Skip to Content

Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2038

Western Aid & Trade, Sustain the Burmese Military Dictatorship

By Kanbawza Win

With the ringing of the New Year Bells the modern Union of Burma will be celebrating its 68th anniversary and facilitations will pour in from every diplomatic mission but the entire people of Burma will continue to suffer under the smokescreen of elected government but in reality is a cruel military dictatorship; heartedly supported by the West led by the US and EU.

When the pro-democracy movement was gunned down in 1988, the Burmese people construe that Asian values, spearheaded by Constructive Engagement Policy by China, India and ASEAN countries pales vis a vis the Western values that enshrined universality and indivisibility of human rights and democratic values. But after the change in early 2012 they sorrowfully discovered that the Western Values were more sinister and hypothetical than the Asian values. Sad but True.

Since the change, Burma has been receiving foreign aid and assistance from many countries, which are well intentioned, but as the implementations of the programs are based generally on incorrect assessment and understanding of the objective conditions, they result in the perpetuation of the very ills the aid givers intend to eliminate. Generally the future of the country cannot be predicted in detail with any degree of certainty, however, since the future is an unfolding of the present, it follows, by present trends, the future will result from conscious human intervention aimed at modifying the course of events impact upon the Burmese society.

A Short Background

Humans lived in the region that is now Burma as early as 11,000 years ago. Geography had facilitated the migration of Tibeto-Burman, Thai-Chinese and Mon- Khmer into Burma and it was the amalgamation of these tribes that became the ethnic communities of Burma. The law of the jungle prevails at that time, and paradoxically, as it is now, where the strong and powerful prey on the weaker ones. The Pyu, Kanyan and Thet races were all wiped out when the first Myanmar kingdom was set up (1044-1287) at Pagan, known as the Pagan Dynasty, then the Shan ruled the country and later the Mon and Arakanese became supreme. The second Myanmar kingdom, the Toungoo Dynasty was set up from1510-1752, and finally U Aung Zeya set up the third Myanmar kingdom KonebongDynasty (1752 -1820) after the ethnic cleansing of the Mons before the country fall to the British in 1824.

When the British were about to give independence to Burma after the 2nd World War, the ethnic states were not included. However Burma at that time had a very efficient leader Aung San (father of the Aung San Suu Kyi) whose vision was to form the Union of Burma on the federal republic lines. He successfully managed to organize the ethnic communities especially, Shan, Chin and Kachin and hence the concordat was ink at the small village of Panglong now known as the 1947 “Panglong Conference”. Thus the modern Union of Burma came into being, instantly recognized by the UN and the civilized community of the world.

However, the ethnic Myanmar Generals have other thoughts, they assassinated General Aung San by proxy , and exiled his wife away as an ambassador where his young daughter Aung San Suu Kyi was brought up. The Union of Burma from 1948 to 1962 was just like the Weimar Republic of Germany, and the Myanmar Generals had an easy Coup d’étatin 1962 by General Ne Win and set up the 4th Myanmar kingdom known (but not declared) as the Tatmadaw Dynasty. He successfully laid down the foundation of this dynasty and after his demise there was some power struggle between Khin Nyunt versus Than Shwe, somewhat similar to the Bolsheviks and the Trotskyites, the latter won and established his tyrannical rule.

He openly declared his Myanmarnization policies by changing the name of the country (Burma to Myanmar) and erasing all the ethnic names, but was wise enough not to erect his own statue even though the mammoth statues of the three founders of the Myanmar kingdoms were erected at his new ghost capital of Naypyidaw under whose shadow the Myanmar Tatmadaw march past every year on the Army Day (Resistance day was changed to Army Day).

Why Change

By early 2011 Than Shwe foresaw that Burma might experience Ceausescu-style uprising in the wake of the Arab Spring. After half a century of running the country with an iron hand, he realised that the army was fatigued, coupled with its damaged pride and embarrassment in falling far behind its neighbours. Besides being a pariah state in the community of civilised nations, and tarnished by the image of its army brutally repressing the students, workers and the entire people of Burma, including the Buddhist monks, he saw that the image was beyond redemption and knew very well that he could no longer rely on the guns.

He seems to have been concerned about his image in the contemporary history of Burma when he handed over power. He also realised that when military dictators hand over power to another dictator they often found themselves to be in jail or under house arrest, their relatives stripped of the wealth (as he has done to his mentor Ne Win) and was determine not to repeat the same mistake. So he made sure that power would no longer be wielded by one man who would be strong enough to turn on him and handed over to a quasi-military government of Thein Sein making sure that power is diffused among the different factions of the government, and an increasingly active and demanding parliament. Hence he can relax enjoying the material fruits he had accumulated and decided who should be granted lucrative business deals in the resource-rich country.

China’s increasingly dominant role in the country’s economy was a key factor in prompting the reforms to allow the government to court closer relations with the US, Europe, and Japan. Hence to safeguard his inner circle’s perquisites once safely in retirement, he needed a graceful exit and a diffusion of power. This was his main raison d’être for the change. The West particularly the American ruling circles has little or no idea about Burma or how foxy and crafty were the Burmese leaders are, so President Obama swallow the bait by claiming to be a Foreign Policy success. Situations in the Middle East and Ukraine have opened President Obama’s foreign policy to scathing critiques and left his legacy in doubt. He even commented that the transition in Burma as U.S. foreign policy victory in his speech to the West Point cadets said “we will have gained a new partner without having fired a shot, as the country had emerged from decades of military rule and turned toward the West.”

It is paradoxical that the international community is convinced that Burma is marching toward democracy. But the people of Burma especially the colonized non-Myanmar share a different view. For them, the country is travelling toward the “Burmese Way to Democracy,” much like the “Burmese Way to Socialism” by the former late dictator Ne Win writes Moe Kyaw Swa of The Irrawaddy. The military-drafted, undemocratic 2008 Nargis Constitution warmly welcome by the West and the international community helps safeguard the military’s political pre-eminence and retains its powerful position. The endeavour of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other pro-democracy groups who had hoped to amend undemocratic clauses, such as granting 25% of the parliament seats to the Tatmadaw and baring the most qualified, popular, dedicated sincere Burmese democrat to compete in the elections have been in vain. They are losing the political battle and almost all hopes are dashed except to use the people’s power as in 1988. In other words, the year 2015 won’t see Daw Aung San Suu Kyi becoming president even if her NLD party wins by a landslide in the election.

The West is convinced that the current power holders constitute the only institutions that can change the country. Many Western countries are now working to coax the government, military and parliaments, towards gradual change. They erroneously construed that they can persuade the Tatmadaw to change. Imagine, persuading the military to reform itself into a professional force, return to barracks and quit its current roles in Parliament and in the ministries. An impossible task, the West could not comprehend that Tatmadaw soldiers are still uncivilized, their thinking is feudal, racist an equivalent to the Jihadist, somewhat like ISIS. What more proof is wanted when a basic principle of the Constitution’s first Chapter clearly states that the country’s abiding objectives is that the defense services to participate in national political leadership? No Western government could recollect that successive Generals are unfit to rule the country as they had demonstrated since the 1962 up to this day.

The West and the international community could not comprehend that Burma is not a monolithic whole but a big Myanmar Military colonialism bullying the pro-democratic Myanmar and non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities since it has destroyed the Panglong Concordat, and hate Federalism. That is why war with the ethnic nationalities has been going on up to this day. Burma is a very special case and unique, its leaders are masters of manipulations and cruelties. The Western aid however well intentioned, more or less ended in the hands of the ruling Tatmadaw hands until and unless it pass through the NGOs that identifies with the local population via the border areas.

Three Categories

Currently, there thee different categories of people. The First is the Tatmadaw its goal is to remain in absolute power; to avoid prosecution for the crimes against humanity that they have committed; and to continue to steal the wealth of the nation, both natural resource and labor. In other words the continuation of the 4th Myanmar kingdom the Tatmadaw Dynasty starting from 1962 up to this date.

The Second is the business men. Most International businesses, have no morals and hence no reservations about working with dictators, as can be witnessed of their embrace of China and the Chinese Communist Party, they simply want to complete deals and establish trade. This includes to exploit Burma’s natural and human resources, including petroleum products and other mine resources, in extractive industries. Cheap and intelligent human resources in tourism, building infrastructure projects; to exploit the population as low-paid workers; and to sell the population a wide range of cheap, low quality goods. Other businesses in turn want to sell luxury goods, to the elite, both domestic and foreign.

The Third is the West lead International community. Burma is not viewed as a significant security threat (even - somehow - in the face of its clandestine missile and nuclear program), the nation is of interest to other countries, again, only from the business perspective. International leaders and diplomats therefore have as their goal to assist domestic companies to penetrate its business sectors. From these perspectives is that all these three groups - the dictatorship, businesses and the international community, have as their goal for exploiting the country and people and not to end of human rights, environmental abuses or the establishment of genuine democracy, not to mention ethnic cleansing.

According to Roland Watson these three groups, the dictatorship, businesses and international diplomats, are using all of the means at their disposal to achieve their goals, including unethical and, for the dictatorship, criminal. For the business groups, it is unethical for businesses to exploit workers in sweat shops, and to destroy the environment when extracting resources. Similarly, it is unethical for diplomats to say that they support democracy for Burma, while at the same time doing everything in their power to see that it is never attained. Both the actions and the inaction of the International Community have directly supported the military dictatorship and its goals.

Machiavelli’s theory of “the end justifies the means”, was openly practiced by all, Tatmadaw, invasion of the non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities homelands, is criminal. It has committed crimes against humanity, including war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and even genocide. The regime supported, systematic campaign of rape of ethnic nationality women, the “Four Cuts” campaign that drove Kachin, Shan, Karenni, Karen and other ethnic villagers from their homes, is ethnic cleansing. And the regime’s campaign to eradicate the Rohingya, in league with local Rakhine racists, has achieved the level of genocide. All these things, the so called civilized communities especially the West led by US and EU just fold their hands and look as if nothing has happened. It will continue to do so because their assessment of the situation was wrong. They could not comprehend it because of their greed for natural and human resources which their companies may not be able to achieve in this last frontier country.

The people of Burma, on the other hand, and the journalists and activists who support all these three groups have precisely this goal of establishing a Genuine Federal Democracy of Burma. The people have suffered repression for more than half a century to be exact from 1962 to 2015, and are desperate to achieve their freedom, equality and self-determination. While the people, theoretically, have “people power,” but which is also difficult to harness and organize, the other groups have military and financial force, and with well-established systems to impose them. Even though the people’s power shouldn’t be underestimated as it has shown its power in the 1988 pro- democracy movement, it is only effective when it is used with a good leader. Another problem is that while their goal, freedom, democracy and federalism, is clear, as a group they are not “goal-oriented.” This again contrasts with the other three groups, which are not only focused on their objectives, they are obsessed with achieving them.

The Unkindest Cut

The fatal blow to the ethno-democratic forces was delivered by non other than Germany, whose ancestors has had made two attempts to conquer the world. Now it has rule Europe financially and to know its presence in Burma one will have to dig a not too distance past. Way back in 1960s the Myitta Paungku meaning Love Connection was started when dictator Gen Ne Win single out the Fritz Werner GmbH Company (FWG) started producing G 3 rifles in the island of Inya lake then later assisted by Heckler & Koch. The Tatmadaw tested its guns on 7th July 1962 when it fired into the crowd of Rangoon University students killing 126 students and got a desired effect. Not only did FWG set up three plants in Rangoon and Hsin Dé opposite of Prome to produce the vast majority of armaments required by the Burmese military, they also served as a conduit for all importation of raw materials, machine parts and chemicals used in explosives production.

Following the uprising in 1988, the European Community and the US began imposing economic sanctions on Burma, identifying the high incidence of human rights abuses by the military regime as the primary reason for imposing sanctions. However, the annual reports of the German Federal Office for Export and Trade proves that licences for the export of dual-use-goods were authorized nearly every year, despite an EU arms embargo established in 1991.

It is natural that starting from Otto Von Bismarck(1815) to Adolf Hitler, dictatorship is in their veins and naturally the gene of dictators are just paying a lip service to the human rights situation in Burma. A cable revealed in a 2009 Wikileaks report indicated that Germany exported sophisticated equipment to Burma, which was followed by a visit of German diplomats to the factories where the machinery was installed. In 2009-10, Germany was the biggest trade partner of Burma in the European Union.

However, the Germans sense that one day the cat would be let out of the bag and hence they slyly initiated the Euro Burma Office (EBO) which was established in 1997 with support from the European Parliament, the European Commission, and of course the German funded Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), with the Burmese democracy movement. It declares to help the Burmese democracy movement and not the ethnic nationalities and keep the international community informed about Burma. To be impressive has copied Kofi Annan’s words in its preamble “The world must advance the causes of security, development and human rights together, otherwise none will succeed. Humanity will not enjoy security without development, it will not enjoy development without security, and it will not enjoy either without respect for human rights.”

The choice of its point man is Harn Yawnghwe, the youngest son of the first President of Burma Sao Shwe Thaike who skillfully organize all the ethnic armed groups and instill the theory of “Defeatism” justifying that they can continue to fight the war for centuries but they will never beat the central government led by the Myanmar and so it is better to negotiate when the time is opportune. The German assumption is that losing a war has no bearing on the resurrection of a nation and the belief in the Mahar Myanmar rulers’ lies that all the non Myanmar nationalities of the country together is a small minority when actually is more than 65% of the population. This theory knockout the ethno-democratic group and favour the quasi- military government who lavish him with a polish office in Yankin township, Rangoon and promise to give back all confiscated materials by the various military administrations including his childhood home at the corner of Kaba Aye and Godlif road. It also successfully wean the KNU from the UNFC. Other than that EBO is positive and is implementing good humanitarian works

Another example is the European Heads of Missions in Burma meeting on 14th March 2012, to discuss their positions regarding the EU sanctions review, the German Ambassador Julius Georg Luy argued against mentioning Suu Kyi by name in official EU communications. The German ambassador, together with his Belgian and Spanish colleagues, argued that other democrats and ethnic forces might be offended if it became public that Suu Kyi was being afforded special treatment. It was the UK ambassador who rightly pushed for a separate meeting with Suu Kyi, because she is still the undisputed leader of the democratic opposition—a fact that EU member states should not deny. By calling for “intelligent dialogue” with all groups in Burma, German diplomats are in reality helping the generals undermine Suu Kyi's legitimacy as the opposition leader.

Germans, Europeans and Americans should not let the Burmese military define with whom they should talk and with whom they are not allowed to talk. The ruling party and the opposition parties in the “legal fold,” and the civil society players, both local and international, that have been allowed to operate in the country, simply do not represent the full spectrum of political views. If the Western diplomats want to enter into an intelligent dialogue with all groups in Burmese society, then they should talk, with Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, Nilar Thein, U Gambira and UNFC including Shan, Chin Kachin, Karen, and other ethnic representatives, not just those who have been allowed into Parliament, but also those who have been barred from even competing. That would constitute a real “dialogue with all groups.” This is the only way to help the people of Burma.
Prognosis

As stated earlier that the present predicts the future, it is estimated that in 2015, about 1,000 to 15,000 ethnic women and girls will be raped by the Tatmadaw, however under the pretext of beauty pageants sponsored by the Chinese backed companies about 3,000 to 5,000 Burmese women will be brides for Chinese men. Because of the international outcry fewer than 2,000 child soldiers will be forcibly recruited by the military. Only about 500,000 to one million of the farmers will become landless because of the forcible land grabbing of the big companies and the military. The Myanmar Times reports. Minister for Defense Lt-Gen Wai Lwin has informed the Lower House committee that the military would give back the lands in July, according to MP Hla Swe. “The army will give back all farmland confiscated, except that on which buildings have been constructed or are under construction,” he said. The committee released a report in March that investigated 565 complaints of land-grabbing by the military in past decades, which had resulted in the loss of 247,077 acres (about 100,000 hectares) of farmland. Major offensive will start in the dry season especially to the non ceasefire groups like the KIO/KIA, SSPP/SSA-N and PSLF/TNLA while to the ceasefire groups it will be a piecemeal aggression to complete the Myanmarnization and set up a strong 4th Myanmar Kingdom the Tatmadaw Dynasty.

In the course of fighting it is estimated that about 8,000 to 10,000 casualties. The Kachin Offensive cost about 5000 soldiers from the government side alone. Ethnic cleansing will continue with might and main and Rohingya will nearly be obliterated estimated about 1.2 million including women and children by various means. The Burmese Diaspora community will increase from 3 million to nearly 4 million as more qualified people seeing the unfairness to them leave for a better pay in a foreign country. But the government is drawing up plans with the Thai military government in connivance with the UNHCR to push 70,000 refugees in the border camps back to Burma where they will be a major work force in the new factories setting up in Karen state with the blessing of KNU. The authorities will continue to close their eyes on the activities of the extremist monks led byBurma’s Bin Laden and instigated religious riots especially to the Muslim. Political prisoners will be increase and tortured, while less than a dozen reporters will be decapitate.

Of course it will continue to encourage tourism, investment in extractive industries and FDI will increase and the rich will become more rich estimated that Burmese billionaires will increase from 15 to 40 all with Tatmadaw connections. It will also continue to accept the domicile dissidents who would cooperate with them like the Oos but will reject the Moes Who chose will work for the people. Madeline Albright and other black listed dissidents who tells the truth cannot apply for permanent residence there.

The Tatmadaw regimes since the time of Ne Win, thrive on lies, treachery and criminality. They never hesitate to take advantage of geopolitical situation and the weakness of big powers for economic profit and political influence. The growing sentiment in the international community that there is a fast-closing window of opportunity for political negotiation puts greater pressure on non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities groups to come to the table, even when the offerings from the government side are less than ideal. This discourse which is also reinforced by the KNU to push for peace and a quick settlement paints reluctant groups and individuals as "spoilers" who are inhibiting the chances for peace.

Ordinary Burmese people, will abandon a life style that was once fulfilling but now made impossible by the changing process, in order to seek a precarious existence in wage-slavery, even amongst those who are “self-employed.” Change will be forced upon people by the economic policies formulated by the powerful military and cronies to benefit themselves at the expense of the bulk of the population. The military generals dissatisfied with what they have, desire unlimited control over the ordinary citizens of Burma will imposed their will on nominally democratic people in defiance of the desires and interests of the ordinary citizen. The greater part of the population is manipulated and kept in ignorance. There are undoubtedly those within the military and financial elites who are well aware that the existing system is failing and who have their own vision of a disciplined democracy will retain control, by whatever means it takes and the West will look with folded arms.

The call for unity by Khu Oo Reh, the General Secretary of UNFC is most timely and appropriate. The Burmese have allowed politically naïve leaders in our own ranks to follow, long enough, the fraudulent political line introduced among us by treacherous forces. Agents of these forces come as representatives of political INGOs, business organizations and even as peace brokers. The people must not fail to remind themselves that the unity must be based on their revolutionary principles stated below:

(1) Remove the Military Dictatorship Totally;

(2) Establish the Country as a Federal Union;

(3) Establish Multi-Party Democracy; and

(4) Establish Peace.

The big powers have been engaging the regime for transition for some years, but the regime remains supremely obstinate. The ethno democratic forces have been engaging it for resolution of political problems, or the question of peace, by political means, for more than two years. It is time now to press hard for the regime to give up not only its war of aggression against the oppressed nationalities. The UNFC and the pro-democracy groups all have to struggle under the rule of the regime. Not a single Western government or NGO will help them. But there are enough resistance fighters, who are ready to carry on the struggle for peace with justice, truth and freedom

The people of Burma do not expect miracles from the reform process that started in 2011. They just want to see gradual, genuine progress toward a democratic and prosperous federal democratic nation. Such progress was lacking in the last two years. For people on the ground, economic reforms have delivered little so far. Former power structures remain largely intact. Tatmadaw-owned companies and cronies still monopolize the most lucrative industries. Business concessions are still not transparent. The irresponsible investments of Western firms and bilateral aid are not benefitting the people of Burma, but only contributing to the torture, persecution and killing of the many ethnic nationals, monks, students and activists who are struggling for democracy inside Burma. Hence in Burma men may come and men may go but Western Hypocrisy will go on forever.

End Notes

Lines from David Thackabaw former member of UNFC

From Winghats Season Greetings

See the 1st Anglo-Burmese War and the Yandabo Treaty

Read by Aung Kin

Win; Kanbawza The Evil Genius, Than Shwe And The Current Reforms, Burma National News 14-9- 2012

Christian Science Monitor,Four Reasons to Change 14-6-2013

Christian Science Monitor, Four Reasons to Change 14-6-2013

Hein: Akar Is Myanmar a Foreign Policy Success in Politics and Policy. Foreign Policy Magazine

Moe; Kyaw Swa, The Shape of things to Come The Irrawaddy 20-1202014

Watson; Roland Burma: What is the goal? Dictator Watch 29-11-2014

http://www.dictatorwatch.org/articles/whatisthegoal.html

Ibid

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli maintaining power, by all means, became the archetypical philosophy of

The Ends Justify the Means.

1st and 2nd World Wars

S.Aung Lwin; Mahn The Military Ties That Bind The Irrawaddy 3-4-2014

See the record of 7th July incident

http://www.euro-burma.eu/about-us/ebo-history/

EBO Conceptual framework

He was my benefactor as it was through him that I got a position of a Sr, Research Fellow at EIAS
Letters of David Thackabaw dated 17th Dec.2014 The outside World peoples believe all the lies told by the regime that Myanmar constitutes 68% of the population when it is only 27.7%. I think it is the truth. Regarding population figure, the Myanmar racists have been lying since the British time and counted Karen, Mon and Arakanese and Shan Buddhists on the plains in Lower Burma as Myanmar. The regime wants the world to believe
that ethnic nationalities are a very small minority who are wanting unreasonably a large share of power, when in fact the Karens are not less than 20%, the Shans are about 22%, the Mons about 6%, the Kachins about 4% and so on. Yet the Western countries have supported the Census

Rott; Suzanne, Intelligent Dialogue Partners or Useful Idiots? 1-7-2014 Financial Times

This is because of one child policy of China as most of the parents preferred to have boys than girls, now that there is a shortage of women and Burma jumped into the fray.

Military to Return Some Confiscated Land Soon: MP Irrawaddy 8-7-2013

Than Myint Oo, Zaw Oo, Aung Naing Oo, Min Zaw Oo etc

Moe Thee Zun, Moe Kyaw Aung and the likes

J Walton; Matthew Towards a better Union in Myanmar

Sztumpf; Paul, Burma is on the road to disaster not peace, the warning signs should not be ignored

- Asian Tribune -

diconary view
Share this


.