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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 76

Cease-fire and the mentality of the Myanmar Generals

By Kanbawza Win

Myanmar generals has a long history of overruling the others that they can never contemplate as being equal to others nor has a history of voluntarily giving up power. When the Myanmar was able to overthrow the Mon Khmer kingdom in the 18th Century they bullied all the ethnic nationalities with high taxation and forced labour but with the annexation of the British to the country it came as a liberation to the ethnic nationalities and hence many of them serve the British administration.

The Myanmar never forget or forgave these collaborations especially against the Arakanese (Rakhine) who help the British in the first Anglo Burmese War 1824 as a revenge for what the Myanmar King Bodawpaya had done to them and hence the Myanmar proverb kill the Rakhine first before killing poisonous snake , somewhat similar to what the American saying that every good Red Indian (aborigines) is a dead Indian.

However, in the resistance against the fascist Japanese they found themselves on the same side and eventually after the Union of Burma was formed the vendetta takes hold of these Myanmar generals and adopted a policy deem fit to whet their appetite of ethnic cleansing. This is not only confine to Rakhine ethnic nationalities but also to the other ethnic nationalities especially Karen because they are able fighters that help the British. This mentality is still carried on to the 21st century.

“Lie-ing the very concept of truth.”

If one could recall the general elections were held in Burma on 27 May 1990, the first multi-party elections since 1960, after the military dictatorship which had ruled the country under different pretext. The Tatmadaw promised to transfer power to anyone who won the elections declaring that it was going to change to democracy. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at that time was still in custody, but the people of Burma heard her silent whisper to vote for democracy and human rights and the NLD took 392 of the 492 seats. However, the military junta shamelessly refused to recognize the results, and ruled the country as the State Peace and Development Council until 2011. This clearly proves that Tatmadaw mentality is to continue to rule either by hook or by crook. Their mentality is such that if defeated they couldn’t even respect their own laws but lied not only to the entire people of Burma but also international community justifying that the election is only to draw the National Constitution. Telling a lie mentality was carried on to this day by the young generals led by Min Aung Hlaing and very much control by the invisible hands of the old supremo Than Shwe.

Then after eighteen years they forcibly drew up a fraudulent and manipulated Constitution and compelled the people to vote for the approval at the cost of some one million lives,(most of them women and children at the time of Nargis Cyclone which hit the country) they plan to continue to rule the country like former dictators. The Junta at that time was so paranoid that it did not lift a finger to help the people but had successfully prevented the international aid from reaching the people indirectly killing them, deliberately. Hence, the people call them 2008 Nargis Constitution, where they put in the clauses not only to prevent the federal principles but also Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president. What more, because they are sore afraid of the people’s power that they have to insert a clause, where 25 % of the parliament seat was allotted to the military? Now even with this 2008 Nargis Constitution the coming election in Nov. 2015 it seems that have little or no chance of winning and is searching a pretext to postpone the elections.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, in meeting with the American congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (Democrat) and her bipartisan delegation released an official statement that the elections could be postpone using different pretext such as religion and ethnic crisis, human rights, ceasefire negotiations. Pelosi share the concern about the ceasefire process, which may be used as an excuse to delay the elections. This also indirectly indicates that the much trumpeted President Obama’s foreign policy success on Burma together with the American values on human rights, respect for religious and ethnic minorities, constitutional reform, free, fair and timely elections and peace have all gone down the drain. In other words is an utter failure of the American Appeasement Policy towards the quasi-military government of Burma. Will the US and the West including EU and Australia stand by as the drama unfolded is still to be seen?

The 2015 General Election is an acid test of whether Burma is on the road to democracy or not? The quasi-military government of Burma headed by U Thein Sein is not sincere at all about democracy and he reforms. Had U Thein Sein, being more sincere it would have gone much further ahead? In Burmese we say, adapted into English means the US and the West has swallowed a sugar coated pill, and it is only now tasting the utter bitterness. Paradoxically, this week Burma is now celebrating its New Year (Water Festival) the year 1337, in which the omens says that there will be no elections in 2015. One cannot say when this chief astrologer Saya San Thar Ni will be in trouble for predicting the right thing. Such is the rule of law in Burma. All indications point out that there will be no elections this year because the Tatmadaw cronies cannot win.

Science says that the raisons d'être was that the government is incapable and unwilling to change the fraudulent and manipulated 2008 Nargis Constitution and treat it as it was curved in stones."They are simply not interested in negotiations or in amending the Constitution or taking seriously the will of the people ... you could hardly say they are moderates." Said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi the Burmese democracy leader and the Nobel Laureate.

Since, the Burmese military administrations motto is to “lie the truth also” the international community together with their so called Burma experts, who are under the payroll of their businessmen (a.k.a) intellectual prostitutes which in Burmese they say has been asking these questions

Will there be an elections?

(1) If so who will monitored the elections when the government itself is lie-ing?

(2) Even if the elections are held will it be honoured or just a repeat of 1990?

These critical questions will be answered by deeds in coming November of whether the national character of the Myanmar race headed by Tatmadaw can be trusted not only by non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities but also by the international community at large?

The Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement

The Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), which is the fourth, single text draft, after twenty-two informal and seventh official meetings lasting about nearly one and half year to be exact 16 plus months, because the Tatmadaw often goes back to its previous agreement which has already been agreed upon and signed.

Having seven chapters and 30 pages, the agreement spells out in painstaking detail, and the six points statement made public, in Burmese, on March 31st, signed by NCCT (Nation Wide Ceasefire Coordination Team) and UPWC (Union Peace-Making Work Committee) representatives includes that the two parties have drawn, finalized and confirmed the NCA draft, and that the EAOs (Ethnic Armed Organizations) leaders and UPCC (Union Peace-making Central Committee) will have to ratify the draft, before the NCA could be finally signed. The government tried to paint a rosy picture and there was a lot of confusion because of hype of the government control media emphasizing that a nationwide cease-fire would be a historic achievement in Burma’s contemporary history since its inception in 1948. No doubt it’s a major public relations stunt for the government and did not waste much time trumpeting it.

Even Information Minister Ye Htut, went so far as to say that the president and army Chief Min Aung Hlaing are now in the “annals of peace makers”. What a paradoxical statement? On the international front also, the agreement received much backslapping, and UNICEF headquarters at New York, apparently carried away by the government’s euphoria, issued a statement erroneously referring to the event as “The successful conclusion of a National Ceasefire Agreement”. U Thein Sein, himself a former military commander, has taken this golden chance to prove that he is still committed to democratic reforms and appealed to the United States and European Union to lift further economic sanctions. For the international business community it was a Red Letter Day and there was much euphoria as of now, ways and means are open to exploit the last frontier’s natural and human resources “If you have peace, you have development,” said Aung Tun Thet, economic adviser to Burma’s president and the architect of sending Steven Law, the drug War Lord’s son (the late Lo Hse Han) as a distinguished visitor to Canada.

But the world little knows that this agreement was just a baby step, the different ethnic nationalities have to submit to their respective central committee and only after the consensus is reached there will be a real ceasefire agreement. Hence, the draft of the text that may not end decades of conflict in Burma for it come at a time amid intensifying conflict between the Tatmadaw and a northern rebel faction that has spilled across the border into China, raising questions about the viability of any cease-fire agreement. Renewed fighting was reported this week between the Tatmadaw and three ethnic armed organizations of Kachin, Palaung and Kokang groups in Kachin and Shan states, where Tatmadaw sustain 35 casualties with 4 from MNDAA that is less than a week after ethnic negotiators reached a tentative agreement with their government counterparts on the draft text for a nationwide ceasefire accord. Besides, meticulously studying the draft, it will reveal that it is not a Nation Wide Cease fire at all but a selected ceasefire because Kokang’s Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army that has caused tens of thousands of Burmese ethnics to flee across the frontier with China and rocked relations with Beijing was not allowed to participate and well-founded news by experts say that Tatmadaw which has suffered a bloody nose is anathema to any compromise with the Kokang freedom fighters. The simple logic is, who will sign the peace agreement when the fighting is still going on? “If the battles is raging in Kokang and Kachin State or elsewhere, signing cannot take place. Signing can only happen when it is tranquil. If we signed it while the battles are raging, we’ll become a big joke. Besides, other groups won’t be satisfied with the people who signed it.” Commented Khun Oka, a spokesperson of UNFC.

Bertil Lintner, a strategic analyst and journalist who has written several esteemed books on Burma and a leading expert has dismissed a recent breakthrough in national peace talks as "hot air," “All that's been achieved is that the usual suspects have drafted the text of an agreement which they are going to present to the armed ethnic groups later this month or in May. It's nothing more than that. Those foreign 'observers' are off the wall” he commented. The leader of the cease-fire coordination body said that the Tatmadaw’s insistence that ethnic groups follow the controversial 2008 Nargis Constitution could derail talks. "The 2008 constitution is not a democratic constitution, and there are no rights for ethnic people in it," Naing Han Thar told Radio Free Asia. This is very clear that from the early stages of bilateral ceasefire discussions, the ethnic armed groups insisted that they would play outside the confines of the 2008 Nargis Constitution until they achieved their end goals. “It’s simply not going to work to talk about peace under these circumstances is totally misleading, because the worst fighting since 1987 is taking place”. Commented Bertil Lintner the military-backed government of pushing for a ceasefire as a means of pacifying ethnic groups in order to continue pushing its own agenda, of a country run from the centre, under the existing constitution. A historically weak central government has signed bilateral cease-fires over the years with an array of militias representing ethnic minorities that comprise about a third of the population, but the agreements have routinely fallen apart.

3 D is not Working

The simple logic that Tatmadaw will become obsolete once there is peace in the country have prevented the Thein Sein administration from reaching an accord with the ethnic nationalities. The authenticated proof is that even though it has reached individual ceasefires with 14 of the 16 major armed ethnic groups, the government’s tactics of “Divide and Rule” policy is now tested as the Myanmar General mentality of not recognizing smaller ethnics resistance army have refused to have peace talks with the TNLA (Palaung) including AA (Arakan) or MNDAA.

So fighting after a ceasefire has been signed does not seem too uncommon in Burma. It is business as usual. Many EAOs have signed individual ceasefires with the government and then, later, fought with the Tatmadaw. For example the MNDAA were actually the first EAO to sign a peace agreement with the government in 1989 and the KIA signed a ceasefire in 1994 that lasted 17 years until fighting resumed in 2011.

Ceasefire pacts have been always used to Divert, Divide, and to Delaythe ethnic demand for their rights and self-determination. The unusual thing about this time is the attention received from international community made possible by the current savvy so-called reform government. It’s a pity that after more than half a century the international community did not know that the Burmese Army is against the very grain of peace.

The other factor is that the Myanmar Tatmadaw did not want the Union of Burma it construe the non-Myanmar as outside their spheres e.g. Min Aung Hlaing himself have accused the WA and Kokang ethnic nationalities as Chinese and refused to recognise that it was part of the Union of the country. Min Aung Hlaing on 13 February this year, when the EAOs were invited to attend the Union Day said that all should embrace the collective national identity of “Myanmar” and disregard their aspirations of “ethnic or national identity”.

The non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities were furious on his parting remark, this was repeated again on Feb 17th that Min Aung Hlaing pointed out that WA and Kokang are not part of the union of Burma. What more proof is wanted when the head of the Burmese Tatmadaw is against the Union of Burma? History has repeat itself that the only race that did not recognize the Union Pyidaungsu is the Myanmar race. The Irrawaddy report of 17 February, Min Aung Hlaing was believed to have again hinted that WA are foreigners and this confirm that the national character of the Myanmar is that under the leadership of the Tatmadaw, they want to be the king and the other ethnic nationalities should be their slaves to them. Min Aung Hliang, in his recent interview with Stanley Weiss, Founding Chairman, Business Executives for National Security, when asked “ Will Myanmar Military reform?” He replied that Tatmadaw is the keeper of democracy, previously the Tatmadaw us above the government, and now we’re at same level, and we the Tatmadaw still have to teach the government whoever governs how to behave if they want to be above us.” As a lesson he replaced a number of officers in the 25 percent of parliament still reserved for members of the military, because “the previous officers placed there were not capable of voting on their own, so he decided to replace them.”

The last and the most important aspect is that the Myanmar Tatmadaw is against democracy itself. If there is not election in Nov.2015 as promised what more proof is wanted by the international community that the Myanmar generals hated democracy?

The Western Aid Needs More Pragmatic Approach

As preliminary ceasefires wording has been agrees, international aid commitments geared towards “peacebuilding” have proliferated, from the West, Australia and Japan. Studying the current situation is that even though there are countless implementing agencies keen to carry out programs, little evidence exists on how or even if such strategies can really assist the kinds of transformations necessary for peace.

At least on theory conflict-torn areas must benefit from aid in multiple ways, particularly to support affected populations. But in practice the Thein Sein administration insisted in scrutinizing that it should be used to achieve only its inherently political agendas. What more proof is wanted when the country has more violence since the change starts in 2011. Although the will exists among a large number of leaders to continue negotiations, key differences remain seemingly intractable in the near term. The contentions is that the Tatmadaw -dominated government remains unlikely to allow the degree of change being called for, while there is little clarity what will happen after upcoming elections. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been allocated by donor countries for projects focused on peacebuilding aims and this will rise significantly this year by international NGOs, with the latest agreement.

The successive military governments of Burma since 1962 has a long history of offering its rivals truces, and providing them with varying combinations of territory, military resources, and economic concessions in return for official subordination. Although such efforts have reduced open hostilities and consolidated the state’s military dominance across wide swathes of the country, most rural areas in border area remain deeply fragile. Such areas are characterized by overlapping and generally hostile claims to territory by state security forces, local state-backed militias, and opposition groups both actively fighting and holding ceasefires. Some opposition groups hold exclusive control over large territories on borders with China and Thailand, which the government is unable to access.

We should recollect that peacebuilding policy practice globally are the related concepts of “state building” and “peace dividends.” The state building theory goes that if hostilities can be reduced by bringing conflict actors to the table for talks, aid can be used to strengthen the role of the state as a dominant authority, and to improve its relations with society — particularly among marginalized groups. At the same time, if aid can provide immediate tangible benefits or “peace dividends” to populations and combatants in conflict-affected areas, confidence can be assured that peace is in everyone’s best interests. However, this approaches rarely solved holistically through negotiations, since the state has the upper hand with the militarily backing and thus is unlikely to submit to demands sought by minor actors through violence. “Peace processes” are therefore typically protracted undertakings that aim to keep antagonists at the table, give respite to all those affected, and provide the time and space for détente. International aid, therefore, is seen as a useful tool in using this space to restructure institutions and provide material development, in the hope of speeding up this process.

In Burma such an approach to counterinsurgency was seen most starkly in ceasefires signed in the 1990's that provided economic concessions to quiet ceasefire groups alongside promises for political dialogue with the long-awaited post-junta government. As economic concessions systematically shrank over time, the government heavily militarized the armed groups’ areas and coerced some of the smaller factions into disarmament. Up to this day, not a single political dialogue has emerged, and the related economic projects have largely harmed local livelihoods and environments while empowering the armed forces, local warlords, and their cronies. This is the policy which the Thein Sein administration is pursuing.

Elsewhere, protracted ceasefires have become ingrained as the state has not been able to achieve decisive victories, nor has it been able to compel other actors to hand over power entirely. This is largely because the original grievances persist, in that non-Myanmar elites have been deprived of meaningful political or administrative roles in local or national affairs. Furthermore, ceasefire economies have proven highly profitable for key power-holders, often providing some disincentive for openly opposing the state but also discouraging moves towards their disarmament. In this way many of the state-sanctioned militias have all but given up on their political aims, but see little benefit to relinquishing power.

Nowadays in Burma ceasefires are increasingly being seen as ploys to reduce hostilities so that the government can extend its leviathan state through military expansion, extract valuable resources, and establish its own administration. For example 1994-2011 the ethnic saw that its popular support diminish while the Tatmadaw slowly encircled it until an all-out war was launched. The use of aid to persuade groups to give up on their nationalist aims therefore risks further driving their fears that the government still lacks the will for genuine peace.

K NU, which initially held the stance that development in its region should only be encouraged once political dialogue had been successful. Although a dominant faction of the group has invested heavily in attempts to bring about political talks and has been entertained by negotiators in the president’s office, full commitment from the government and Tatmadaw has remained elusive. Mu Tu Say Po and his gang has fallen into this trap.

Meanwhile, the Tatmadaw with the blessing of the government via their cronies began to push through its own vision of nation-building. Although lasting peace will indeed depend on the emergence of a functioning state, this cannot be achieved without the political foundations necessary for it to gain legitimacy and to regulate political competition between antagonistic elites. Hence, providing resources and “capacity building” to strengthen the current state, which is based on the 2008 Nargis Constitution that centralizes power and puts military-controlled ministries in charge of subnational administration, will likely have the opposite effect. This is what the Western powers and the international community should realise.

No doubt Ceasefires in some parts of the country have brought significant benefits to the lives of conflict-affected populations but it is much selected. Changes have been rapid as people have experienced significant decreases in human rights abuses while gaining far greater mobility, citizenship rights, and access to information. Grandmothers in some areas have for the first time seen relations warming between long-antagonistic military actors. Armed groups with new ceasefires are also undergoing internal reconfigurations as they reform administration structures and build new partnerships with other groups in their areas. But these multiple transitions are still in motion and, despite positive signs, could still go in numerous directions. External aid actors flocking to Burma should therefore take time to let the dust settle, to work on building genuine local relationships, and tread extremely carefully in conflict-affected areas. Particular care ought to be taken with agendas geared explicitly toward manipulating the political situation that few — if any — outsiders could claim to truly understand. The outlook in new ceasefire areas compares to what happened after the 1994 agreement between the KIO and the military government. Over time, the truce allowed around 80,000 displaced people to return to their homes, others to resettle, and bamboo settlements to evolve into those of wood and brick. Roads, schools, places of worship, and restaurants were built over time, and a new generation grew up in relative stability. However, without a political solution, amid extremely hostile relations and constant militarization, conflict erupted once again in 2011, leading to some of the most destructive violence that the country has seen since the early 1990s. Most of these people are now displaced again as their settlements have been ransacked and left littered with landmines.

The great lesson is that a lasting transformation that surpasses fragile truces will depend on political pacts that allow for the conceptualization of a joint vision of the nation and institutions that allow for the sharing of power among nationalist elites. If a broad enough coalition of actors committed to building a stable Federal Democratic Union of Burma can be created, not only dominated by the Myanmar race, the task will then be to build an authoritative and responsive state that can successfully counter the vast number of illegitimate forces benefiting from violence and instability. From the perspective of most opposition actors and foreign observers, a federal system of government would the best foundation for such a state.

In the meantime, attempts to merely strengthen the capacity of the current state will further undermine confidence in ceasefires and lead to the augmentation of institutions that are antithetical to lasting peace. Although international actors are currently not in a position to broker a more inclusive political environment from the outside, they must be careful to not to work against it with their own interventions.

Ceasefire areas are certainly in need of certain forms of aid to improve the lives of those who have suffered. Rehabilitation programmes for the displaced and those returning home, as well as more long-term efforts to tackle poverty and health crises, are rightly being designed and implemented even in vulnerable areas. Larger-scale developments such as roads and infrastructure are also underway and — despite carrying significant risks — have already been clearly welcomed in some areas where people have benefited greatly from improved transportation and communication. Programs founded on cooperation between antagonistic authorities, and which work with existing community-level mechanisms for social support, can do a lot to improve confidence in ceasefires and prepare the foundation for stability.

However, these crucial forms of support should not bring about rapid socio-economic changes too quickly in areas where the impact is hard to predict. In particular, eager attempts to base programs around political objectives (i.e. peacebuilding) where so little is known about the specific power dynamics in a locality pose unnecessary risks to the stability of otherwise slowly improving environments. Given the ineptitude of modern aid instruments to properly monitor and evaluate their impact on conflict, or even politics generally, the results will be largely unpredictable. Even where clear development benefits can be achieved, this must always be balanced against the potential risks of unintended impacts on local power dynamics, or on specific grievances. Most crucially, interventions that explicitly redefine the role of the state in a specific area should be sequenced carefully with the peace process so as to reflect agreements that have been made at the table.

Overall, Western governments should reassess the potential for aid to create peace in such fragile regions. Instead, diplomatic engagements that enhance the government’s will for democratic, administrative, and security sector reforms, for laws and institutions that protect people’s rights, and for the evolution of a more open access state will be far more useful in building the foundations for peace, however slow. Continued attempts to commit resources and capacities to such ends without clear government will are likely to produce mixed results and have unintended political impacts. Therefore, foreign governments should take a more realistic and patient approach to engagements in conflict-affected areas, and should be careful when playing with peace, simply because the ICG’S nominate Nobel Peace Prize Thein Sein being himself a general, still harbours the Myanmar mentality and is not sincere in working for Peace, Democracy and Federalism for the Union of Burma but rather for the Myanmarnization of the Union under the thumb of Myanmar over the non-Myanmar.

End Noites

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Eleven News Suu Kyi and Pelosi share concern over potential postponement of election 3-4-2015

Aung San Suu Kyi, told Reuters News 5-4-2015



o=uFefpmwGif8VkefpD;vmaomo=um;rif;onfoHvsufudknmbufwGifrudkifbJ/ b,fzufvufwGifudkifxm;aoma=umifh RFA

Vanderklippe; Nathan A meeting of unity in war-torn Myanmar The Globe and Mail 30-3-2015

Sai; Wan Sai An Assessment: The Aftermath of Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement Draft SHAN 2-4-2005
Letters from David Thackabaw

Shayi;Pangmu, E A. Groups: Partners or Doormats in Burma’s Peace Process? Kachinand News 9-4-2015


Asia News 31-3-2015

Vanderklippe; Nathan A meeting of unity in war-torn Myanmar The Globe and Mail 30-3-2015

Declaration of UNFC regarding the N A C7-4-2005

Kha;Kyaw Fighting on 3 Fronts in Wake of Ceasefire Deal: Ethnic Armies The Irrawaddy 8-4-2015

Myo; Htun Kyaw and Weng:Lawi President Attends Ceremony Where Govt, Rebels Signal Support for Draft Nationwide Ceasefire The Irrawaddy 31-3-2015

Xinhua News

SHAN 2-4-2015 Sai:Wan Sai An Assessment: The Aftermath of Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement Draft

Carorll; Joshua, Longtime Asia expert tells that widespread optimism about agreement -- not yet signed -- is undeserved Asnadolu Agency 4-4-2015

Zahau; Cherry A Milestone for the President, One Step Forward for Burma’s Ethnic Armed Groups the Irrawaddy 2-4-2015

Vanderklippe; Nathan A meeting of unity in war-torn Myanmar The Globe and Mail 30-3-2015

Govt. and ethnic groups agree landmark draft peace deal AP News 31-3-2015

Inkey;Mark Burma’s new ceasefire agreement: The devil is in the detail 1-4-2015

Naw; Nmang, Barking up the wrong tree Ceasefire as an end. Kachin Land News 2-4-2015

Sai; Wan Sai An Assessment: The Aftermath of Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement Draft SHAN 2-4-2005

The that did not recognize the Union are the PVO (the former Myanmar army), followed by the Thankin Soe group of the Red flags and later Thankin Than Htun of the White flag. Now the Myanmar Tatmadaw.

The World Post – 26-3- 2015

Jolliffe; Kim, Playing with Peace in Myanmar 3-4-2015

Jolliffe; Kim, Playing with Peace in Myanmar 3-4-2015

Jolliffe; Kim, Playing with Peace in Myanmar 3-4-2015

Myanmar Eleven; News Suu Kyi doubts Thein Sein's sincerity 5-4-2015

- Asian Tribune -

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