Previous Issues

   Book Review
   Guest Book
   Human Rights
   Kaowao Audio
  Migrant Watch
   Photo Gallery
   Readers front
Burma's exiled ethnic nationalities seminar held in North America

Kanbawza Win

The annual event of playing April fool seems to be gaining popularity and this year the doting Shan leaders successfully play it with the unilateral declaration of independence and every one was caught off guard. A Thai security officer assigned to Loi Taileng, where there was much fighting between Burma's ethnic groups commented, "We can't have funny business." As far as the joke is concerned it seems to hit the nail on the head because the funny independence declared by the funny people, was responded by the funny Junta primo Than Shwe himself and his first Secretary Thein Sein. Full stop. But what is the rationale that compels these ageing men to play such a hideous joke? 

Delving deep, seems to be just a pent up anger and a natural emotional outbreak combined with frustration of the people of Shan State, which have been oppressed for so long for so many reasons and unfavourable international political configuration. It is a natural reaction of the people reeling under the gross human rights violations, extra judicial killing, raping, forced relocation, forced labour etc of wanting to be free from the heels of the military boots that, has been kept in check on the population by the political leadership of the Shan State now under arrest. The most responsible persons are the top brass of the Burmese army whose grandiose claim for the disintegration of the Union lay hollow by the old men joke. If so the question rises, is this appropriate way or opportune moment to show lay their frustration? 

Democracy, Human Rights and Federalism is the catch work of every Burmese desiring to be free from the clutches of the Burmese military. However, it seems that the consensus built up for so many years by both the autonomy fighter and democracy movement came to a stop after this high profile slogan, as each party is bent to reach its own goal within it own means which in Burmese we say " Ko Hle Ko Hto Pago Yaunk Yaunk Ko Myin Ko See Sagaing Yauk Yauk" indicating that you go your own destination to Pegu and we will go our own way to Sagaing. It simply knock out a united front dream of pooling all the resources together with the other ethnic nationality groups, the democratic movement together with sympathetic and friendly international states couple with compassionate and sympathetic actors to find a solution within the bounds of a genuine federal union, democracy and equality. The very fact, that even it does not inform the other respectable Shan groups such as the SDU, RCC, SNLD and so on, not to mention the other ethnic nationalist group as NDF or DAB, indicates that it is just a wild obsession of a few grey hairs people. The thinking of the waning Shan elite appeared to have decided that a new window of opportunity has arisen in the arrest of the Shan leaders inside Burma. 

It was rather dubious that Mr Tiger (residing in Calgary) and Khun Hom (holding a German passport and residing in Australia) claimed that they were elected at a meeting of delegates representing 48 townships of Shan State. If so, then these so called delegates all must have a hard heart for they does not posses any consideration, whatever for the people in their respective township. For by doing such absurdities, surely the Junta's troops will take reprisal on the people. The people will suffer more repressive measures as even now all the ceasefire groups of Shan state has been lectured. The ethnic cleansing that has been going on quite secretively will now come out in the open. Again if they claim is true that they have the support from Shan organizations at home and abroad then why so many Shan organizations are joining the chorus of distancing if not denouncing them outright. Simple logic is missing. 

On the other hand the Burmese regime thought the denunciation of its National Convention by the Shan exiles from different parts of the world who got together in New York City, sometimes ago had everything to do with the flurry of political activities involving New Generation Shan politicians, the ceasefire group - Shan State Army North including Khun Tun Oo, a prominent member of the SNLD. The regime sensed that ethnic issue was the core problem where else the other are secondary such as democratization, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's freedom, the US or EU sanctions or ASEAN membership etc (hence they will not compromise with next year's chairmanship) 

Most of the resistance movements have become mellow with the years and clearly understand the word "Balkanization" which is a trump card of the Junta. The Burmese regime is not shy of being accused as a gross human rights violator, rapist, narco generals implementing forced labour, forced relocations, ethnic cleansing, trafficking of women using child soldiers etc. Name anything on earth that is associated with vice and he will own it. Then, what kind of government are you? He would proudly depict that he alone can hold the Union together in other words he alone can prevent the Balkanization of Burma. The neighbouring countries e.g. Thailand realize this and if the ethnic and the pro democracy movement prevails in Burma and ethnic groups like what the decaying Shan leaders are doing now or the Kachin or Karen etc may leave the Union and if this "Balkanization" spread to Thailand, then Eisan or the Southern Muslim may tend to leave the kingdom. So Thailand should better support the Junta. So also with Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines all have their respective ethnic problems, the end result was that ASEAN support the Junta. China also faces the same minority problem especially with the Panthay (Chinese Muslims) while India has a lot of different ethnic groups. No doubt it was a common sense that they all support the Junta vis a vis the resistance including the NLD. Hence the unilateral declaration of independence by any ethnic group greatly reinforced the Junta's hypothesis that the Armed Forces is the only political and military force that can make sure the country doesn't meet the fate of former Yugoslavia. In other words it plays into the Junta's trap. Even in Bosnia and Kosovo after much killing on both sides both NATO and the UN endeavour to patch up the two warring sides. It is time that the extremist, be they racist and separatist or Myanmar chauvinist should learn their lessons and put into practice. 

A cursory look at modern political history of Burma indicates when ethnicity with its relatively stable emotional, physical and linguistic commonalities is used as the driving force behind seeking to establish mono-ethnic nations, rather than a more liberal ideology of civic nationalism toward a multi-ethnic, interfaith political state, endless wars and conflicts await ethnic elites. Secular federal state which Bogyoke Aung San and his comrades has visualize is still to be achieved because neither the Buddhist Myanmar nor such predominantly Christian as the Chin, the Kachin or Karen are unable to conceive of secular, liberal politics without resorting to their respective religious faiths. All opposition groups, including those who have reached ceasefire agreements has been unable to forge any meaningful alliance or a united front within themselves not to mention with the Myanmar group led by the NLD. The late scholar, Dr. Choa Tzang Yawnghwe said, "The ethnic dimension of state-society dysfunction in Burma has two interrelated facets. One is political, and the other has to do with the restoration of ethnic harmony".Given the fact that Burma is multi-ethnic country, race or ethnicity plays a key role in shaping the Union of Burma. In 1960s, when the non-Burman leaders collectively attempted to readdress the Constitutional crises based on federal system as envisioned in the Panglong conference,it was answered by a military coup. 

In reality neither the dominant Myanmar nor the ethnic nationalities in Burma have been able to find the right balance in their endeavour of nation building - the balance that honours the majority Myanmar's deeply rooted feeling and vision of a Burmese nation and at the same time is sensitive to the ethnic nationality's legitimate grievances and concerns. Sadly, the way things have been progressing or rather regressing (depending on where one stands) in Burma, this crucial balance remains a distant, if not unrealizable, dream and pent up emotions by any ethnic leaders should be curbed and refrain from playing April fool. 

Last, but not the least is that we witness the flowering of many ethnic news agencies overseas, which is a good sign. However, in their zeal to promote their ethnic cause, to such an extent, that they tend to forgot their mission. In the democratic world every news agency got the right to publish any news as deem fit but must not forget their noble mission of federalism, democracy and human rights. Now, it seems that the latter has been sacrificed at the altar of ethnic utopia. Let us be candid and call a spade a spade. Why describe these two buffoons as highly respected Shan leaders when Khun Sa who swindles and rob them of their cause has taken their respectfulness away. If it is a responsible news agency then it must remains true to its mission and refrain from publishing the sentimental news. 

Let us not forget that the Diaspora also belongs to the people of Burma and must adhere to its ethics when a Burmese saying goes "Kyee De A Hmu Nge Zay and Nge De Ah Hmu Pyauk Zay" meaning that if there is a big problem it is our bounden duty to make it small and if there is a small problem, we will have to squash it. If that News Agency has not done the opposite, I doubt that there would be any hue and cry over it or washing dirty linen in public. Now it is blown out of proportion and we all have all become April fools. 

Chiang Mai 

The views express here are solely the opinion of the author. (Kaowao's Editor)


Tel:  + 66 7 169-0971, + 66 1 561-0860 (Thailand)
Tel:  + 1- 403 - 248 2027 (Canada)
Online Burma Library --

Kaowao Newsgroup is committed to social justice, peace, and democracy in Burma. We hope to be able to provide more of an in-depth analysis that will help to promote lasting peace and change within Burma.
Editors, reporters, writers, and overseas volunteers are dedicated members of the Mon activist community based in Thailand.
Our motto is working together for lasting peace and change.


:: Home | To Top ::

Copyright © 2004-2005, Kao Wao News Group. All rights reserved. Suggestions or comments to the Editor. code by Webmaster