissions and contradictions. The blood of our compatriots flowed in 1988, if not earlier are now silently calling us and asking questions of how do we react and respond to this golden chance of putting the problem in the UNSC? As the people of Burma, even if we are ashamed will have to admit bravely that we cannot solve our own problem and this crisis will have to be solved with the help of the world community, the UN.

The mass deserves reasonable and credible explanations for the failures of both the democratic and ethnic leaders, just to draw lessons and not to repeat the mistakes again. The UN Security Council is the ideal place to present ourselves as well as that of the Junta. Let's use this opportunity to inform the world that we seek to honor the victims by pursuing the truth and calling for justice. It has been 18 years, too long for truth and justice. We must do all we can to make this world known the agenda and true motives of the Burmese Army (Tatmadaw). We owe it to those killed, to those victims of rape, of forced labor, forced relocation for their families, and ourselves. We want to be seen as respectful, concerned people of the Federal Union of Burma. We don't seek for negative confrontation, we make every effort to diffuse the situation by dialogue and we contribute to our presence being an extension of the work of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

No Place for the Tatmadaw

There are several people who either, want to have a finger in the pie and have no inkling to take out the root cause, by drawing the conclusion that the Tatmadaw is indispensable and must be one of the components of negotiations. This category of people seems to believe the exaggerated notion that the Burmese army is the sole savior of the country in gaining independence. This myth inevitably lends a helping hand to the Tatmadaw, who wants to have a grip on the state power, in perpetuity.

The excesses of ragtag riffraff BIA coming into Burma, under the protective custody of Imperial Japanese army, was the root cause of the Karen insurrections with a snowball effect. When Rangoon was about to fall to the Karen rebels in the late forties, it was the Chin and the Kachin army that saves Rangoon. The ethnic army of first Shan, together with the other ethnic brothers save the Union from the Burma Communist Party, an undisputable facts that the ethnic people really loves the Union. Hence, why was Contemporary History of Burma twisted? Is it for Burmanization (Maha Bama)? In the Japanese records there was no such thing as the Burmese resistance or the Burmese army in the 2nd World War, let alone the Army Day (Resistance Day) which falls on 27th March when the allies and the British Burma Army has already occupied Mandalay, and the whole of upper Burma. Some Japanese army commanders admitted that more soldiers were killed in Karenni state than in the whole campaign in Burma, which clearly indicates that the Karennis fought tooth and nail more than the rag tag Burmese army.

In fact, the original Burmese army composed of two components since its inception, the BIA(BDA,BNA,PBF) and the British Burma army composed of the Chindit, the Karen and most of the ethnic forces. It was amalgamation of these two, that became the Burmese Army, Tatamadaw with General Smith Dun as the supreme commander and Ne Win from the BIA as his assistant. It was by cunning and trickery, with the approval of U Nu that Ne Win replaced him and his professional lieutenants such as Air Commando Saw Shisho Tun, and many ethnic Brigadiers. Maha Bama idea has started since then.

General Aung San who is the founder of the Burmese army had set the example when he resigned from the armed forces to compete in elections and does not compete as a representative of Tatmadaw. Hence historically the Tatamadaw has no place in the making of future Federal Union of Burma.

The second aspect is that the majority, if not every university student starting from 1959 Ava Hall crisis (the army tank destroyed the gates of Ava hall in order to access to the students holed up in the hall) up to this day including the 8888 generation vehemently hated the Burmese army. The Tatmadaw is the ones that destroyed the educations system and the country. Every time there was a crisis they always killed off a number of students. The generations from 1959 up to the 8888 and to day are now the ones that are residing in and outside of Burma that does not look kindly to the Tatamadaw. This explicitly means that as long as the Tatmadaw is there the animosity and the antagonism will goes on and on between the generations of students and the Tatamadaw..

The third aspect is that there must be no single entity that can wield the power of the gun, to eliminate the threat of a military coup. If it is a genuine federal union there must be the province armed forces just like in the old days when we have Karen Rifles, 1st to 4th Chin, 1st to 4th Kachin, 1st Shan, Kayah Yae and so on to protect their own State and Divisions and of course in place of the Tatmadaw there must be a Pyidaungsu Tat (Union army) conscripted from all the ethnic and Myanmar forces, to defend the country from outside encroachment. Only then there will be a check and balance system. If any particular army be they Myanmar or ethnic make an attempt to seize power by force, then the rest can come and defend the Union (Pyidaungsu), as it had done in the late 40s and early 50s.

The fourth aspect is the unwritten philosophy of the Tatmadaw that "We alone are can do it." must be uprooted once and for all for the sake of the genuine Federal Union, Pyidaungsu. This endorse the argument that only the Tatmadaw is patriotic and that that rest are parasites that does not have a pale of patriotism. What an unbelievable and paradoxical phrases as the "Tatmadaw is our father and mother are posted throughout the length and breath of the country and forcing the people to believe, when in fact it is a rapist army, committing unaccountable human rights violations with impunity. Tatmadaw has no regards except the lip service for Pyidaungsu.

The fact that they want to have 25% of the administrative power in the new administrative structure reveals that Tatmadaw is a power maniacs. The evil Tatmadaw, with the connotations of the Burmese word, Taw (such as Naing Gan Taw) depicting a Myanmar empire, if not a chauvinist tone over the ethnic nationalities treating them these ethnic nationalities as if the were the second citizen will have to be eliminated for real peace and genuine Pyidaungsu.

The fifth, and most crucial aspect is that the Burmese army is not sincere and has no love and cetena to the people of Burma. This can be easily comparable to with the latest Thai military coup where General Sonthi Boonyaratglin declared that he will be the interim Prime Minister just for a fortnight and that democracy will return to Thailand within a year, a time line, which the Burmese Generals dared not contemplate. Unlike the Burmese Generals it won't take a decade to draw up the new constitution but would be completed within a year. Unlike Burma, Thailand' s latest coup has the full support of the people. However the most conspicuous aspect is that. Tatmadaw is sorely afraid that the people of Burma will be happy and prosperous e.g. when it came to power in 1988 after killing thousands of peaceful demonstrators they opened up the country economically and of course the investors rush in thinking that it was a genuine market economy and the middle class prosper for a couple of years. Tatmadaw knows that with the rise of the middle class the country will be inching towards democracy because it is a matter of time that this middle class will have a say in politics and so it at once reverse the trend, chasing the investors out of the country and destroying the middle class with the result that the country has now became poor at the bottom of the world's ladder. What more Tamadaw, is still not satisfied and is hindering the works of the NGOs who has come into the country with a sincere heart to help the down trodden and marginalized people. On the whole Tatmadaw has a cruel heart, to look on the suffering of the people but not the world community and when these well meaning NGOs came in they prevent them. They even indirectly forced out the Global Fund and will not let the International Red Cross to come in again. Are we going to give this Tatmadaw a role, which continues to harbor such mentality? In short if one were to solve the Burmese problem from its root this pugnacious Tatmadaw has no place.

Tamadaw Response

Now that Burma is in the agenda of the Security Council, let us examine the response of the Tatmadaw from it headquarters in Kyat Pyae. It simply says that there will be no change, what ever of its policies and will carry out its policies unswervingly. "Under no circumstances will it change these policies just because of pressure, coercion and sanctions," said a five-page- long statement. The statement criticized the United States for using the United Nations. Of course the continue to lie the very concept of truth by declaring that there are no political prisoners and only criminals and felons and terrorists are in jail Concerning Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, she was restricted at home for:

"constantly demanding confrontation, defiance of all orders, utter devastation, resorting to four kinds of sanctions and reliance on external elements all of which will lead to harming the national unity, national stability and national development as well as hindering democratization process.."

The irony is that all these 16 years she was never brought to court to face her charges even according to their white lie, it seems that the Tatmadaw cannot even lie logically and scientifically.

Regarding the refugee issue, those residing at the so-called refugee camps in the other country are not genuine refugees but insurgents and their relatives and will not be accepted. The country is now stable, peaceful and tranquil with the prevalence of rule of law and order and development. Regarding the drug issue it is absolutely groundless and that poppy cultivation has decreased. The statement read that the spread of three diseases of HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria to neighboring countries are merely an exaggeration. It finally warned the UN that no encroachment on national sovereignty will be accepted.

The Tatmadaw has taken a hard line stance indicating that there will be no compromise with the United Nations and will fight to the end. Of course they are not empty threats, now it has 17,000 Kamikaze type child soldiers imbued with the spirit of supreme sacrifice. Like Mois Tsombe of Congo, will declared War on the UN and the world and die fighting. In such a scenario, how do we respond?

Prepared for the Worst

Putting Burma in the agenda of the UN Security, (some interpreted as a major victory) is just a feeble step in the right direction, and the ethno democratic forces could not stay complacent but will have to work for it very hard. Let us recollect our beloved Bogyoke Aung San's words before going to London for the Aung San-Attle Agreement of hoping and praying for the best but at the same time preparing for the worst.

This feat will also depend on the outcome of the UNSC. Sanctions have not worked as both China and India including Thailand can easily beat the sanctions. To decide a drastic resolution such as sending troops to enforce the Security Council's resolutions will be met with the veto from China or Russia (read how the Junta eulogize and rely on these two countries as he is now in desperate position). It should be something in between the two extremes, so that both these two dictatorial veto power countries will not use the veto. The US clearly sees this trend and we are positive that our friends at the UNSC would push for it. If it comes to the resolution, something like to settle between the people of Burma themselves, with the backing of the UN, then it is time for the ethno-democratic forces to prepare drastic actions, at least psychologically.

The UNGA has earlier called for a tripartite dialogue (ethnic nationalities, democracy movement and the Junta) and we will have to strive for it. All the ethnic and democratic fighting forces augmented by the Diaspora communities will have to join hands, under a single command and with the backing and funding of the UN in terms of hardware (arms, air and sea cover) will have to fight the Burmese version of the Armageddon. This time it will be the real Pyidaungsu Tat that will speak the Tatmadaw on equal terms, in their own language. Let us move according to the UN agenda curbing our own extremist. Then and only then we will see who will resolutely fight on the Junta's side, on which side the people of Burma will be? On our side it is also going to be a test for those individual and groups of whether they love the country by the lips or by the heart. If we cannot achieve that then there is every, likelihood that Burma will be the Yugoslavia of the East.

But hopefully, the Junta will not reached that point and accepts gracefully of Gambari visit and a sort of a compromise to release Daw Suu and all the political prisoners will be reached. We hope and pray that the Burmese problem will be solved peacefully without bloodshed. If the Myanmar and the non Myanmar cannot come to an agreement, the ethnic nationalities should really think of forming the Union of Nationalities without the Myanmar.

But let us set things right among us by preparing the necessary aspects. Personally may I appeal to the Burmese intelligentsia especially the academics of Social Sciences in Diaspora to come to our rescue and help prepare for this coming Herculean task. The accusation that the academics know it from the beginning and stay mute just to save their skin must be eliminated once and for all.

Way back in 1992, when I was serving at Chulalongkong University as the Press Secretary of the ACRP (Asian Conference on Religion and Peace), I put up a paper titled "A Burmese Appeal to the UN and US" at that time President Clinton and Butros Ghali urging the UN to take up the Burmese case. It was put up through our head office of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP) at the UN building. This was later printed into a book and distributed among the resistance groups. In it I clearly outlined the role of the UN and that Burma's case must be put up to the Security Council. I also send this paper to the UB group, since I acknowledge that we should fought under their umbrella. But on reading it they were hilarious about it, saying that I was a bit insane. Now the vision, which I visualize some dozen years ago, has come to fruition.
The point is we need a visionary leader who must be vigorous and dynamic that can correlate the conditions inside Burma ( NLD and the Tatmadaw), the Diaspora (peripheral ethnic forces and the overseas Burmese) and of course with international communities (the UN, the West and the dictatorial countries) and then decipher the best way to achieve our cherished goal, which has come a bit closer. We need to reinforce the existing institutions with farsighted intelligentsia. Now is the time for there will be no medium way either we do or die.

Prof. Kanbawza Win

Kennedy Space Centre, Florida

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Breaking the Impasse of the Eternal Triangle

Breaking the Impasse of the Eternal Triangle

By / Dr.David Law
[The cartoon, Eternal Triangle, is reproduced here by the kind permission of the Editor of S.H.A.N, Sai Khuensai, and the Artist, Sai Harn Lay.]

In the cartoon, Eternal Triangle originally published in SHAN by the renowned artist, Sai Harn Lay, there are three individuals. Starting from the right to left, the first one is the fat SPDC general yelling, "NO WAY", the second is the Burmese NLD Party Chief holding two flowers, and the third is the Representative for the Combined Ethnic Groups holding three flowers.

NO WAY (or also One-Way, as in One-Way Street)
This refers to the SPDC generals who do not wish to negotiate with any group(s) or parties but only wants to maintain the status quo of holding all the power for themselves. The pistol he holds symbolizes "Might is Right" and the Red Chinese axiom, "Power is from the mouth of the gun barrel". At the present time, SPDC is the most powerful group in the Eternal Triangle and has no need to talk. Besides, they are probably also afraid to talk since that will only spill out the countless War Crimes they have committed against the nation's people. They may be militarily the strongest but morally weakest. Talking will only expose their greatest vulnerability, which is their immorality, their wickedness. Talking, in their opinion, would only result in giving away power and possessions in a fourth world nation which is dirt-poor.

For the purposes of this essay, I would like to make a small modification and call the NO WAY with an alternative name, One-Way, as in One-Way Street.

In variance with what I just said above, there are circumstances when SPDC will talk and that is in a structured, controlled environment such as in the bogus National Convention where every delegate is pre-programmed to nod like a lizard and flatter the generals like a frog. In English, to become rubber-stamps. Thus, everyone under its power would have to go along the One-Way Street, the Ta-Lann Maung Lanzin.

In essence SPDC is saying, My Way or Highway (get out)

What are the drawbacks of the No Way / One-Way Option?

SPDC will get richer and the people will get poorer in extremis.
The Red Chinese will most likely continue to support SPDC since it is such a useful puppet regime doing the dirty, bloodstained job of suppressing all dissent. That way, the Red Chinese can quietly and gradually take over the whole country and Burma will cease to exist except in name.

The Burmese Kyat will become worthless and replaced by the Chinese Yuan and other foreign currencies. All natural resources will have been completely plundered, and the ecosystem will be polluted with industrial waste. The Ethnic Groups will be extinct and the Burmans will become "royal" slaves, (Kyun Daw), under the control of a puppet Burmese king, who will become like the thet-oo hsan-paing despot of old, the primary possessor of all the lives (thet-oo), yes, even every single hair (hsan), of his royal slaves. There will be three classes of people in Burma, which will become the 25th province of China. The first class will be the Chinese, the second will be the SPDC king, his army and party, and thirdly will be the down-trodden ordinary Burmese Kyun Daw slaves. It is ironic that the humble, polite word for "I" in Burmese has always been "Kyun Daw" because we are now all royal slaves of King Than Shwe. He and his minions will live in luxury like Kim Jong IL and his army/party members in North/Myauk (also Monkey) Korea.
The Chinese, Russians, North Koreans, and Indians (foolishly competing with China) will upgrade the SPDC Army into the most powerful one in all of Southeast Asia and arm it with nuclear missiles.

Then, SPDC will be encouraged to invade Thailand and drive out all American influences in that region.

China, through its puppet regime SPDC will thus control Thailand all the way to the southern tip of Songkla, which is only a few hundred miles from the Straits of Malacca.
Burma has invaded Thailand six times between the 12th to 18th century at the rate of once every century and sacked the royal capitol of A-Yudia three times. A-Yudia means Un-Conquerable, and in Burmese, the common name for Thailand is Yodayah, a corruption of Yudia, the Conquerable. The only reasons Thailand was left in peace the last couple of centuries was because of British colonial control, and in the past fifty years, the presence of Ethnic Armies along the Burma-Thai frontier which acts as a Buffer Zone.

Burma will attack Thailand in this decade as evidenced in the purchase of Russian MiG 29 jets and missiles, Ukrainian armored tanks, and Chinese gunboats.

What is the proof that SPDC will invade Thailand? SPDC is accusing the US and Thailand of preparing to invade Thailand and is therefore justified in counter-invading Thailand. Consider this analogy: prior to the start of the Korean War, the North Koreans brainwashed its soldiers that the South was about to invade them, which was untrue. Thus, while the South was having a national holiday and much of its soldiers were on vacation, the North announced to its soldiers that the long-expected invasion from the South had begun (a complete lie) and ordered them to counter-invade the South. The same sort of bellicose rhetoric is coming from SPDC today.
The US is preparing to invade Burma, hence the capitol has to be moved to Pyinmana Kyet Pyay / Chicken Run. Hence the SPDC must upgrade its weaponry and “defend” itself, most likely by a counter-invasion into Thailand, just like the excuses North Korea had when it invaded the South. Observe how the SPDC has recently mollycoddled itself with North Korea, in exchange for its missiles, artillery, and nuclear weapons.

Thus, the No Way / One-Way Street Option will only lead to the ruin of not just Burma, but also Thailand and the rest of the region.

The NLD’s Two-Way Option

NLD and its Burmese supporters would like to negotiate with the SPDC one-on-one, as evidenced in the 12 February Union Day announcement. But SPDC is disdainful and scornful, denigrating NLD as a nonentity.
From NLD’s perspective, it is an advantage to negotiate in two-way talks since it has no military force and all it can do is talk. However, to compensate for its lack of physical force, NLD does have the higher moral ground, which SPDC totally lacks. Talking is an area where NLD has its greater superiority and it has everything to gain by using this tactic. In fact, NLD really has no other choice except to talk. Its politicking activities have been curtailed. Recruitment has been blunted, and whatever members it has have been dwindling due to harassment from SPDC.

Proponents of this Two-Way Option want to see only the NLD versus SPDC. They do not want to have any Ethnic Group take a third party in any talks with SPDC. NLD feels that any third party would be a phyet-myin, a spoiling horse that will disrupt its effectiveness. This is like in America where there is the Republican vs. Democratic parties. Ten years ago, there was Ross Perot and his Independent party which took away some of the votes from the Republicans and thus the Democrats won.

Similarly, NLD sympathizers feel that a third party of Ethnics will divide the combined Ethno-Democratic forces into two parts. It is very significant that NLD announced its call for two-party talks on Union Day, 12 February. On that day in 1947, General Aung San was able to conclude the famous Treaty held in Panglong, Shan State, in which delegates from the Kachin, Shan, and Chin ethnic groups pledged to unite with the /Burmese group into a single Union as a show of solidarity in their struggle for independence from the British.

Thus, NLD is trying to re-enact History when it called for a unified Ethno-Democratic force under the banner of the NLD in negotiating with the SPDC. Proponents of NLD have scorned certain Ethnic leaders who, in their eyes, are only trying to secede from the Union and create self-serving separate nations which would only weaken the NLD’s position. They criticize such radical Ethnic leaders as extremists and racists who are only trying to break up the Union.

The Consequences of the NLD’s Two-Way Option

The idea of a two-way talk sounds good if NLD is strong and able to overcome the SPDC in a one-against-one struggle. In the case of the 1947 Panglong Agreement, General Aung San was able to square up against the British in his demand for Independence and rightfully claim that most of the Ethnic Groups (Except the Karen and others) were with him and hence the British finally decided to hand over all of Burma in one piece. From the British point of view, it was the post-war period and Britain was trying to recover from the war. The Labor Party had taken over from the Conservatives and was in no mood to be haggling with different Ethnic Groups and was simply glad to hand over Burma in just one fell swoop instead of having to negotiate with half-a-dozen bickering parties. Never mind the promises that the wartime British guerillas had made to the Karen and other groups for a separate homeland. The Labor Party was always prone to wipe off with their feet whatever the Conservatives wrote with their hands. Thus, the one-to-one option was beneficial to both Burma’s Aung San and Britain, hence the transaction was completed successfully.

However, today, we are talking about a different set up. It is between NLD and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi versus a barbaric SPDC regime. No matter how united the NLD is, SPDC is not about to surrender everything it holds near and dear like the British. The worst vulnerability of NLD is its lack of political and military strength. Yes, it used to hold the support of millions of people during its heyday years ago, but no longer. Membership has plummeted, leaders imprisoned, and the people terrorized. The only Burmese democratic military groups, the ABSDF and the Vigorous Young Burmese Warriors have dwindled and routed respectively. Thus the NLD is like a toothless, clawless tiger with sore throat which cannot even roar.

As such, SPDC has become openly contemptuous of NLD, dismissing it as a powerless weakling and refusing to talk. Thus, the long-term consequences of the Two-Way Option, by default, is the same as that of the No Way / One-Way Option. In the short-term results, continued insistence of the Two-Way Route will only result in further suppression of NLD and the eventual assassination of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Ethnic Groups’ Three-Way Option

The Ethnic leaders want to have their own voice in the talks. During the 1947 negotiations, they placed their trust in Gen. Aung San and let him do the talking for them. Consequently, when Aung San died, the wonderful Panglong Document died along with him, and all their human rights were trampled under Indagaw boots. (this is a boot factory near Rangoon that manufactures combat boots for the Myanmar Army) Now, under the Two-Way Plan, they again have to place their trust in the daughter of Aung San, who is liable to be assassinated at any time like her father. History will repeat itself, and they will once more be screwed.

There is a very oft-told proverbial story called “Ma Aye Who was Twice-Injured” (Ma Aye Nhit Khar Nar) Ma Aye was a simple, naive village girl who was seduced by Maung Ni, the cunning rake. She had never known what sex was and much less the concept of virginity. So when her mother demanded to know why she came home late in such a disheveled state, she explained what Maung Ni had done. Her mother wailed and cried, “Ma Aye, you have lost your virginity.” Being very naïve about sex, she did not know what was virginity, so she went back to Maung Ni and demanded that he give her back her virginity. Maung Ni replied, no problem, took her back to the same bed and said he would repeat the whole process, but this time, restore her virginity. Of course he did not. As soon as Ma Aye was in a compromised position, he again seduced her. Thus, when Ma Aye returned home that night, she explained what had happened to her mother who then exclaimed, “Ma Aye, you have been injured twice!”

Yes, this story is very sexist, but the fact is that it is often quoted to warn someone not to get swindled twice in the same manner. “Don’t get hurt twice like Ma Aye!” So the Ethnic Groups are not going to fall into the same predicament twice. Thus they will not agree to a two-way option because past history is too painful. Instead, they want to have their own combined Ethnic Groups as a third party.

Last year, when the newly-formed Interim Shan Government made its dramatic Declaration of Independence, NLD as well as SPDC both condemned it as secessionist act. This was seen by other Ethnics as a rejection of their legitimate concerns and thus NLD lost a lot of credibility among the Ethnics. E.g., the Mon Ethnic group openly counter-condemned NLD’s stance. Thus, how could the Ethnic Forces be expected to unify under the banner of the NLD and shut up their voices? More than ever, they want to have a separate voice in any negotiation.
What are the chances of the Ethnics having a chance of negotiating with SPDC? If recent history is any indication, two dozen Ethnic Armies in the past 15 years have entered into negotiations with SLORC-SPDC. Why is it that SPDC was so agreeable to sit and talk with Ethnics whose individual strength is a fraction of the NLD’s manpower? Because the Ethnics had guerrilla military power. According to the British formula for anti- guerrilla warfare in their Malaya campaign during the fifties, each guerrilla had to be matched with at least twelve conventional soldiers or else there was no chance of success. Thus, the 30,000 strong Wa Army needs to be countered with at least 360,000 SPDC soldiers, which is 90 % of their total. Thus, SPDC did not mess around much with the Wa Army and gave them generous privileges in their cease fire negotiations.

The 10,000 strong KNLA needs to be opposed with at least 120,000 SPDC soldiers, which is still a significant portion of the total Army, so SPDC a few years ago began talks with KNU. However, as KNU continued to lose strength because of the breakaway DKBA fraction, SPDC no longer respected the KNU and broke their “gentlemen’s agreement” to attack Karen villages by the thousands. Likewise because SSA and KNPP were not as strong, SPDC has not deigned to talk with them and continues to attack their people.

The ideal situation is for all the Ethnic Armies to unite as one to reach an arbitrary strength of, say, 50,000 which will then require at least 600,000 BATS (Burma Army Terrorist Soldiers) as a counter-weight.

At present, there are only 400,000 BATS. In addition, if the Ethnics were to further unite with the NLD, then the combined Ethno-Democratic Forces will be a force to be reckoned with, and SPDC will have to negotiate.

NLD, in order to win the trust of the Ethnic Armies, should let them have their Third Party three-way option. In order to dispel any fears of Ma Aye getting hurt a second time. Consider the US-North Korean talks. The latter only wants Bilateral talks, but the US wants to have a six-nation meeting: US, North and South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia. The US has some economic leverage with all of them and so it is advantageous for the US to have four other nations with itself to face-off against the North Koreans.

Likewise, if there can be a strong alliance between NLD and EA, then it would be better to have Trilateral Talks. An ABSDF leader wrote a strong article calling for the EA to trust NLD and unite with them.

Since NLD has no fighting soldiers and the ABSDF strength is very low, they will have to ask the soldiers of the EA to fight and die for them. Thus it would be an exchange of sorts: EA will offer their fighters in return for a Trilateral Talks. To demand that the EA shut up and have no representation while also demanding their warriors to die for the NLD is too much.
In conclusion, Trilateral Talks are the only answer to breaking out of the impasse of the Eternal Triangle.

Each side will have to give up something to make this happen. All the NLD and EA forces must unite to form an alliance which SPDC will then have to respect. In return, NLD can grant EA to have their Third Party component while the EA extends their military support to NLD. The problem is SPDC. In order to prevent such an alliance from ever happening, SPDC is accusing NLD of having contact with EA and has branded the EA as terrorists. So the poor NLD is unable to call for support. The solution to this would be for the EA to build up military force powerful enough for SPDC to give respect and come to the negotiating table. Then, for superficial appearances, the EA can and should be a Third Party and deny any contact with NLD. That way, NLD can have the support of EA without being accused of treason.

Dr. David Law