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Burma's exiled ethnic nationalities seminar held in North America

In Face of Ethnic Cleansing

(By Kanbawza Win)
As we understand it the word Burmese encompass all the people including the ethnic nationalities residing in Burma , while Burman means only the Myanmar group. It is everybody's knowledge that to justify the ethnic cleansing policy, the country's fair name was forcibly change from the Union of Burma to the Union of Myanmar, derived from the dominant Myanmar tribe and the ethnic nationalities were label as minority. History indicates that when the modern Union of Burma was formed in 1947, there was not such word as minority people because at that time the population of all the ethnic nationalities combined together were much more than the Myanmar, but due to the ethnic cleansing policy which combines with marginalizing the ethnics nationalities they have reached somewhat to a minority status.
On the other hand we also discovered that these Myanmar led associations and organizations lend little or no support to the tripartite dialogue. Most of their aspirations and programs are for democracy and for the prevalence of human right while the ethnic nationalities cause came second. This was because they believe that once democracy is achieved this ethnic problem can be solved. Whether this assumption has any sense or logic, we can go back to not too distant a past. The 1962 General Ne Win's successful coup came on the justification, there were profound reasons that the country will be disintegrated and hence the military was forced to take over power. The validity of this claim depends on one's perspective but the justification itself reveals that because the legally elected democratic government cannot solve the ethnic nationalities problems (because they were so much engrossed in infighting between the Burman groups, first between the Clean and Stable AFPFL and later between Bo and Thakin groups, that they cannot give time and energy to the ethnic nationalities grievances or they may have take it for granted) there was a military coup. In other words democracy or rather democratic administrations from 1948 to 1962 were unable and did not have the will to solve the genuine grievances of the nationalities that it has a snowball effect. The Myanmar group want to rough ride shot over the nationalities and this gives a pretext for the military to move in. Since then we have been struggling for democracy. So the simple logic is in tackling the Burmese problem, the struggle for democracy and human rights came second only to the ethnic problem and not vice versa.   
But let us assume that is history. Are the Burmese in the peripherals and Diaspora makes a real effort to remedy that mistake? No one ever lifted a finger or even think in these terms. The Burmese community in Diaspora seldom make an attempt to study or find out the aspirations of the ethnic groups. The two communities became further and further apart, as even on special occasions one would not invite the other and stay within the cocoon of their own community. The fact that the provisional government who claim to represent all segments of the Burmese society did not make any effort resulted not only in forming the Ethnic Nationality Solidarity and Cooperation Committee (ENSCC) but also compels the Burman hot heads to take the law into their own hands by speaking with the Junta at the most critical moment.
Every body knows that the Union was born out of an accord signed at Panglong one year prior to the emergence of a modern nation state in 1948. But that accord was just between the leaders of some ethnic leaders and did not include all the ethnic groups e.g. Karen, Mon, Arakanese, Karenni etc. They signatories just represent the different territorial entities. But in due date most of the ethnic segment were cajoled to acquiesce to this accord. Hence from the very beginning the ethnic nationalities were very suspicious of the Myanmar group not because of the divide and rule policy of the colonial master as usually claimed by the Myanmar but rather judging from the people they came into contact. Obviously a clause that Shan State can be separated after ten years has to be written in the first National Constitution itself. What more authentic prove is wanted.
However, after a decade the ethnic nationalities have a taste of the Myanmar group and began to assert their right resulting in a military coup. Even now the Myanmar group in Diaspora whom we associate as friends and compatriots in our common struggle against dictatorship rarely show the spirit of comradeship and take up the ethnic cause by supporting the tripartite dialogue. Instead they concentrated their energy in fighting between themselves, and publicized it to such an extent that the international community is silently asking themselves, are the Burmese people fit for democracy? Dissecting the Myanmar Diaspora one will discover that there were innumerable problems, associations, organizations and different segments among the Myanmar than that of the ethnic nationalities and hence this standard joke "If you put two Burmese in a cell they will form three political parties". To be candid the ethnic group are not free from such infighting also but at least they keep it to themselves and understand the concept of unity in diversity. It is time to prove to the world that ethnic nationalities of Burma are quite different from the Myanmar group.          
I am not labelling that all the Myanmar expatriates as selfish, not far sighted and did not care for the ethnic nationalities. There are a few well educated, far sighted and have visions for the well being of every body. However, most of these people stay aloof from the Myanmar masses and never attempts to educate the rest. Of course there are extremist from both sides but nobody try to remedy these fanatics or weed them out resulting in Nga Khone Ma Ta Gaung Ta Hle Lone Poke implying that because of one all of them label as bad. The few visionary leaders like U Tin Maung Win, Ye Kyaw Thu and Chao Tzang Yawnghwe, who see that the only way to overthrow the regime is to unite the pro democracy movement and the ethnic nationalities have faded from the scene. Now to all intent Chao Tzang Yawnghwe's younger brother is geared to take over the leadership, we ardently hope that all ethnic nationalities will give him a helping hand.    
Thailand, led by the 16th richest men in Asia with an asset of $1.2 billion has now openly promised to Burmese commander General Thura Shwe Mann that they will not entertain the genuine ethnic nationality's cause. This clearly indicates that the Thai government will help the Junta in implementing its ethnic cleansing policy and has already allotted $15 million of the $100 million credit line. Hence in face of such a formidable force how does the ethnic Diaspora react to this situation?
The short answer is they will have to put their differences under the table and formed a united front. The ethnic nationalities residing in any part of the world should formed their own local Ethnic National Council (ENC) i.e. each ethnic community in Diaspora must identify with the other ethnic community, the Shan, must identify with the Karen, in turn must go along with Kachin, Chin, Mon, Arakanese (Rakhine), Karenni etc and solidify their understanding and cooperation in our common struggle. Then, this Ethnic Diaspora must cooperate, coordinate and correlate with the main ENC or ENSCC in the peripheral of Burma to achieve our cherished goal of Pyidaungsu ( Union ). The ethnic nationalities should bear in mind that they can form our own Pyidaungsu without the Myanmar group. This is because the ethnic struggle in Burma is unlike Yugoslavia , is not the struggle between the ethnic nationalities among themselves but a united struggle against the Myanmar Chauvinism. The expatriates' democracy movement condoned this fact and so there is no other solution but to leave them in the cold storage.   
The core of our struggle in Burma is the ethnic nationalities political struggle, primarily against the ruling military in monopolistic control of the state of Burma . This is label as a vertical conflict and not horizontal one as there is no conflict between the different ethnic races. It is a conflict about how the state is to be constituted and how the relationship between the constituent components of society and state be ordered and not is driven by secession impulse. In this epic struggle, the NLD led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is our comrade as can be seen in their inter reaction with the SNLD and UNLD and not the Diaspora Myanmar, especially the exiled provisional government which is usurping the fair name of ethnic nationalities. It is high time that we have to act. It is already more than one and half decades that we have let the Myanmar dominated group to speak for us in the international arena while the ethnic underdog has to bear the brunt of the Junta's onslaught in the peripherals of Burma
With the publishing of this feature article many people can label me as a racist, apartheid, diversionist, a hate literature or whatever. But these are the bare facts and in doing so, if the Diaspora Myanmar group got united and able prevents some of the de facto leaders from switching sides, then it is a small price for me to pay, because the united Myanmar Diaspora group will be an asset in our struggle against the Junta. The last thing I want to witness is that in the tug of war between dictatorship and democracy when every body is putting every ounce of their strength to pull, one of them stop and say, "Hey Guys stop. It is no use. Let us find some other way" and tends to torpedo the whole process. We can no longer stomach such kind of mentality.  
We, ethnic nationalities should demonstrate it by actions, the real meaning of unity in diversity. So let us start by forming the local ENC wherever we may be and forget awhile about our brethren Myanmar until and unless they can sort things out by themselves and come up with a genuine desire of Pyidaungsu. Let the ethnic nationalities show harmony in our music of common struggle for democracy, human rights and self-determination. Some of us may sing soprano, others alto, tenor or bass while some will be good in baritone and contralto but once we sing it should comes out in harmony and every body will love to hear it. For we will have to sing in harmony and not in unison as the Myanmar group desires. Let’s go for a mass choir where we can sing with a hundred voices with a single conductor.
(The views express here are solely the opinion of the author. (Kao Wao’s Editor)


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