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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2040

Which is lesser of the Two Evils?

By Kanbawza Win

With the Nationwide ceasefire and elections approaching, an average non-Myanmar ethnic nationality will be conjecturing of which one is of the lesser evil, since he has to choose between the two Myanmar groups to be his boss, either the Tatmadaw backed USDP or the pro democratic forces led by NLD? No doubt both of them harbour a chauvinistic attitude towards a non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities and the only choice he have is which one of them is the lesser evil.

The basic problem faced by the people of Burma for over five decades is a by-product of conflict of interests over constitutional principles between Myanmar and non-Myanmar ethnic nationals. The Myanmar ethnic nationals, the more enlighten in the population and the dominating ethnic group of the Tatmadaw persistently want a unitary type of Constitution. Contrary to this, the non-Myanmar ethnic nationals a minority in population and in national, state, and local institutions, desire to a federal constitution which can safeguard, promote, and protect their ethnic national interests and identities.

This conflict of interest over the constitutional principle between the Myanmar ethnic national and the non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities is the root of the political crisis as well as the generator of ethnic conflict, hatred, and disunity in the Union of Burma. There is only one simple solution to solve the conflicts and crisis in Burma and that is to have a constitutional parley between the opposition party the National League for Democracy, the regime’s Tatmadaw, and non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities to develop the division of power within the federal constitutional principle, that will full fill not only the non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities’ interests but also to safeguard the majority Myanmar ethnic nationals’ interests as well. But the Tatmadaw is absolutely against this and hang on to the 2008 Nargis Constitutions as it’s a Bible Truth. The previous Constitutions of the Union of Burma had failed to fulfill the desires of both the Myanmar and non-Myanmar ethnic nationals in the Union of Burma.

The Panglong Agreement of 1948 is important for the people in modern Burma as the “Declaration of Independence 1776” is important to the Americans in fundamental nature. If an agreement has not been reached during negotiation among the representative of Ministerial Burma, the representatives of Shan, Chin and Kachin, leaders, there would never have not been the Union of Burma in modern world history. The signatories had negotiated and reached final agreement to form a UNION because they all guaranteed to treat each other with equality in all aspects, in politic, economic, cultural, and self-determination rights of each people within their own territories. The sincerity and trust of the signatories of Panglong Agreement was revealed in Article 210 of the Constitution of Union of Burma (1948) which guaranteed the secession rights of the signatory’s state from the Union of Burma after ten years of independence. When asked by the people of why this clause was inserted, Bog yoke Aung San insisted, “They got the right secede and it is for the Myanmar to work so that they won’t secede” But after more than a quarter of the century what is the result? The Myanmar did not respect the concordat with the death of Bogyoke Aung San.

The 1948 Constitution Gradually, the non-Myanmar ethnic national leaders, politicians, and scholars realized that the Constitution of the Union of Burma (1948) not only disregarded the essence of the Panglong Agreement but also was substantively different from the “Draft Constitution Approved by the AFPFL National Convention”. They also realized that this new Constitution of Union of Burma (1948) allowed majority Myanmar nationals to manipulate all legislative, executive, and judiciary powers over non-Myanmar ethnic nationals. Therefore, the non-Myanmar ethnic national leaders gathered in Taunggyi, the capital city of Shan State in 1961, to discuss the defects. The Myanmar nationalists and the high-ranking officers in Burmese Army, realized that the only way to safeguard Myanmar domination over non-Myanmar ethnic nationals would be to remove the democratic regime by force. Therefore, the Burmese Army took the power on March 2, 1962.

The 1974 Socialist Constitution Subsequently, after ten years, the Revolutionary Council drafted a new Constitution that came into force in 1974. The new Constitution not only disregarded the essence of the Panglong Agreement, but also constitutionally expanded Myanmar ethnic national domination toward non-Myanmar ethnic nationals by dividing Burma into Seven Divisions to equate with the seven non-Myanmar ethnic national States and enabled the Myanmar to monopolize all legislative, executive, and judicial power. Eventually in 8888 pro-democracy movement it was annulled.

NLD’s Interim Constitution Although the Socialist military regime and the NLD was voted by the people to restore democracy in Burma, it had failed to carry out the peoples’ mandate due to two significantly important factors. First, NLD failed to draft the Interim Constitution of Burma based on the essence of the Panglong Agreement. Instead of drafting a new Interim Constitution the NLD partially revised the Constitution of the Union of Burma (1948) and proclaimed to be used as interim Constitution for transition period. In response the non-Myanmar ethnic nationals were silent and the NLD consequently lost the trust of non-Myanmar ethnic nationals. Secondly, the majority of NLD’s top leaders were former military officers who had been ousted by General Ne Win so that restoration of democracy in Burma was not priority for them. Toppling the present military regime was always their first priority. Although, their supreme leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, had expressed her willingness to form a Federal Union of Burma to solve Burma’s political problems she has not received warm responses from NLD’s top leaders as well as the Myanmar ethnic national for this position. This is the first proof that NLD is also a Mahar (chauvinistic) Myanmar.

The Defunct NCUB’s Draft Constitution Since 1992, the National Council of Union of Burma (NCUB), a Diaspora entity, composed of members of the National Democratic Front, Democratic Alliance of Burma, NLD (Liberated Area), and Members of Parliament Union, drafted the Future Constitution of the Federal Union of Burma and it clearly reveals that there were gigantic lacks of understanding on the federalism The NCUB draft constitution clearly omitted the essence of the Panglong Agreement, the Draft Constitution Approved by the AFPFL National Convention, and the Federal Bill of 1961.The Myanmar ethnic nationals in the liberated have not shown any interest in drafting a Union of Burma Constitution for the Genuine (Federal) Union of Burma. This led the leaders to conclude that both the “Myanmar Tatmadaw leaders” and “Pro-democratic Myanmar nationals” in and outside Burma had disregarded the essence of the Panglong Agreement. In other words this is the crux of the Mahar Myamar mentality. The non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities concluded that that the Myanmar ethnic democrats inside or outside Burma does not want a genuine Pyidaungsu but rather the Myanmar domination over the non- Myanmar ethnic nationalities.

Fraudulent and Manipulate 2008 Nargis Constitution. The 2008 Nargis Constitution legalizes dictatorship through a civilian front and a rubber-stamp Parliaments that will do its bidding. For Burma's Generals, this is a way of securing their rule. The 2008 Nargis Constitution is a death sentence for ethnic diversity in Burma. Military appointed commanders will control ethnic areas. There is no degree of local autonomy. The cultures and traditions are given no protection, no rights to practice their customs, or to speak or teach their languages. The process of Myanmarnization that has already been going on for decades has been accelerated. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, herself which the people of Burma and the world have pinned their hope as the alternative to the Junta have not uttered a word spoken a word about the current ethnic cleansing in Kachin, Shan, Karen Kokang not to mention the exodus of the Rohingya.

The other barometer is even in the dissidents only the Myanmar psychopaths and opportunists chose to go back and work with the quasi-military regime while the real Pyidaungsu Myanmar like Dr. Zarni and the majority of the former ABSDF students and ethnic nationalities chose to stay put. A great many of them who really want to work for the people, like Moe Thee Zun, Khin Ohn Mar, Moe Kyaw Aung are not allowed to come into the country by having visa restrictions and so on. Hence there is little or no hope for the non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities residing in Burma. Do as I say or else. Is the unwritten agreement between the dictators and the pro-democratic group?

Bound to Live with the Devil

Since the non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities, which combine together is more than the Myanmar ethnic are bound to live as second citizens in Burma, hence in the contest between the military backed USDP and the pro-democracy groups led by NLD it is far better to choose the latter for unlike the former it will not adopt the “Shoot First” policy. At least it can talk with the pro-democracy groups. But this does not mean that the ethnic nationalities will not have to vote for their own ethnic group, what I am emphasizing is that the ethnic must be able to sort out their differences and stand as one as only then they will be able to stand as an ethnic bloc in face of the tyranny of the majority. Remember in Burma Ethnicity comes first before Democracy. So it is far better to live under democracy rather than the military since we have survived during half a century.

But the people must be mindful of a similar official pledge made by Snr-Gen Saw Maung, who led the ouster of Ne Win in 1988; ahead of the 1990 vote, promise to hand over power to whoever won the election. But when (NLD) routed the competition in that May poll, Saw Maung was forced to retire Snr-Gen Than Shwe and the powerful Military Intelligence chief Khin Nyunt came to wield real power. The man who made the promise vanished, and together with him is the pledge. History may repeat itself in the aftermath of the upcoming election if the Tatmadaw found itself cornered and no hope of maintaining their privilege position.

The decision will be in the hands of Min Aung Hlaing, with the tactic support of ex-supremo Snr-Gen Than Shwe, who is still influencing, to stage a military coup. Hence, the election should not be viewed as a zero-sum political game. The ethnics must keep their arms and ready to struggle again as we have done for the last 67 years or so.

There are still major sticking points remain between the government and the ethnic groups, the ethnic request to call for foreign governments to be witnesses to the final signing is refused by the government. The government is sticking to its demand that the accord cover a total of 15 groups and exclude three factions involved in fighting namely the Palaung, Arakanese and Kokang tan amounting to not including in the 135 ethnic nationals. If these three ethnic forces are not included then it should not use the word Nationwide. It should be label as selected few ceasefire agreement, the quasi-military government want to rough ride shod over the ethnic nationalities.

General Min Aung Hlaing’s demand of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration is reasonable only if Tatmadaw first disarmed and demobilize and reintegrate into the society for Tatmadaw is the greatest barrier to peace, democracy and national solidarity. The argument that there should be only one professional army is also correct to meet the threat of external aggression and that must be a Federal Army a Pyidaungsu Tat and not the Tatmadaw. These are some of the greatest barriers to the signing of the Nation Wide Cease-fire accord for in any Federal Republics, the government must seek consent and coordinate with the local citizens in accordance with the methodologies of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. All these contravene the essence of a peaceful unified country.

There can be no national reconciliation like South Africa, simply because there is no Truth involved. Nelson Mandela’s foresightedness set up the Truth and National Reconciliation Commission

But in Burma there is no such thing as Truth. The Generals are very much afraid of the “Truth” lest their past crimes may be exposed and the wealth they have stolen from the people of Burma may be taken back. The simple logic is how can there be a Lie and National Reconciliation? To create modern Burma? Lie-ing the very concept of truth must be abandoned first.

Let me remind my Non-Myanmar ethnic brethren that we and our younger generations will adhere to the principles of our forefathers that we would die standing with our boots on (to be killed) rather than live on our knees for “ the coward die many times before they are death while the valiant never taste their death but once.” And we want our younger generation to be proud of us for soon (after the elections) time will come when there is a real democracy where we can talk with dignity and signed the real ceasefire agreement instead of one side shooting at will, while the other hold the gun.

End Notes

A majority ethnic group also known as “Bamar” or “Myanmar” by non-Myanmar ethnic nationals in the Union of Burma. The non-Burman ethnic nationals include Arakan, Chin, Kachin, Karen, Karenni (Kayah), Shan, Naga, Mon, Lahu, Palaung, Kokang, WA, Pa-O and so on.

A paper written by Salai Ngun Cung Lian a candidate for Doctor of Juridical Science degree at Indiana University School of Law. He is a co-convener of the Chinland Constitution Drafting Committee; Consultant for Transitional Justice in Burma

The Myanmar Diaspora led by Bo Bo Kyaw Nyein (son of U Kyaw Nyein the one time national leader) even ridicule the NCUB Constitution.

Sein Zipporah ; Burma's New Constitution: A Death Sentence for Ethnic Diversity in Irrawaddy Magazine 13-10- 09

Sein Zipporah ; Burma's New Constitution: A Death Sentence for Ethnic Diversity in Irrawaddy Magazine 13-10- 09

From 1962 up to this day

Moe; Kyaw Zwa; An Appeal to the Keepers of the Keys in Burma’s Drive to Democracy The Irrawaddy 27-7-2015

Ibid

Min Mang; Lin Nationwide ceasefire talks move into crucial phase Myanmar Times 28-7-205

- Asian Tribune -

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