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