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


Newsletter for social justice and freedom in Burma
August 15 - 31, 2005
























Dear Readers,


We invite comments and suggestions on improvements to Kaowao newsletter. With your help, we hope that Kaowao News will continue to grow to serve better the needs of those seeking social justice in Burma. And we hope that it will become an important forum for discussion and debate and help readers to keep abreast of issues and news.  We reserve the right to edit and reject articles without prior notification. You can use a pseudonym but we encourage you to include your full name and address.







Thank you for sending this information (“Villagers Forced to Porter”) to me - it is very concerning - is the Canadian Gov't being made aware of this current deteriorating situation?


Sara Jenkins





Dear Editor,


Thanks.  I will be always with you.


Theinmaung Chamau (Chin)

Ottawa, Canada



(Kaowao: August 31, 2005)


Sangkhlaburi -- Propelled by oppression and poverty, people from Burma continue to flock to the kingdom seeking jobs, according to social workers in Sangkhlaburi on the Thai side opposite to the Thai Burma border.


“I have witnessed many Burmese enter Thailand through Karnchanaburi Province and many are crossing the river near the Khaolam Dam,” said a Mon woman who works for NGO based in Sangkhlaburi.


Some local people reported groups of migrants crossing the Kwaenoi River during the nighttime with the help of local residents believed to be human smugglers.


The migrants walk for about one day from the Three Pagodas Pass border town to get to Sangkhlaburi, while some others enter from the border by bus and motorbike.  ‘Some checkpoints in Sangkhlaburi may not be aware of migrants entering Thailand,’ said a Sangkhlaburi resident.


Another Sangkhlaburi community leader said that crossing the border at this time is not difficult for migrants compared to last May and June when many migrant workers flocked to Thailand to obtain a work permit during the registration process. While the flow of migrants is less than before, the Thai police may still arrest them too.


‘One migrant died on the river last month while trying to cross the river,’ a witness from Sangkhlaburi said.  They believe the dead body had been floating on the water for about one week before the police rescued it.


‘The migrant is from Mon State and had probably crossed at the Three Pagodas Pass border. He drowned while trying to cross the river since the current at this time is strong from the monsoon rains,’ the man added.



(Reported by Zahan Ong, Kaowao:  August 28, 2005)


Bangkok -- On a trip of mission to Thailand from 24 to 29 August 2005, Miss Kim Maureen Delvalle, Director of UNPO Secretariat meets with the leaders of UNPO member organizations from Burma such as Karenni, Mon, Shan and Chin to learn about their situation and discussed the role of UNPO.


During the meeting with the Mon Unity League’s leader Nai Sunthorn Sripanngern in Bangkok, Miss Kim said, “the UNPO has a plan to hold a cultural or sport event for its members in order to get international awareness and access to its member organizations".


Nai Sunthorn Sripanngern, General Secretary of Mon Unity League, commented that "The UNPO should cooperate with UN bodies such as UNDP and WHO in order to raise the living and health standard of voiceless people of its members around the world. Most of UNPO member peoples are under the rule of another race and marked by oppression, discrimination and so on"


The task of the UNPO is to assist its members in advancing their interests effectively through nonviolent means, including diplomacy, the use of the United Nations and other international procedures for the protection of human rights, the development of public opinion and other action-oriented strategies, and the exploration of legal options available in defending their rights.


The 7th UNPO General Assembly was held in The Hague, The Netherlands on 24- 26 June 2005. It was attended by more than 100 representatives of its member organizations from around the world including a Mon delegation based in The Netherlands, UK and Denmark.


UNPO was founded in 1991 with the principles for: equal rights of self-determination for all nations and peoples; adherence to internationally accepted human rights standards; adherence to the principles of democracy; promotion of nonviolence and rejection of terrorism and protection of natural environment. Its head office is in The Hague, The Netherlands.


The Mon became a UNPO member in 1996 through the Mon Unity League.



(Kaowao: August 28, 2005)


Residents are being forced to porter on a weekly basis as human shields, while women are forced to guard the village against Mon rebels during the night time in the remote areas of southern Ye, Mon state.


Members of a Mon family who recently arrived to a Mon Refugees camp on the border said, “We must porter three or four times per month, or pay three thousand Kyats for a replacement if we cannot go at that time.”


Nai Win, who last week arrived to the camp with his family, said that he must walk ahead of the Burmese soldiers and carry ammunition and other supplies. The last time he portered was on August 10, 2005, and his wife Mi Deah Wut was made to guard the village at night time with other women.


'Last month, I and some other women were forced to guard the village at night time because there were fewer men in the village,' she added. Most of the men in her village, consisting of about 100 households, had gone on to Thailand fearing they would be forced to porter by the soldiers or be killed for not doing it. She added that villagers were forced to guard the village at night about five times per month.


The families spent three days trekking through thick forest and crossing heavy mountain streams to get to the border area to escape the portering.


Seven other villagers fled from the village, some went to the Mon Internally Displaced People camps in the area controlled by the NMSP in Tenessarim division.  Some families have been split up in which different members of the family have left to go to the refugee camp or cross the border to go work in Thailand.


The SPDC local Battalion LIB No. 31 led by captain Myint Kyaw collects taxes from 2000 and 3000 Kyats per month from every household.  Another type of military tax is farm tax in which 500 Kyats per month which will allow the farmers from six a.m. to six p.m. to work on their farm and plantation.


'If we enter our village after six pm, we have to stay out all night, some villagers were tortured for breaking this rule and were made to pay an extra fine,' Win said.


'There are many kinds of torturing, one is putting a bamboo stick from the chest to knee and making the victim roll on it to force food from the stomach after making them eat a lot of rice,' his friend from the camp said.


'Forced labor has been going on daily in order to prepare the military motor road,' he further added. 


Sporadic conflict has occurred in the area from fighting between the splinter Mon armed groups, Hongsawatoi Restoration Party and the SPDC. The families, however, said there is no fighting at present in the area, but feel they were discriminated for being an ethnic minority. Some were also accused of being relatives of Mon guerillas and were threatened by having their homes and belongings destroyed by the Burmese military.


Most of the Mon people from this area cannot speak or read Burmese, which often invites abuse by the SPDC soldiers who target them. 



Independent Mon News Agency: 18-08-05 (edited and revised)


Companies trading in rubber are setting up partnerships with plantation owners in Mon state, since the Burmese government issued new regulations requiring that rubber exported to other countries must be from plantations owned by the exporter. 


The traders have made deals with plantation owners which allow them to claim ownership of the land on which the rubber is grown.  These agreements are then reported to the authorities so that the trading companies can send the rubber compound sheets produced abroad, according to Nai Toe Myint, a representative of a rubber export company in Ye township.


The regulations have tightened up since last year, Toe Myint said.  "Our company now has plans to grow rubber on a thousand acres in Yebyu Township and we have applied to the authorities there for permission.  We decided to move to Yebyu, since it is difficult to find virgin land in Ye township to the north where we have been located.  Nai Thit Lwin, a resident of Yebyu Township, said the land that the company wanted to develop into a rubber plantation is fertile, but is already under ownership.  Toe Myint said that his company would negotiate for as much land they could get from local villagers.


“If we get a permit, we will have to plant rubber trees on the land within three years," Toe Myint said.  The same regulation applies to owners of virgin land who do not sell to the trading companies.  The new regulations have led to a rush take up land and set up rubber plantations in Yebyu township. 


Even though they do want to get involved in plantation work, the exporters are being driven by orders for rubber from China and by demand in Burma for goods imported from that country. 


"The more rubber we can export, the better it is for the government, which collects a 10% tax on rubber exports," said Nai Toe Myint.  In Mon state there are four companies which engage in exporting rubber compound sheets to China.



(Independent Mon News Agency: August 24, 2005)


Chairman of the Mon Literature and Culture Committee Thanbyuzayat Township, Nai Sein Aye, was released yesterday.


After the Mon State’s Township Court found that he was innocent and was not involved in any illegal activity the judges decided to release him unconditionally. “The court informed him to take a rest and stay quiet for 6 months,” said Mr. Aye’s family.


Nai Sein Aye, 55 years old, was arrested on July 8, by Col. Khin Maung Zee, from No. 4 Military Training School, in Thanpyuzayat prison for over one-month. The commander accused him of being an activist who had planned an uprising against the regime, the SPDC.  


The military commander Col. Khin Maung Zee had tried many times to bring Nai Sein Aye’s case in Thanbyuzayat Township’s court to trial and imprison him. He forced the judges to sentence him alleging that he tried to create unrest among the civilians to rise up against the government. 


But the Township judge, Daw Win Win Htay rejected three times that he was not involved in any activities against the state and decided not to unfairly judge him. She further reported to the upper authorities that she would retire from her duties following intensive pressure. 


Nai Sein Aye case was brought from the Township Court to the Mon State Court, and on August 22, the Mon State Court decided he was innocent of the charges. Soon after he was released unconditionally.


Nai Sein Aye organized various community activities and had applied to local military authorities to register his committee as an official organization in mid-2004.

However, his committee was denied registration by the town authorities on May 4 and he and his members were forced to sign an agreement that they would not to be involved in any activities as ordered by the Thanpyuzayat Town Peace and Development Council secretary U Pyi Aung Moe.

He and his committee were also warned that if they organized meetings or formed a group that collected money, they would be arrested and detained under the law act no. 5A (forming an illegal organization) and be imprisoned for 5-7 years in prison with hard labor.

Nai Sein Aye-led MLCC has been working for community development; he started the Summer Mon Literacy Training School and was involved in religious activities.


Meanwhile, the activities of the Mon Literature and Culture Committee, especially concerning Mon language and culture has been restricted since his arrest. 



(Shan Herald Agency for News: August 25, 2005)


Burma watchers on both sides of the Tachilek-Maesai border believe the military rulers of the country are launching a covert campaign on its own strongest ally against the Shan State Army:


"Everything points out to an undercover warfare against the United Wa State Army" said a long-time resident on the Tachilek-Maesai border:


* Politically, the Wa's political ally, the Shan State Peace Council, has been shattered following the arrest of its leader Gen Hso Ten in February thereby leaving the Wa politically vulnerable


* Militarily, the Burma Army has, for more than a year, been deploying its troops in Shan State with the aim to outflank the ceasefire groups especially the Wa


* Financially, the UWSA is also admittedly reeling under the strain caused by Rangoon's seemingly accidental measures, such as the closures of Asia Wealth Bank, Mayflower Bank (where Wa leader Bao Youxiang was reported to hold 43% shares) and Myanmar Universal Bank (where the Wa's "remote control" Wei Hsuehkang was said to be enjoying substantial holdings) and the crackdown on unlicensed cars, the bulk of which were reportedly owned by the Wa and its business company, Hongpang."


All the 42 names on the list of the Special Investigation Bureau that arrived in Tachilek on Tuesday (22 August) are associates of U Tar Wai (who has been arrested) and Wei himself, I was told," said a source close to the official circle.


None of the sources asked by S.H.A.N. however has seen any Wa car seized by the authorities. "Maybe the handover is being done quietly," said one, "since the Hongpang office is just next door to Light Infantry Battalion

331 post. Of course, it is not the Wa way to give up anything without orders from their superiors."


The deadline for submission of all unregistered vehicles is tomorrow, Friday 26 August.


Asked why Rangoon is not fighting an open war that would likely have won acclaims from both the Thais and the Americans, a border watcher much respected in his community said, "That wouldn't be a smart move. It would instead have alerted all and only got things out of hand. This way, dealing with the Wa individually and on individual issues, is better. And by the time they realize what's happening, it'll be too late for them."


Meanwhile, Wa officers in Mongton, opposite Chiangmai, are reportedly becoming uneasy about more Burma Army units stationing around their bases.


"We've asked Panghsang several times what we should do about it,"

complained a frustrated lieutenant colonel. "But our leaders are still keeping us in suspense."


58th Anniversary of Mon Resistance Day



(Kaowao, August 18, 2005)


According to a statement issued on the 58th anniversary of Mon Resistance Day, the Mons will never surrender to the Burmese regime by laying down their arms, but will continue the armed struggle for self determination and freedom.


The New Mon State Party (NMSP) declared they would continue to hold their arms until their demands for freedom are met.


The New Mon State Party issued a statement in which they said: ‘If the SPDC forces the cease-fire parties to lay down their arms, the NMSP will choose other options to defend their people.’


They statement further confirmed that they [NMSP] are committed to setting out on the table a common purpose of living and working together with the Burmese government, but if their demands of self determination are ignored, which includes the right to teach the Mon language to their children for example, ‘they will find other means to achieve the freedom once enjoyed by their people over 250 years ago.’  


A veteran Mon politician said that, ‘the NMSP’s statement is stronger than in previous years,’ further adding that, ‘they are giving a clear message to the people that they are not going to yield to pressure following rumors that they were giving in.’


Sources close to the NMSP say the junta is demanding them to hold a political dialogue to solve the political crisis in Burma.


The President of New Mon State Party, General Htaw Mon also issued a statement commenting on the significance of the armed resistance day in recognition of all the ethnic nationalities’ struggle for self-determination and a federal union in Burma.  He called on all the Mon people from Burma, Thailand, and overseas to continue the struggle for freedom.


Mon Resistance Day commemorates the beginning of the armed struggle against the Burmese government in 1948.  When the British granted independence to Burma, Mon political leaders planned to negotiate peacefully with the Burman AFPFL leaders for their political, cultural, and national rights.  However, their demands were ignored and some Mon leaders were assassinated and imprisoned, soon after, almost overnight, the Mons transformed from a non-violent movement to an arm’s struggle against the Burmans. 


The armed resistance movement began in 1948 when a group of young Mon patriots led by Nai Pan Tha seized arms from the police station at Zar Tha Pyin village near Moulmein.  The Mons have continuously fought against the central Burman government for over five decades, but agreed to sign a cease-fire agreement in 1995 to end the conflict.


Mon Resistance Day celebrations were held today in different locations around NMSP’s strong hold area near the Thai Burma border and overseas locations where hundreds of Mon refugees have resettled.



(Kaowao, August 17, 2005)


Heavy monsoon rains have flooded out hundreds of villages and transportations routes along the Jine and Zami rivers between Mon and Karen States.


'Villages and motor roads have been submerged under floodwaters from the heavy rains and the overflowing river,' said a local Mon woman to Kaowao reporter yesterday.


 “My house is completely under water.  About a quarter of village homes of over 500 are also under water,” the elderly woman from southern Pha Ann Township of Karen State said.


For over two weeks rain has fallen steadily almost everyday leading to the heavy flooding. A combination of a poor drainage system and the heavy downpours has forced villagers to evacuate from their homes.


Townships affected are Pha Ann, Kaw Kareik of Karen State and Kyaik Mayaw in Mon State.  Water supplies and roads were also damaged by the heavy flooding and local people fear the spreading floodwaters will soon affect low lying rice fields if the rains continue to fall like they have in the past two weeks which have caused flooding in other parts of South and Southeast Asia, particularly India.


‘Heavy rains have also been reported in Kyar Inn Seik Kyi Township in which many villages are now under water,’ said a Mon trader who just arrived to the Thai Burma border.


The heavy downpours have caused the Zami and Jine Rivers to overflow their banks, the Zami river flows along the motor route to the border town of Three Pagodas Pass.


‘We travel by boat to get around,’ the trader said. ‘We see only water not land, the roads and the whole area is under water.’


Another Mon woman from the area said the flooding is not usual, transportation is only by motorboat; many families have packed up everything into motorboats and are moving to higher grounds. 'The passengers from Three Pagodas Pass border travel to Kyar Inn Seik Kyi township travel easily by boat to the higher levels,' the trader said.


After the water recedes, the motor roads, water supplies, and villages in the area will be heavily damaged from the flooding and there is concern over the outbreak of flood related diseases that will affect the vulnerable, the children and the elderly. Waterborne diseases include dengue fever, diarrhea, and dysentery.


It is not known how the Burmese government will respond to the heavy flooding in the area and there has been no news on cases of deaths resulting from the flooding. The monsoon rains arrive in May and last until October in Burma.


Counsel to the ethnic nationalities



(By Kanbawza Win)


The news that more than 20,000 Karenni internally displaced persons based in Mae Hong Son, on the Thai side of the Burma border, are in the process of registering with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to resettle in the Third countries, hit me under the belt. I cannot comprehend how these Karenni will communicate and maintain their culture with each other, save through the Internet and telephone, when the first batch of 500 or more will be settled in Finland, top of the world and New Zealand bottom of the world. Even if it is confined to Internet communication, I have never seen a Karenni (Kayah) Font, Kayaw (Pa Raé) of Kayan (Padaung long neck) Font and they will be compelled to use English as the medium of language. In other words their dialects, culture and people will soon be in the category of the vanishing tribes. The whole population of Karenni is only about half a million and to relocate nearly half of the population to a third countries means that the regime's ethnic cleansing policy, with the help (wittingly or unwittingly) of the international community is cent percent successful.  Congratulations.


Call me a hypocrite, originating from Prae Pro village of Hsu Byaung township, near Htu Chaung (stream), now residing in the niceties of the West and yet am against the resettlement of my kit and kin? It is very reasonable that they will have to think about their future especially that of their children (Saw Augustino speaks to Irrawaddy) and yet loosing my people's identity makes me feel melancholy and furlong. There are more than 100,000 refugees in Thailand-Burma border alone and today is the turn of the Karenni while tomorrow it may be the Shan, Karen, Mon etc until all these dirty ethnics are cleanse and only the Myanmar, the golden tribe remains in Burma seems to be goal.


From the perception of the Thai authorities is that the Burmese ethnic refugees residing in the Thai-Burma border can be categorize into three types, those who are sure of persecution once they go back to Burma will be allowed to migrate to Third countries with the help of UNHCR, while those who are not so much on the lime light will be push back to Burma and face the ethnic cleansing and persecution like the rest of the population. But those who are not in any of the two categories will be given a Thai Hill People card (a sort of a second class citizen) to stay in their respective district and eventually be assimilated into Thai society and in this way it will solve the refugee problem. Obviously more economic pie is waiting as a reward from the Junta.


The changing of the fair name of the country Burma to Myanmar is a prelude to this ethnic cleansing policy, followed by the Burmanization of names such as a Mon name of Utha Pegu to Bago or a Shan name of Mong Né (Mong means town in Shan language) to Moe Ne or Yawnghwe to Nyaung Shwe etc. The world has acquiesced for obvious reasons and so from this hypothesis I am not alone in this art of hypocrisy.


If Myanmar tribe via the Junta boasts, that eventually in Burma, there will be only Ma Har Bamar or rather Thar Ki Win Myo Hae Do Bah Ma interpreted in Pali/Burmese as belonging to the ancestors of the noble king they themselves seem to be subjected to ethnic cleansing policy by the Chinese. With the current rate of Chinese growth and the unrealistic policy of the Junta, letting the Chinese in, to every aspect of Burmese life, it will not take a millennium but a few centuries before the word Myanmar itself will soon be known by the word as Myein Tien (meaning Burmese in Mandarin) as one of the Chinese tribes. Karma will soon catch up as every act has an effect.


Ethnic Cleansing


The term "ethnic cleansing” come from the Serbian/Croatian phrase etnièko èi¹æenje meaning forcibly removing a particular ethnic group and is indistinguishable from forced emigration, deportation or genocide of an ethnic group. If homicide is the murder of a person, genocide is the murder of an ethnicity for the extinction of any human group sharing a genetic or ancestral affinity. Ethnic cleansing is as old as history itself. It can be found in any continent. The expulsion of the Acadians from the ancestral land in Nova Scotia by the Canadians. The numerous relocation of the Red Indians (aborigines) from their traditional areas to remote reservation of the US. The expulsion of the Turkish Muslim in the Balkans or the holocaust of the Jewish population in Europe during the Second World War Very lately of the expulsion  of the East Timor population by the Indonesians. Slaughter of the Tibetans by the Chinese. The massacre of the Tutsi by the Hutus in Berundi or better known as Rwanda Genocide and the list goes on.


The main purpose of ethnic cleansing is to remove the conditions for potential and actual opposition, whether political, terrorist, guerrilla or military, by physically removing any potentially or actually hostile ethnic communities as a way of ensuring that total control can be asserted over an area as what the Karen Christians are facing now in the border areas. As a tactic, ethnic cleansing has a number of significant advantages and disadvantages. It enables a force to eliminate civilian support for resistance by eliminating the civilians — in a reversal of Mao Zedong`s dictum that guerrillas among a civilian population are fish in water, it drains the water. It’s often accompanied by efforts to eradicate all physical traces of the expelled ethnic group, such as by the destruction of cultural artifacts (e.g. destruction of Kengtung Haw), religious sites and physical records. Like it or not, ethnic cleansing is not only practice by the Burmese Junta in leiu with the various Thai administration but almost every where. Last week Uzi Cohen, a member of Ariel Sharon's right-wing party and a deputy mayor of the town of Raanana, proposed massive ethnic cleansing of the non Jews in Palestine-Israel as the final solution of the Arab Israeli conflict, and surprisingly there was widespread support in Israel even though few are willing to speak about it publicly. Future ethnic cleansing is in store and more will be seen in Burma for example the treatment of the ethnic Karen in the delta region.


The Myanmar Thinking


There is little doubt that Myanmar/Burman are bent on ethnic cleansing for national solidarity under the smokescreen of preventing the disintegration of the Union. The Burman intelligentsia thinks that " non-existent ethnic nations as unified entities before the advent of British colonization in Burma are imagined, or cooked up, retroactively, as respectable, alternative or subaltern memories." Notions of popular sovereignty in some of the literally most backward ethnic communities of Burma have been invented in the ethno-nationalist literature clamoring for ethnicity-based political autonomy or (limited) ethno-federalism as opposed to geographic federalism. Hence, ethnic cleansing is to be condoned seems to be the rationale of a Burman, whether he is on the side of a democrat or dictatorship. The majority could not comprehend that a Federal Union of Burma is the only just solution to both the long-standing and newly emerging conflicts with distinctly ethnic dimensions as a messy and complicate matter next to impossibility.


The modern political history of Burma indicates that ethnicity with its relatively stable emotional, physical and linguistic commonalities are being used as the driving force behind. They argue that instead of seeking established mono-ethnic states within the Union it should rather seek a more liberal ideology of civic nationalism toward a multi-ethnic, interfaith political state. However, this theory does not hold water, for neither Burman Buddhist nor predominantly ethnic Christian nationalities, such as the Chin, Kachin, Karen or Karenni are unable to conceive of secular, liberal politics without resorting to their respective religious faiths.


All in all, the historical development of Burma is not that different from other ethnically heterogeneous nations of the world. This linear view of Burma's history that the Burmese kings have lord it over the ethnic tribes sharply contrasts with others versions of Burma's history in relation to various ethnic nationalities such as the ones held by Shan Chin Karen, Karenni, the Mon, and the Arakanese. Neither side is likely to compromise on their historical memories and future visions will continue to rage on - and the future of Burma doesn't offer much hope for those who wish to seek reconciliation, reconsolidation and reconstruction of the country as a modern federal state. To the Junta everything else is secondary such as democratization, the NLD and Daw Suu's, freedom, the Western sanctions or ASEAN chairmanship etc their main driving point is that they sincerely believes that the Burmese army is the only political and military force that can keep the country together and make sure that the country doesn't meet the fate of former Yugoslavia – the Balkan scenario. Hence the one point, which they will not compromise, is the ethnic national’s demand of Federalism. Up to this day neither the dominant Myanmar nor their ethnic nationalities have been able to find the right balance in their sordid tale of nation building i.e. the balance that honours the majority's deeply rooted feeling of a Burmese nation and at the same time is sensitive to the minorities' legitimate grievances and concerns. 


In Retrospect


The ethnic communities and the pro democracy movement up to this day have been unable to forge any meaningful alliance or a united front.  The post-independence story of the country can be characterized by an excruciatingly long series of failures to build lasting political alliances among opposition groups, non-violent and armed, ethnic nationalities and the Myanmar mainstream pro-democracy groups.


The 1996, the Junta's National Convention came to a halt not because the National League for Democracy walked out or got kicked out of it by the Junta but because the Wa pressed for autonomous statehood of their own. This demography and stratification are working against the interests of the politically and culturally sophisticated Shan peoples. Several non Tai/Shan tribes such as Pa O, Lisu, Lahu, Palaung, Danu, Inthar, Yin Ni, Yin Net, Yin Gyar, Ei Kaw etc harbor some sort of resentment toward the Shan who have 'big brother' mentality toward other non-Shan minorities within the Shan State as even now the Shan Democratic Union scarcely have non Shan, as its executive member and there is very little hope that they will accept a person who cannot speak a Tai dialect.


U Nu's armed revolution in the early 1970's collapsed completely because of distrust, mistrust and prejudices of the ethnic nationalities. Following the 8888 movement over 10,000 young Burmese from urban areas fled to the KNU-controlled areas to join armed groups and subsequently set up the All Burma Students' Democratic Front, they were viewed with deep mistrust by the ethnic groups, who shared the Burmese's belief that the military rule was bad for the country, for ethnic groups, etc. and treated them as a Burman group just fighting the Burman dominated Junta accordingly.


In early 1990s the new political and economic realities forced the Kachin Independence Army led by the late Breng Seng to leave the ethnic alliance of armed anti-Rangoon groups which dotted throughout the country's non-mainstream territories and states, the KIA was condemned by their former comrades, but remained within the ethnic alliance. Hence it is no wonder that the Burma believe that without their strong hand (of authoritarianism), the country is going to fall apart. This is a typical Balkanization theory comes true. Many, if not all, ASEAN, Chinese and Indian politicians officials worry openly about conceivable break-up of the country (with resultant instability on their borders or in the region) should the Burma Army is forced back into the barracks. Hence, the conflict not only between the Burman and non Burman but also among non-Burma groups, cements the dominant Asian view prevalent in the political establishments throughout Asia that Burma or Myanmar indeed has the Balkan potentials. The ethnic nationality actions have spoken more loudly than their words.  


Again, some ethnic leaders seem more interested in autonomy and the freedom for their community to be free from domination, while others appear to look forward to gaining opportunities to play their role in national life, which they believe the tyranny of the majority may prevent just as effectively as the tyranny of the military. Among different ethnic communities there are many agreement and disagreement but there is a shared view that each ethnic group has a distinct ethnic identity and can be represented only by somebody of that ethnic group. For the majority Myanmar, there is no such thing as "Burman Identity" and no effort is made to represent Myanmar tribe politically, as an ethnic group. For them politics cuts across ethnicity, since Burma is a multi-ethnic nation-state and political organizations established by Myanmar are usually presented as 'all Myanmar' in nature such as the UB and the LA groups. They construe politics as between parties seeking support such as NLD versus the Junta.


But it is a fact that Burman-dominated administrations since 1948, when independence was gain from Britain the Myanmar government policies and practices always exploited the ethnics or left it deliberately undeveloped and backward. Lacking in infrastructure and economic opportunities, the various Myanmar administrations developed only in such a way that the local people are by-passed in terms of decision-making and benefits. Such concern reinforces the importance of the demand for self-determination or autonomy. Since the combined ethnic nationalities are still a minority in the sea of Myanmar tribe, it is assume that even though the federal electoral process, the result will be a Burman-dominated federal government and this is a widely shared concerned as can be clearly seen in the DAB-NCUB federal constitution.


On the other hand the Myanmar leaders including the UB and LA group assume that it is the right and responsibility for Myanmar to lead. Non-Myanmar ethnic groups even though they are fighting the military regime. The inclusion of some ethnic leaders is taken as a token. However on the other hand, the military regime insists that it must impose its nationalist will through the Burmanization of ethnic minorities in order to counter ethnic efforts to separate from Burma. But the democratic Myanmar political leaders both inside and outside tend to be more willing to recognize the ethnic nationals grievances more and to acknowledge that ways must be found to satisfy the ethnic aspirations. For the ethnic nationalities it is something like between the devil and the deep sea. They cannot reject both as it would tantamount to wiping off their race, which the Karenni are now facing. Hence a choice has to be made, which is the lesser evil?


A Way Out


The choice for the ethnic nationalities of Burma became vivid now. Either to throw their lot with the pro democracy Burmese in Diaspora and fight shoulder to shoulder against the Junta or to go it alone and let their ethnic identity be wipe out eventually as what the Karenni has chosen to do. A classic example is that some ethnic groups opting out of the DAB (Democratic Alliance of Burma) is because there is a Burman group in it, and deliberately chose the inevitable of their ethnicity being wiped out within a century or two. This is their choice or rather the choice of their leaders, whether it is due to lack of vision, political accruement or obstinacy is for the history to judge. Perhaps myopia is the appropriate word to describe them, but the conclusion is that entire ethnic group suffered. Extremists are not only on the rank and file of the Burmese Diaspora side, there are many racists among the ethnic groups and lessons of the Karenni people should be an example


Making a research on the old Chin and Kachin soldiers who are now living abroad and asking them of why they fought toot and nail to defend Rangoon and the Union during 1949/50, when the Karen were about to overwhelm Burma? They replied because the Burmese has swindled them but the most important factor is because they discovered that Karen is more racist than the Burman. Concerning this matter probably the ABSDF veterans of 1988/89 knew more about it.


Declaring the independence of Shan State, not only reveal the selfishness of its leaders as they want a way out only for themselves only, leaving the other ethnic groups at the mercy of the Burmese army but also reinforced the Balkanization theory and convinced the neighboring countries to support the Junta is the only power that can prevent the ethnic cauldron falling on to them. It strengthens the Balkanization theory and gives the wrong message to the international community and play into the Junta's hands. The intention of these epic examples, are not to heap the blame on them but to draw a valuable lessons, so that they may be more shrewd, sophisticated and wiser in the next move.


The ethnic leaders seem to forget where they stand. Their noble cause remaining alive is partly due to the new technology, the Internet, but mainly due to the dedicated NGOs who sympathize their plight and highlighted in the international media. Facts are brutal. There is no third way. If they chose to be friends with the pro Burmese democracy forces, then they must know who are the good Burman and who are the extremist. Until and unless they are close to them, they will not be able to distinguish the good from the bad. Perhaps they should read some of Mao Zedong's writing "that the enemy of my enemy is my friend." We should also understand that to repel this ethnic cleansing policy, we could not rely on morality alone. Morally, we may be hundred percent rights citing the historical records and the current suffering of the people. But this alone is not enough. We must also know that morality is the weakest link among other options for a friendly force to come to our rescue. We will have to plan for other attractive options.


Practical steps have to be taken for ethnic unity first before approaching the pro democracy groups. We cannot afford to be racist any more and adopt a hate theory that all Myanmar are bad. Some of the ethnic leaders who are opting for ethnic unity, rarely practice what they preach, e.g. they won't let their children to study or speak Burmese language, hence how can there be a medium of language in dealing with the other ethnic groups on their journey to ethnic unity? Are we going to use English, the colonial language as the medium of understanding? And prove it that we are the lackeys of imperialism, what in Burmese we say A Mae Kyaw Dwe Daw Lun literally interpreted as pining for the aunt over the shoulder of the mother? If so, can we express really in English? Even now as I am writing in simple Burmese English, many Burmese are complaining that I am using very high flown and far fetch words. The conclusion is that we will have to maintain our ethnic culture, language and values but at the same time will have to accept Burmese language as a lingua franca, if we really drive for Federal Union. This is because we are living in the age of globalization.


Another most important factor is the difference in gene or what in Burmese we say, as Be Sa. The majority of the ethnic nationalities of Burma are simple, contented lot. They are not ambitious or aggressive and are quite satisfied with their lives going on their daily business. These are all the good traits but when faced with a crisis how will they react? Unlike the Myanmar they are not quick to respond, take the risk and face the consequences. When the 1988 Burmese students were forced to leave for the third countries from their Thai Burma sanctuary they did not stay quiet in their respective adopted countries but highlighted the Burmese cause worldwide. What has been a simple democratic struggle of an obscure country like Burma has become the leading human rights struggle of the world? Can the ethnic nationality do likewise? There are many Karen fleeing to the US and the West since the 50s, what drastic actions have they taken collectively? Similarly a full shipload of Chin has landed in Indianapolis via Guam, the Mon in Fort Wayne and Calgary and so on. Most of them are contended to send home a few dollars for the kit and kin and do very little for their respective ethnic cause, while some of them even help the ethnic cleansing by calling their near and dear ones to come and live with them? In face of such scenario, it is no wonder that the ethnic cleansing in Burma has been such a success. In a way the Junta was indirectly help by the very ethnic people.


It has been proven to the ethnic nationalities, that the racist practice and the hate theories are not beneficial. We must change our ways and to do that we must reconcile ourselves before we move on to national reconciliation. The leaders should take their own initiation and innovation, in their respective camps and community as deem fit. This is the opportune moment. The Burmese in Diaspora have tasted what is the feeling of the minority in the majority of the Caucasian, in as much as we ethnic feel among the majority Burmese. Seeking asylum in the Third countries, they have discovered as how hard is to survive to maintain their culture and language and that most of the second generations could rarely speak Burmese while their grand children will rarely know of where Burma is? In other words they are more sympathetic and amenable to our cause. Their understanding, sympathy and compassion are far more than the regime. Why not capitalize on their compassion and formed an alliance with them in repelling the hated regime? Besides, the Diaspora Burmese see the threat of the Chinese overwhelming all the races of Burma and is more ready to cooperate with the ethnic nationalities.


Many ethnic leaders profess to be Christian but it is doubtful whether they really know the concept of Christianity that men are created equal and that love appears more than 500 times in the Scripture. Love their neighbors as themselves (Galatians 5:14) and Burman/Myanmar is our neighbor. At least an attempt must be made to be friends with the pro democracy forces in Diaspora. We can start by just simple steps as inviting the carefully selected few to come and stay in their community for a fortnight or two and ask them to teach Burmese language to their children. Encourage them to talk about their visions. Tell them about your shared values and your utopia. It is far better to construct bridges of understanding than on misconception, suspicion and hate. Time is running out. If we cling to our obstinacy we might as well say," Farewell to Arms."   




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