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

Should the International Community help find:- The Union of Burma without the Myanmar?

By Kanbawza Win

Four months ago the world was celebrating the inauguration of a brilliant and charismatic Burmese leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as the de facto leader of the Union of Burma which her father had founded in 1947, replacing the Junta’s rule for nearly half a century (1962-2016). Today the country is on the edge of an abyss: the installation of a mendacious and cathartic fair sex Chancellor in the patriarchal society of the last frontier.

It is now exactly half a century and two decades (1947 to 2017) that the Union of Burma was formed with the consensus of all the ethnic nationalities. In as much that there would be no Israel without the Balfour Declaration of 1917 there would be no Union of Burma without the Panglong Conference of 1947 for at that time four independent nations of Shan, Chin and Kachin of the British empire unanimously to join the Union of Burma as a test case for a decade and if found unsatisfactory will choose their own way.

But all these 70 years there was a vertical vicious civil war (not horizontal because no ethnic would fight another ethnics) between the Tatmadaw <?i>(army) headed by ethnic Mahar (chauvinistic) Myanmar and the non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities with millions of lives lost, not to mention the gross human rights violation and materials damaged. The raison d'être was forced Myanmarnization of all the non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities in their xenophobic endeavour of national building to make it one race, (Myanmar), one religion (Buddhism) and one country Myanmar somewhat similar to Nazi’s “Ein Reich, Ein Folk, Ein Fuhrer ”

Hence, it is time for the international community to reflect on whether is it worth having the Union of Myanmar and let them continue the ethnic cleansing with gross human rights violations without impunity and still continue to sit in the international community as if nothing has happened?

What will be the moral conscience of the civilized world if we don’t stand up to this ongoing carnage for another three decades and let Burma break the record of one century of civil war?

This is a depressing blot in the in the history of the world that could easily produce a pervasive cynicism and poisonous nihilism without any hope for truth and justice under the umbrella of national reconciliation. With this rate, the people of Burma cannot be honest about itself and come to terms with its self-destructive addiction to money-worship and cowardly xenophobia?

It may be Asia’s last chance to break from their neoliberal soul craft, as most of the Asian countries like the West are rooted in market-driven brands that shun integrity and profit-driven policies that trump public goods.

Our “post-integrity” and “post-truth” world is suffocated by entertaining brands and money-making activities that have little or nothing to do with truth, integrity or the long-term survival of the world. Maybe Burma is the first the postmodern version of the full-scale gangsterization of the world as the army baron gang up with the Narco war lords and Daw Suu unlike her dad listen more to the Tatmadaw then the ethno-democratic forces at least in the short term.

The whole concept of this was that the Mahar (chauvinist) Myanmar interpretation of contemporary history of Burma because when they gained independence from Britain they construed it that they have inherited the British Burma empire. They interpret history only from their narrow nationalistic Mahar Myanmar perspective which is both hegemonic and myopically nationalistic and believe that the linear progression of Myanmar, save the colonial interlude of a century, from a Buddhist kingdom originating in Pagan to today's modern nation-state.

They imagine themselves to be a historically cohesive nation whose organizational integration with the ethnic nationalities in the peripheries only needs to be completed either democratically or by force, somewhat akin to Adolf Hitler’s Theory of Lebensraum in Mein Kampf.

So all these years theTatmadaw has been using the 3As method against the ethnic nationalities i.e. Assassination, they assassinated the ethnic leaders, Assimilation they force the non- Myanmar ethnic nationalities to assimilate into the Myanmar society as changing the name of the country from Burma to Myanmar and many of the names of the historical towns, villages, roads and landmarks into Myanmar names instead of the original ethnic names, including the national flag (previously there were small stars representing ethnic races has now only one Myanmar star). Assumption if the Myanmar married an ethnic spouse their children became automatically Myanmar race either from the Mum or Dad side and must identify themselves with the ethnic races. But this assumption takes time so to expedite Tatmadaw encourage rape so that the children born out of rape will have a Myanmar blood and easy to govern hence this one of the main reasons of why the Tatmadaw is using rape as a weapon of war.

When the mass of the Myanmar students and youth leaders escape to the peripheries especially to Burma-Thailand border area in 1988 pro-democracy uprising, they set up their resistance in conjunction with the ethnic set up their resistance group. Here, for the first time they witnessed firsthand of how unfair and cruel is the Myanmar Tatmadaw over their ethnic brethren. Naturally they fought shoulder to shoulder with these ethnic brothers.

Learning the real history of the unfairness of the Mahar Myanmar over the non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities they soon converted themselves into the Pyidoungsu Myanmar in Burmese meaning they wanted to be treated as equally like any other ethnic nationalities and founded the ABSDF (All Burma Students Democratic Front) whose leader was arrested about fortnight ago. They embraced Bogyoke Aung San’s lineage who want to share their weal and woe equally with the ethnic nationalities. They are the real followers of Bogyoke Aung San and want to build the country in a modern and humane way and want to take their place in the company of civilized nations and abhor the status of the a pariah nation nor to be seen as uncivilized. If these Pyidoungsu Myanmar lose to Mahar Myanmar, Balkanization seems to be the best answer.

On 21 November 2016, a group of four Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) launched a joint offensive against security outposts and bridges near the border town of Muse. This prompted a strong reaction from the Tatmadaw, which launched a violent counter-assault by land and air resulting in 2600 internally displaced, and over 3000 pushed across the border into China not to mention those who are wounded or killed. The attack comes shortly after the Nationwide Ceasefire Accord (NCA) just as the new civilian government hosted the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference in Aug. 2016.

The Muse Township assault is not an abrupt incident, but follows more than a year of low-to-medium level violence between the Tatmadaw and the patriots of the ethnic nationalities the Tatmadaw objective was degrade and demoralise the rebels, reduce their capacity to strike back, and ultimately to compel them to disarm and sign the NCA, with little bargaining power. However, the tactic of 3Bs i.e. Bombing those who did not sign, Bribing those ethnic leaders e.g. Mutu Say Po and his gang of KNU and Yawd Sauk and its betrayers of Shan group and Bullying those small groups of like CNF (Chin National Front) and Pa Os, while it dared not touch a formidable United Wa States Army on equal footing with the Tatmadaw seems to have done more harm than good. It not only proves the insincerity of the Tatmadaw but pushes the non-signatory EAOs to a far more hardline position than before, compelling them to switch from a defensive to an offensive footing to urban areas effecting trade and investment.

All these strategies were blessed or rather encouraged by the European Union who have their offices both in Rangoon and Brussels and use the technics and tactics of Peace for Developmentfor more than two decades as they are desirous to trade more profusely with Burma and not on sincere ground of solving the political problems of give and take. Hence it is time for the Trump administration to turn on a new leaf.

The Obama administration and Secretary Hillary Clinton had claimed Burma as a pivotal foreign policy success when they herald a strategic re-balancing of American interest from Europe and the Middle East towards Asia. Obviously the support of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was crucial for this move which herald the first visit of US Secretary of State towards the country in half a century followed by two Presidential visits normalise the relations. With the lifting of sanctions, the US committed to continued cooperation in addressing challenges, such as strengthening the rule of law, promoting respect for human rights, countering human trafficking, combatting corruption, and advancing anti-money laundering efforts and counter-narcotics activities. But on what kind of barometer are we going to measure with the current state of things not only in Shan and Kachin states but also in the treatment of Rohingyas, the self-christened Arakanese Muslims, who categorically refused to be identified as Arakanese even though they have resided in Arakan throughout their existence since the British occupation some two centuries ago? The gross human rights violations currently committed by the Tatmadaw is natural to the Burmese soldiers as they had been doing this to all the non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities for more than half a century since 1962, only this time the satellite images have proved its authenticity.

The paradoxical aspect is that the legally elected government of Daw Suu joined the Tatmadaw chorus of “Lying the very concept of truth,” and even preventing the humanitarian aid and journalist going in. Even now they are preventing the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights Yanghee Lee from visiting areas of conflict-torn Kachin State. How can there be a national reconciliation when there is no truth not to mention justice? But the unkindest cut is preventing the humanitarian aid to the displaced. Of course the Tatmadaw government are so used in preventing humanitarian aid as a weapon on its own people as during the Nargis Cyclone of 2008 when the UN official figures release that two and a half million people were effected, it still continues to prevent the world’s humanitarian aid and is now preventing humanitarian aid to the displaced Kachin villagers. The utterance that humanitarian aid must go equally to the Arakanese Muslims and the Buddhists by Daw Suu was illogical because there are no Buddhist refugee camps inside Burma like the Arakanese Muslim do? Why this simple logic is missing? It would be wise if Daw Suu could compel the Tatamadaw to take a leaf out of the Bangladesh army, for when the Bangladesh Muslim fanatics retaliated the killing of Arakanese Muslims in Burma by destroying the Burmese Buddhist Monastery in Bangladesh, the Bangladesh government at once repaired and restored it and when the funds are lacking, the Bangladesh army completed with its own funding. It is high time that the uncivilized Tatmadaw should be chastised by replacing with the genuine Federal army.

The political observers are watching prospective changes in US foreign policy with anxiety when Donald Trump take office of whether he will go by his election promises of focussing domestic politics over relations with the international community. But there are signs that Asia will be a top focus of key officials. Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, has been raising his concerns about Asia particularly China in meetings with senators in recent days and Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, and former naval officer of the Pacific fleet is keenly interested in Asia strategy. Due to the smaller size of the new National Security Council staff, assistant secretaries for Asia at the State and Defense Departments could have critical roles in guiding Trump’s Asia policy.

It is to be remembering that Obama’s Asia pivot had high expectations but fell short on delivery. For the Trump administration, the dynamic is shaping up the opposite way. If Trump team members can follow through on their plans and avoid unnecessary crises, Trump may just finish the Asia pivot that Obama started. Geographically located in a focal point of illicit trade, Burma seeks to abide by several domestic, regional, and global trade control regimes to support non-proliferation. Despite many agreements, implementation remains a critical challenge, and the country’s financial system continues to be highly vulnerable to abuse by illicit actors. At the non-proliferation discussions Burma is aware of existing deficiencies and is eager to coordinate with the United States to advance regulatory controls. With the coordination and cooperation of the United States and international organizations Burma can bolster its anti-money laundering credentials on condition that Myanmar ethnic group treat the non –Myanmar ethnic nationalities as its equal and not a s a colonial subject or second citizens.

Credit should be given to the Burmese administration in its commitment by controlling Money Laundering Law and has already established the Burma Financial Intelligence Unit inking the ASEAN Convention on Counter-Terrorism and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters. It is also cooperating with the Office of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee and is a member of the APG (Asia Pacific Group) against Money Laundering. But the country’s demonstrated commitment is only as strong as its ability to implement and enforce, and financial regulations and oversight are critically deficient in several areas. This is where the US should come in. Most challenging is the vast bulk of financial transactions that take place outside of the formal financial sector. As a result, cash couriers and Hundi (informal brokers) are estimated to be used by 85 percent of the population instead of formal and regulated banking institutions. Because these informal systems it provide a viable method for illicit actors to launder money and finance proliferation. Tightening Burma’s financial system to prevent abuse by illicit actors will be of benefit to not just Burma, but Asia and the global financial system. This effort should take greater priority in the new and fast-deepening Burma-US relationship in the coming Donald Trump’s administration.

As far as Burma’s policy is concerned if the US chooses. Republican senators such as John McCain of Arizona and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky who are staunch supporters of democracy, self-determination and human rights in Burma, will not be much of a problem as the US arms embargo under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations and other stringent export controls remain in place. There is also a continued visa ban on a list of individuals viewed as being linked to the Tatmadaw. In addition, there are Specially Designated Burmese Nationals as former drug war lord companies, cronies and former Generals related to North Korea and narcotics trafficking, which needs not only to be strictly enforced but also expanded to bring this rogue Tatmadaw to its senses. The US, as the leading advocate of human rights and democracy around the world, needs to continue its unfinished objectives in Burma, especially in areas such as the consolidation of democracy, the peace process between the government and ethnic armed groups, and on the sensitive question of the Arakanese Muslim.

(This author reads a paper on “The mentality of the Tatmadaw,” at the 12th International Burma Conference at the Northern Illinois University)

- Asian Tribune -

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