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Burma's exiled ethnic nationalities seminar held in North America

Blue Print for Burma

Kanbawza Win

No matter what religion one profess, it is undisputable that the prayers of the people of Burma have been heard and now the misery and the suffering of the Burmese will be officially accepted by the United Nations Security Council and the world at large, because it is already in the agenda by a large margin of votes. Our next move should concentrate on what resolutions will the Security Council passed? Will it achieved our cherished goal of democracy, human rights and self-determination? Surely the UN is not the Junta, even though the overwhelming margin of votes at the UNSC agenda is comparable to the overwhelming of votes that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD gets in the 1990 elections, the two negative votes by the veto wielding permanent powers cast a shadow of the Junta's mentality at the UN.

Friends of the People of Burma

The voting pattern clearly indicates, who are the friends of the people of Burma ? Not that we are out to antagonizing any one who vote against us, but it reveals their nature and inner conscience, mentality and their historical background. Obviously those with a long background of Tsars or Communist (lovingly label as dictatorship of the proletariat) or countries with its long history of killing off the heroes (Patrice Lumumba or Dak Harmjold) will vote it otherwise and one could not blame them for their business always rules their conscience.

We should concentrate and cooperate more with our friends and endeavour for a monolithic unity. Our heartfelt and sincere thanks goes to Japan, who at the last minute switch sides and throw its lot with the people of Burma , if not with the world, against the tyrannical regime. It seems that looking at the track record of the Junta the Japanese leaders are convinced that UNSC is the only place where the Junta can come to senses. The point that drives home is the fact is the mentality of those countries that voted against the inclusion of Burma , in the agenda of the UNSC, is not conducive to make this global village a happier or a holistic place and as such should not be at the helm of world leadership.

The ten countries who voted for us can be considered as the genuine friends of the people of Burma for they know how to differentiate between the people and the government of Burma and they know who are the legitimate leaders chosen by the people of Burma . Moreover they harbour the humanitarian considerations for the sufferings of the people of Burma and unlike the dictatorial regimes did not give the pretext of adhering to the principles of the big book 

The Chinese Factor

The Chinese residing in every nook and corner of Burma always seems to dominate the local economy either by hook or by crook in as much as China , the only country that sells $ 1.4 billion worth of military hardware to the Burmese army. Even though it is rather hard for an average Burmese to understand their business, the Chinese domination of the Burmese economy is paramount.

Considering the superb Chinese diplomacy of being able to marginalize, the lone superpower, the United States of America, in the regional associations of ASEAN, ASEM and most importantly the defence pact of ARF, not to mention the geo strategic position vis a vis India and the American fleet in Diego Garcia, it is no wonder that the Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya, was furious and said it was "preposterous" to put a country on the Security Council's agenda because of issues of human rights, refugees, drugs and AIDS, that he construe as not affecting the regional security. In the light of the Chinese criticism Wang noted that most countries in SEA did not consider, "the situation in Burma as being any threat to regional peace and security," there is every possibility that the Chinese will take a hard stance.

But considering the Chinese stance on Iran , where she has invested millions of dollars and a great portion of her oil supply comes, she did not use the veto at the UNSC. Of course she tried to persuade Iran diplomatically to compromise and keep the crisis from coming up to the UN. But when Iran did not listen, she simply stays neutral letting the UN to take it course. So also with North Korea, China has fought in the Korean War and had tried her level best to convince Kim Jo Ill that his nuclear defense problem should not reach the UN but when she could not do it, China simply stays neutral. Hence if we read some of the parliamentary papers of the Iranian government they accused China and Russia to be the follower of US, while Kim Jo Ill simply accused the Chinese as unreliable friend. So also from this example is Burma worth defending by using the veto? If so what will be her image as a gracious leader of Asia if not the world?

The uncountable visits of the Burmese and Chinese dignitaries to each other country is an authentic proof that the Chinese has been silently requesting the Burmese brass to compromise with the people's representative Daw Suu and prevent the problem reaching to the UNSC. But the Generals ignore the Chinese advice and never make a meaningful move. Again the narco production on the side of Burma in the Golden Triangle is causing a lot of problems to the Chinese government who admitted that it has over one million narco addicts in China because of the Junta's indirect policy of encouraging the narco barons and its production. So from these examples and hypothesis, I have great reservations of China using the veto, if the UN would ever decide to wield a big stick on these naughty and nutty Generals?

The United Nations   

Burma is not at the top of anyone's agenda in the Security Council as the UNSC is beset with several others more important international affairs (to be exact 143 crisis in the agenda), but it offers the United Nations, a chance to show that it can deal with a threat to global security before it explodes onto the front page. Surely, Burma is not engaging in nuclear blackmail, and it has not attacked a neighboring country. But its malevolent dictatorship does represent a threat to peace. Its depredations at home such as mass rapes, enforced child labor, burning of farms and villages, push masses of refugees across its borders. Its economic failures make it a locus of AIDS and other diseases. Its corruption makes it a leading source of illegal drugs. And its population of 50 million plus suffers under a regime whose repression has set up the world record.

In the face of this anguish, the beleaguered democrats of Southeast Asian nations are convinced that only the Security Council can put the stop to their misery on its agenda. We are not expecting the U.N.-mandated sanctions, let alone peacekeepers or intervention -- only some attention from the UN and the international body that promised, not so long ago, not to let notions of national sovereignty keep it from standing up for human rights.

It seems that the Security Council needs to adopt a resolution calling for the release of the one and only Nobel laureate and pro democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the release of all political prisoners; for a process of national reconciliation with the democrats and ethnic leaders at the table; for U.N. and other international aid to flow directly to Burma's most vulnerable people, not through the corrupt bureaucracy; and for the UN to report back regularly on progress made on all these points. The United Nations would enhance its own stature by associating itself with Burma 's nonviolent democrats and ethnic leaders.

The Burmese case has come up to the UN General Assembly several times for more than a decade and several resolutions have been passed with no effect on the Generals, who not only laugh at these resolutions but did not give a damn thing about it. They viewed it as nothing but a debating society. The Junta has swindle the UN, Secretary Generals' representative Razali Ismail, and have banned Professor Paulo Sergio Pinhiero, UN Human Rights Special Reporteur. Now all these has come to a climax and it has reached a point where it no longer ignore the UN. The very fact that it has come to the Security Council indicates that the term either or has arrived and the Junta's version of neither has ended.

If every man is for himself, then the logical conclusion is that every country is for itself, including our big gracious neighbors, China and India . The ASEAN countries with its grandiose Constructive Engagement Policy has paid a dear price and are silently gloating that the UN has come to the rescue, even though individual countries tries its level best to exploit Burma' vast natural and human resources.

India, which loves to be surrounded by dictatorial countries, as she has made it clear that it is not in her interest to promote democracy in Burma , now will have to think twice when the Security Council takes the matter into its hands. The biggest democratic country is the world can no longer exploit the people of its biggest neighbor. Other than the Western countries led by the US , the barometer that will decide the fate of Burma in the Security Council is self-interest.

Danger of the Extremists

Even though Burma was brought up at the Security Council, the fate of Burma will have to be decided by the people of Burma themselves and not by the United Nations or by any foreign power. This is an undeniable and undisputable fact. The Security Council is just giving a push to the cart, which will have to roll down hill in its own steam. In the struggle against the Burmese military dictatorship there are two groups, the pro democracy and the autonomy groups and though the majority, see eye to eye there are several extremists on both sides of the groups that could easily hijacked the good and noble cause and play havoc.

The most prominent in the pro democracy group are the Myanmar Chauvinist, who put out the theory that the struggle for democracy is more important than the problem of the ethnic nationalities. Their aim is to sideline, if not to marginalize the ethnic nationalities and goes back to the pre 1962 era, where both the government and the people could crush the ethnic aspirations and pretend that Burma is a monolithic whole. In other words these Myanmar Chauvinist want to practice the tyranny of the majority as in the democratic days of 1948 to 62.

This category of people seems to forget of why the army was able to make a successful military coup in 1962. If the military does not come to power, then there will be no struggle for democracy? There may be several justifications but the main cause is that the civilian government could not solve the ethnic problem. Hence the military came to power with the slogan that it has unwilling taken over power because the Union was about to fall into the deep abyss. This is the crux of the Burmese problem. Until and unless we can solve the ethnic problem, the Burmese crisis will crop up again and again, with a vicious cycle. There must be some sort of Concordat, Federal or whatever to meet the aspirations of the ethnic nationalities on the lines of the Panglong Conference, if we want to solve the problem of Burma from its root cause.          

But there are many Myanmar who shares their aspirations with the non-Myanmar, now that they have fought shoulder to shoulder with their ethnic brothers against the common enemy. They have also bitterly tasted the soup of what it is to be a minority living in a foreign land where the language, culture, values and climate is not the same. They are slowly building together in the real spirit of Pyidaungsu, which we hope will be the foundation stone of the real genuine Federal Union of Burma and not the Union of Myanmar with a chauvinist tone, which is both politically and phonetically wrong (the word Myanmar, r is extra and should be Myanma pronounced softly as the word, Mother in English).

The second type of extremist is the racist attitude harbor among the ethnic nationalities, they have their dreams and aspiration to the British colonial days when they have their own territory and governed as their conscience may dictates and fancies may please. This is because the British has given them a free hand in the internal administrations to acquire their allegiance. These racist leaders are unwittingly or indirectly encouraging the Burmese army version of Balkanization and that the army is the only institution that can maintain the country together. We must realize that it was with this version of Balkanization that the Junta got the support from its neighboring giants of China and India not to mention the ASEAN countries that have more ethnic minorities than ours. These neighboring countries are really afraid that the ethnic cauldron would ever spill into their country. No wonder their practice the Constructive Engagement Policy since 1988.

In short there are several lessons to be learnt and now with the putting of the Burma in the Security Council, it is time to reflect our ways. This is the golden chance to grab it or leave it as it will come only in a lifetime. Everybody seems to sense that by throwing their lot with the ethno-democratic forces they could overcome this formidable evil force.

Wavering Leadership

"Like Father like Son(Daughter)", Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is the only person where all the people of Burma , including the ethnic nationalities trust. Whether we like it or not, it is to be admitted that by arresting her incommunicado, the Junta was able to score a major point over the opposition both the democracy and the ethnic groups as there was not personality of her status to command allegiance.

Roughly, the pro democracy groups in Diaspora are under the umbrella of the UB group and the ethnic under the umbrella of EN groups. The leaders in the peripherals of Burma and those residing in the West often waver and lack vision. In order for the Burmese people to ‘know what they don’t know’ – know what is being kept a secret', it is time to make a post mortem of our struggles with the aim of restoring confidence in our selected leaders that were weak all these one and half dozen years. Though we wish to avoid “witch-hunt” atmosphere, attempting to assign blame to a wide range of groups and organizations, we are reluctant of “naming names” it is time for them to mend their ways and take a more responsible task.

We want dynamic, vigorous and resolute leaders and there is no place for those who have a faint heart and wavers, arguing that putting up the UNSC is impossible as even now there are hypothesis that China and Russia will used the veto and so on. Knowing full well that the Junta's days are numbered, many of the so called people on our sides, not only from the native Burmese but also some farangs, the so called Burmese sympathizers, especially those who have enthusiastically attended the Wilton Park Conference want to soften us.

We will have to set up a system to hold people accountable, for what they have done and without making basic reforms or structural changes, that could prevent future failures, we will not succeed even if the UN is behind us. This basic principle of establishing accountability and responsibility for public servants is essential to a working democracy for demotions, terminations and even recall are part of the democratic traditions. Unless people and groups are held accountable for their actions and inactions, they have no incentive to change and no cause to put the public interest first. All groups serve at the behest of the people, and it is a sacred trust.

Transparency and Accountability to day in the resistance groups, the basic inquiries into lines of duty, administrative responsibility, organizational restructuring, disciplinary actions, courts of inquiry, performance review, legal actions, or even courts martial have not been visibly activated, which are essential for the success of our noble cause. Accountability is not irrational blame or the search for a scapegoat, it should be a regular and open process of evaluation, reassessment and change. Understandably the primary accountability rest with the top leaders, but there is an additional accountability that must be considered and investigated on the executives who failed, despite numerous warnings and preparations against such failures to perform in ways consistent with their effective responses in the past and their standard emergency procedures.

Lamentably only a handful of officials and administrators have had the decency to date to acknowledge their accountability or to apologize for their shortcomings or failures. There are several people who wish to keep their secrets in their Pandora's box. We want an honest response or to shed light on the critical information necessary for public understanding and the will to change to attain our goal. In this way we can prove that our democracy works as one.

(b) Unanswered and unasked questions As an ethno democratic forces a mass movement that continue to work in the peripherals of Burma and in the West there are bound to be several omissions and contradictions. The blood of our compatriots flowed in 1988, if not earlier are now silently calling us and asking questions of how do we react and respond to this golden chance of putting the problem in the UNSC? As the people of Burma , even if we are ashamed will have to admit bravely that we cannot solve our own problem and this crisis will have to be solved with the help of the world community, the UN.

The mass deserves reasonable and credible explanations for the failures of both the democratic and ethnic leaders, just to draw lessons and not to repeat the mistakes again. The UN Security Council is the ideal place to present ourselves as well as that of the Junta. Let's use this opportunity to inform the world that we seek to honor the victims by pursuing the truth and calling for justice. It has been 18 years, too long for truth and justice. We must do all we can to make this world known the agenda and true motives of the Burmese Army (Tatmadaw).  We owe it to those killed, to those victims of rape, of forced labor, forced relocation for their families, and ourselves. We want to be seen as respectful, concerned people of the Federal Union of Burma. We don't seek for negative confrontation, we make every effort to diffuse the situation by dialogue and we contribute to our presence being an extension of the work of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

No Place for the Tatmadaw

There are several people who either, want to have a finger in the pie and have no inkling to take out the root cause, by drawing the conclusion that the Tatmadaw is indispensable and must be one of the components of negotiations. This category of people seems to believe the exaggerated notion that the Burmese army is the sole savior of the country in gaining independence. This myth inevitably lends a helping hand to the Tatmadaw, who wants to have a grip on the state power, in perpetuity.

The excesses of ragtag riffraff BIA coming into Burma, under the protective custody of Imperial Japanese army, was the root cause of the Karen insurrections with a snowball effect. When Rangoon was about to fall to the Karen rebels in the late forties, it was the Chin and the Kachin army that saves Rangoon . The ethnic army of first Shan, together with the other ethnic brothers save the Union from the Burma Communist Party, an undisputable facts that the ethnic people really loves the Union . Hence, why was Contemporary History of Burma twisted? Is it for Burmanization (Maha Bama)? In the Japanese records there was no such thing as the Burmese resistance or the Burmese army in the 2nd World War, let alone the Army Day (Resistance Day) which falls on 27th March when the allies and the British Burma Army has already occupied Mandalay, and the whole of upper Burma. Some Japanese army commanders admitted that more soldiers were killed in Karenni state than in the whole campaign in Burma , which clearly indicates that the Karennis fought tooth and nail more than the rag tag Burmese army.

In fact, the original Burmese army composed of two components since its inception, the BIA(BDA,BNA,PBF) and the British Burma army composed of the Chindit, the Karen and most of the ethnic forces. It was amalgamation of these two, that became the Burmese Army, Tatamadaw with General Smith Dun as the supreme commander and Ne Win from the BIA as his assistant. It was by cunning and trickery, with the approval of U Nu that Ne Win replaced him and his professional lieutenants such as Air Commando Saw Shisho Tun, and many ethnic Brigadiers. Maha Bama idea has started since then.

General Aung San who is the founder of the Burmese army had set the example when he resigned from the armed forces to compete in elections and does not compete as a representative of Tatmadaw. Hence historically the Tatamadaw has no place in the making of future Federal Union of Burma.

The second aspect is that the majority, if not every university student starting from 1959 Ava Hall crisis (the army tank destroyed the gates of Ava hall in order to access to the students holed up in the hall) up to this day including the 8888 generation vehemently hated the Burmese army. The Tatmadaw is the ones that destroyed the educations system and the country. Every time there was a crisis they always killed off a number of students. The generations from 1959 up to the 8888 and to day are now the ones that are residing in and outside of Burma that does not look kindly to the Tatamadaw. This explicitly means that as long as the Tatmadaw is there the animosity and the antagonism will goes on and on between the generations of students and the Tatamadaw.

The third aspect is that there must be no single entity that can wield the power of the gun, to eliminate the threat of a military coup. If it is a genuine federal union there must be the province armed forces just like in the old days when we have Karen Rifles, 1st to 4th Chin, 1st to 4th Kachin, 1st Shan, Kayah Yae and so on to protect their own State and Divisions and of course in place of the Tatmadaw there must be a Pyidaungsu Tat (Union army) conscripted from all the ethnic and Myanmar forces, to defend the country from outside encroachment. Only then there will be a check and balance system. If any particular army be they Myanmar or ethnic make an attempt to seize power by force, then the rest can come and defend the Union (Pyidaungsu), as it had done in the late 40s and early 50s.         

The fourth aspect is the unwritten philosophy of the Tatmadaw that "We alone are can do it." must be uprooted once and for all for the sake of the genuine Federal Union, Pyidaungsu. This endorse the argument that only the Tatmadaw is patriotic and that that rest are parasites that does not have a pale of patriotism. What an unbelievable and paradoxical phrases as the "Tatmadaw is our father and mother are posted throughout the length and breath of the country and forcing the people to believe, when in fact it is a rapist army, committing unaccountable human rights violations with impunity. Tatmadaw has no regards except the lip service for Pyidaungsu.

The fact that they want to have 25% of the administrative power in the new administrative structure reveals that Tatmadaw is a power maniacs. The evil Tatmadaw, with the connotations of the Burmese word, Taw (such as Naing Gan Taw) depicting a Myanmar empire, if not a chauvinist tone over the ethnic nationalities treating them these ethnic nationalities as if the were the second citizen will have to be eliminated for real peace and genuine Pyidaungsu.

The fifth, and most crucial aspect is that the Burmese army is not sincere and has no love and cetena to the people of Burma . This can be easily comparable to with the latest Thai military coup where General Sonthi Boonyaratglin declared that he will be the interim Prime Minister just for a fortnight and that democracy will return to Thailand within a year, a time line, which the Burmese Generals dared not contemplate. Unlike the Burmese Generals it won't take a decade to draw up the new constitution but would be completed within a year. Unlike Burma , Thailand 's latest coup has the full support of the  people. However the most conspicuous aspect is that. Tatmadaw is sorely afraid that the people of Burma will be happy and prosperous e.g. when it came to power in 1988 after killing thousands of peaceful demonstrators they opened up the country economically and of course the investors rush in thinking that it was a genuine market economy and the middle class prosper for a couple of years. Tatmadaw knows that with the rise of the middle class the country will be inching towards democracy because it is a matter of time that this middle class will have a say in politics and so it at once reverse the trend, chasing the investors out of the country and destroying the middle class with the result that the country has now became poor at the bottom of the world's ladder. What more Tamadaw, is still not satisfied and is hindering the works of the NGOs who has come into the country with a sincere heart to help the down trodden and marginalized people. On the whole Tatmadaw has a cruel heart, to look on the suffering of the people but not the world community and when these well meaning NGOs came in they prevent them. They even indirectly forced out the Global Fund and will not let the International Red Cross to come in again.  Are we going to give this Tatmadaw a role, which continues to harbor such mentality? In short if one were to solve the Burmese problem from its root this pugnacious Tatmadaw has no place.

Tamadaw Response

Now that Burma is in the agenda of the Security Council, let us examine the response of the Tatmadaw from it headquarters in Kyat Pyae. It simply says that there will be no change, what ever of its policies and will carry out its policies unswervingly. "Under no circumstances will it change these policies just because of pressure, coercion and sanctions," said a five-page- long statement. The statement criticized the United States for using the United Nations. Of course the continue to lie the very concept of truth by declaring that there are no political prisoners and only criminals and felons and terrorists are in jail Concerning Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, she was restricted at home for:-

"constantly demanding confrontation, defiance of all orders, utter devastation,  resorting to four kinds of sanctions and reliance on external elements all of which will lead to harming the national unity, national stability and national development as well as hindering democratization process.."

The irony is that all these 16 years she was never brought to court to face her charges even according to their white lie, it seems that the Tatmadaw cannot even lie logically and scientifically. 

Regarding the refugee issue, those residing at the so-called refugee camps in the other country are not genuine refugees but insurgents and their relatives and will not be accepted. The country is now stable, peaceful and tranquil with the prevalence of rule of law and order and development. Regarding the drug issue it is absolutely groundless and that poppy cultivation has decreased. The statement read that the spread of three diseases of HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria to neighboring countries are merely an exaggeration. It finally warned the UN that no encroachment on national sovereignty will be accepted.

The Tatmadaw has taken a hard line stance indicating that there will be no compromise with the United Nations and will fight to the end. Of course they are not empty threats, now it has 17,000 Kamikaze type child soldiers imbued with the spirit of supreme sacrifice. Like Mois Tsombe of Congo , will declared War on the UN and the world and die fighting. In such a scenario, how do we respond?

Prepared for the Worst

Putting Burma in the agenda of the UN Security, (some interpreted as a major victory) is just a feeble step in the right direction, and the ethno democratic forces could not stay complacent but will have to work for it very hard. Let us recollect our beloved Bogyoke Aung San's words before going to London for the Aung San-Attle Agreement of hoping and praying for the best but at the same time preparing for the worst.

This feat will also depend on the outcome of the UNSC. Sanctions have not worked as both China and India including Thailand can easily beat the sanctions. To decide a drastic resolution such as sending troops to enforce the Security Council's resolutions will be met with the veto from China or Russia (read how the Junta eulogize and rely on these two countries as he is now in desperate position). It should be something in between the two extremes, so that both these two dictatorial veto power countries will not use the veto. The US clearly sees this trend and we are positive that our friends at the UNSC would push for it. If it comes to the resolution, something like to settle between the people of Burma themselves, with the backing of the UN, then it is time for the ethno-democratic forces to prepare drastic actions, at least psychologically.

The UNGA has earlier called for a tripartite dialogue (ethnic nationalities, democracy movement and the Junta) and we will have to strive for it. All the ethnic and democratic fighting forces augmented by the Diaspora communities will have to join hands, under a single command and with the backing and funding of the UN in terms of hardware (arms, air and sea cover) will have to fight the Burmese version of the Armageddon. This time it will be the real Pyidaungsu Tat that will speak the Tatmadaw on equal terms, in their own language. Let us move according to the UN agenda curbing our own extremist. Then and only then we will see who will resolutely fight on the Junta's side, on which side the people of Burma will be? On our side it is also going to be a test for those individual and groups of whether they love the country by the lips or by the heart. If we cannot achieve that then there is every, likelihood that Burma will be the Yugoslavia of the East.

But hopefully, the Junta will not reached that point and accepts gracefully of Gambari visit and a sort of a compromise to release Daw Suu and all the political prisoners will be reached. We hope and pray that the Burmese problem will be solved peacefully without bloodshed. If the Myanmar and the non Myanmar cannot come to an agreement, the ethnic nationalities should really think of forming the Union of Nationalities without the Myanmar .

But let us set things right among us by preparing the necessary aspects. Personally may I appeal to the Burmese intelligentsia especially the academics of Social Sciences in Diaspora to come to our rescue and help prepare for this coming Herculean task. The accusation that the academics know it from the beginning and stay mute just to save their skin must be eliminated once and for all.

Way back in 1992, when I was serving at Chulalongkong University as the Press Secretary of the ACRP (Asian Conference on Religion and Peace), I put up a paper titled "A Burmese Appeal to the UN and US" at that time President Clinton and Butros Ghali urging the UN to take up the Burmese case. It was put up through our head office of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP) at the UN building. This was later printed into a book and distributed among the resistance groups. In it I clearly outlined the role of the UN and that Burma 's case must be put up to the Security Council. I also send this paper to the UB group, since I acknowledge that we should fought under their umbrella. But on reading it they were hilarious about it, saying that I was a bit insane. Now the vision, which I visualize some dozen years ago, has come to fruition.

The point is we need a visionary leader who must be vigorous and dynamic that can correlate the conditions inside Burma ( NLD and the Tatmadaw), the Diaspora (peripheral ethnic forces and the overseas Burmese) and of course with international communities (the UN, the West and the dictatorial countries) and then decipher the best way to achieve our cherished goal, which has come a bit closer. We need to reinforce the existing institutions with farsighted intelligentsia. Now is the time for there will be no medium way either we do or die.

Kennedy Space Centre, Florida

(The views expressed here are solely the opinion of the author. Kao-Wao Editor)


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