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Burma's exiled ethnic nationalities seminar held in North America

An Ethnic Nationality's Perspective (Part 1)
 
UNITED WE STAND
 
Kanbawza Win: December 17, 2004
 
Scenario
 
" Nwa Kwe Kya Kaig " is a Burmese proverb, when literally translated means that if a single bull will stand no chance on its own against the tiger but if the bulls are united they can face the challenge, is somewhat equivalent to " Divided we fall, united we stand". After half a century of the Burmese onslaught spearheaded by the Burmese army, it is a pity that some of the ethnic nationalities have not learnt their lessons and are still divided. The scenario folding today is that we might as well bite the bullet and try to survive under the boots of the Myanmar chauvinism spearheaded by the Junta, if we cannot compromise among ourselves.
 
Thousands and thousands of Karen, Karenni, Shan and Mon civilians suspected of supporting their respective groups operating the jungle in the peripherals of Burma have been uprooted from their traditional homes. Droves of Arakanese, including Rohingya refugees numbering some 100, 0000 have fled the country as the Junta embarked upon its vigorous ethnic cleansing policy. Medical relief workers estimated that there are more than 3 million displace person in Shan State alone while others roughly estimated that another on million will be displaced this coming year of 2,005. Already systematically subjected to rape, torture, forced labour and forced relocation Burma's internally displaced people or IDP as the acronym indicates are denied humanitarian aid by the Burmese army. Many have been killed or die from lack of food and basic medical assistance. This ethnic cleansing tantamount to Genocide is even occurring now and the international community does not care about it.
 
It is really a tragedy in need of urgent attention as the IDPs have no legal protection and little or not international assistance. Their plight will continue to grow and get worse as the political situation get worse. It seems that no one will hear this clarion call. The UN action in Burma is minimal while aid agencies and individual governments have responded tepidly, as ever Rasali Ismail has a hard time going inside the country. To be very frank the outlook for our native country is very bleak. In face of such hardships and absurdities let us be frank to analyse the political situation. No saviour, be it in the form of US, UN, EU or whatever will come to our aid as they have their own problems to save and besides human rights is the weakest link in the international affairs. In face of the strong Burmese Army what are the chances of negotiation on the table and get the crumbs if we could not get a slice in human rights, democracy and national self-determination seems to be the thinking of the majority of the ethnic people of Burma.
 
Even though the NLD has said that they expect an invitation on the upcoming February National Convention, without the release of the one and only Burmese Nobel Laureate it is doubtful whether they will attend. Their spokesman U Lwin has already confirmed that without the release of U Tin Oo and Daw Suu they will not attend. On the Junta's side an order to keep Daw Suu under lock and key for one year has been officially issued. But the Junta, which has a big track record of not keeping their promise, can release her at anytime if they construe that they will gain more in releasing her.  Even if the core ASEAN countries are contemplating in using the compulsion method of taking the chair from Burma there is just a slight hope that she may be ever released in the near future as the Generals construe it as tantamount to meddling in their internal affairs.
 
The Junta vehemently hated Daw Suu and the NLD because they dominates the moral authority of the entire people of Burma, together with the international community and Than Shwe himself has admitted in haughty words that once she is released, the rug will be pull out of their feet. So the scenario is no side is expected to eat a humble eye for a concordat. Come, National Convention the stalemate will still be there.  It seems to me that the Junta will rather see their chairmanship of ASEAN taken from them than to let the lady go.
 
Looking from the expatriates Burmese community there may be tens of hundreds of Burmese political groups in Diaspora, who let out their steam in their electronic and printed media, but nobody represents them the Junta's Convention. They may have some connections with the NLD but the NLD has made known its intention of not attending. On the other hand after the 1990 elections (where NLD make a clean sweep) National Convention is the only political move that the Junta has ever attempted to find the real solution of the country. This hypothesis left the Ethnic Nationalities as a major player in the country vis a vis the Burmese army representing the Myanmar group. So from the perspective of the Junta that was being supported by the neighbouring countries is that if the settlement is reached between the two groups it is a fait accompli.
 
National Convention
 
Despite the legitimacy deficiency of the National Constitution drafting attempt, it has to be admitted that this is one the most important political arena of Burma, since the 1947 and the Socialist Constitution of the 70s were discarded. For the ethnic nationalities this represents a milestone in their efforts to have their grievances and concerns registered on the national political arena. These ethnic groups at the peripherals of Burma discovered that, even the various Burman dominated pro democracy groups tend to identify with the Junta where Pyidaungsu (Union) is concern, as they seem to think Burma in terms of monolithic unity. All these years they have given only lip service to Pyidaungsu spirit as many of their actions indicates. Hence, there is little or no trust on these Burman groups and this is a raison d'être for coming up of the ENSC groups. The weakest point of the Burmese revolution is that no one ever attempted to close the gap between the Myanmar and the Non Myanmar groups in Diaspora residing in the free countries. The boisterous Myanmar groups in Diaspora are experts in lobbying techniques while the ethnic nationalities that dominate logic on its side got a formidable strength, and if they are really united will compel the Junta to think twice. On the other hand the Myanmar group unless the NLD sits down with the Junta, there is simply no say for the Myanmar group save the Junta in the coming National Convention whereas the Ethnic has the legitimacy as some of them are already sitting down at the negotiating table while others are still fighting. This clearly plays into the hands of the Junta who takes every chance to marginalize the NLD.
 
Dissecting the ethnic nationalities under the umbrella of ENSCC, we can see that it is a mixed bunch of ethnic nationalities. The 28 armed ceased fire groups are also very mixed type each enjoying various degrees of legitimacy and very lately has resisted the approach to give up their arms. The ex communist group particularly the Wa and other militias in Northern Burma have been accused of following the Junta's line and steering clear of politics, in order to concentrate on local community and economic program particularly the narcotic drugs trade. Hence there is every possibility that the Junta will offer generous concessions to these groups, in exchange for their loyal support. At least they are expected to acquiesce in their efforts to complete the National Convention a quid pro quo. But very lately the Wa, Shan and other smaller ethnic groups have adopted a common position and objected to the clause of the military participation in the future administration and clamor to amend the 104 articles of the proposed constitution agree in 1993-96 before the original convention was suspended.
 
Despite the Junta's long standing policies of "divide and rule" in regard to the ethnic nationalities, the ceasefire groups seems to be more united than any other time. This is because they share several common concerns and have developed some common coherent position on several key issues such as not giving up arms unilaterally, national self determination, upholding their culture and so on. In spite of the illegitimacy of the national convention and their reservation about the process most of these groups are attending the convention in good faith, in the hope of registering their aspirations on the national political agenda. Hence the big question is, can these cease fire groups which will chose to attend the National Convention address some of the key issues which have structured armed conflict in for over five decades? It will depend on the dexterity of Than Shwe and his Depayin Soe Win gang. If they are bent on marginalizing the NLD, I am quite positive that they will go to great length to placate these cease-fire groups. In this aspect, they are ahead of the Myanmar group of NLD and its Diaspora allies because participation in itself have created opportunities to focus on the ethnic nationalities grievances.
 
The Divide and Rule
 
But not all the ceasefire groups are economically incline and lacked vision, the KIO (Kachin Independence Organization) and NMSP (New Mon State Party) are very much advanced in political outlook and saw the writings on the wall and have taken a lead to be politically engaged. They know how to separate politics from economics and from the bribery of the Junta to its leaders that tries to separate them from the grassroots people.
 
Previously ceasefire ethnic giants such as the Kachin and the Wa, presented their demands saying that they would not join unless freedom of association, discussion and other democratic principles were introduced into the Convention’s procedures and stated that all ethnic groups must be allowed to meet freely, and that they must be able to choose their representatives to the Convention. Some groups even demanded that the National League for Democracy (NLD) be made part of the process. And in order to shore up their demands, a new alliance was even forged between the Wa and several other groups. Indeed, hopes were raised in the belief that at least there was some sort of coordinated unity in opposing a Convention so undemocratically organized, especially among ceasefire groups. It was also hoped that the new trend could end the ethnic groups’ tendency to seek individual solutions in a conflict with asymmetrical interests. Unfortunately, this hurrah and semblance of unity did not last long.
 
For many who know too well the politics, especially within the KIO and the United Wa State Party (UWSP), it was a guarded optimism. Many were also only cautiously optimistic because the Burmese regime was unlikely to let these groups off the hook. As they are the major sources of legitimacy in the game plan currently materializing, they had to be taken into the fold. Then the bombshell exploded when the news that KIO has agreed to participate in the proposed Convention unconditionally. This came to light after KIO leaders met with the Burmese junta in Rangoon on Nov 29 and according to the government-run New Light of Myanmar, the KIO "expressed support for the seven-point future policy program of the State" and promised it "would attend the Convention." So far no details are known about the KIO’s meetings with the Burmese Junta, as even among the Kachin there was already a power struggle with assassination attempts among themselves. But its agreement to join the Convention will certainly lend legitimacy to the Junta—in contradiction to an earlier statement made by its chairman. From this hypothesis it seems that the KIO has become a black sheep among the ethnic nationalities. Its decision to join the Convention is likely to create a domino effect within the cease-fire ethnic groups, as it had done nine years ago agreeing to a ceasefire with the Junta, ripped apart the fragile unity that had existed for a long time. Its departure from the DAB (Democratic Alliance of Burma) following its ceasefire agreement with the regime jolted the rest of the armed resistance and political groups.
 
The Karen National Union, which remained defiant against a spate of truces, suffered most. I am not blaming the Kachin because the conflict in Burma has multiple players and one cannot assume that there is equality in the interests of each and every protagonist. The Kachin have the discretion to pursue their individual interests. Besides, they can be pressured into submission the way the Mon are being pressed to join the Convention. China which has been corpora ting with the Junta has agreed to let the Burmese army came into their border to harass the Kachin from their back and the KIO saw that the Kachin race will be wiped out if they did not yield to the demand of the Burmese army.
 
In the case of Mon, the NMSP has been given an ultimatum to attend the Convention and if they chose not to participate, it would take other Mon groups on board instead. So the regime’s coercive politics is at work, but in the pursuit of individual interests some groups will lose out. The bigger picture is that the whole political movement of the ethnic cause may lose out. Obviously, the Burmese regime has played the same old political tune. Some ethnic groups have danced to that tune all along—for better or worse. But one thing is for certain, the regime is playing the ethnic card very well, regardless of the tactics it employs. And it will continue to excel in this regard—as long as there are groups who will dance to its tune.
 

 
An Ethnic Nationality's Perspective (Part 2)
 
United We Stand
 
Kanbawza Win: Sun, 19 Dec 2004
NDF (National Democratic Front) Group
 
Again if we were to view it from the groups that have not reached the ceasefire with the Junta they are more open and cling on to their beliefs. Obviously the KNU (Karen National Union) the biggest organization take the lead, the CNF (Chin National Front) leaders are more educated and much younger and is more adaptable to the changing circumstances than their counterparts in Karen, Arakanese, Karenni or even Shan. The Junta was quick to see this opportunity and have extended an olive branch to the Karen after the disposal of Khin Nyunt and his gang, while at the same time mounted a military offensive to the lesser known and weaker groups including the KNLA. In this aspect the ethnic nationalities could not match the cunning of the Myanmar/Burman group headed by the Junta.
 
If we were to dissect the Karen community both inside and outside of Burma , it is notable for their diversity. Official Karen participation at the convention is restricted to a handful of small groups and intellectuals, most of which are easily dominated by the regime. However, the strongest support to the Junta from the Karen comes from the DKBA (Democratic Karen Buddhist Organization) that has no political leadership and they are now being forced to acquire to the Junta's demand. The saddest part of the KNU, as in any other ethnic groups is their inability to organize the Karen intelligentsia. Most of the Karen intellectuals inside the country are attending as individuals or representing other groups while KNU has no representation. But on the other hand being the most significant ethnic group in Burma, who for more than half a century of dogged resistance to the Burmese army, the KNU gives the other ethnic group a special symbolic weight on the national politics of Burma (the other Burman groups like the PVO, BCP Red and White flags and other smaller groups have long succumb). If the leaders from inside and those of the peripherals could ever coordinate and correlate themselves, and gasp the momentum of the current situation the Karen could have easily engage with the Junta on more equitable terms. Now it seems that, after the disposal of Khin Nyunt, the KNU is at the beck and call of the Junta.
 
In this scenario the ENSC or rather the ENSCC should make a move if they got the guts and the visions. The 13th KNU Congress has strengthened the EN group because not only Bo Mya was retired but because many who are playing the leading roles in the ethnic nationalities groups are back in their positions of EN group. As many of the KNU leaders profess Christianity as their faith, allow me to quote something from the Holy Bible, the prophet Ezekiel wanted the Hebrew captives in Babylon to return not only to their homes but also to God. It was a tough sell. The people responded by taking refuge in the proverb, "The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge."(Ezekiel 18:2). The people blame their parents and they are ready to bear the consequences. So also a new generation of Karen leaders with fresh ideas are ready to make a fresh start their epic journey to home but they must first return to God.
 
If the KNU falls to the tricks of the Burmese Generals, then another domino would surely follow and there would be practically little or no hope for the ethnic nationalities cause. If the EN leaders fail to act carefully and in unison they may forfeit the historic opportunity. Some lessons should be taken about the blue ribbon declaration of Convanhagen where the ethnic nationalities proudly declared as the 2nd Panglong Conference, where no Myanmar was really represented.  Lamentably the EN groups like their Burmese counterparts are very suspicious of the ethnic intelligentsia lest they would steal their leadership and never made any serious attempt to recruit them. It seems that until and unless one can come and reside in the jungles they will not trust them. On the other hand the intellect are professionals that can supply them with good ideas and moral support and move only in the international circles. Even writing this paper I have no other way to make them known, except through the electronic media and obviously I am afraid to write the confidential aspects, lest the enemy got wind of it. Unity in diversity is better said than done.  
 
The Data Base
 
The advantage of participation in the National Convention from the perspective of the ethnic nationalities can be construed as follows: the positive side are that there are less human rights violations by the Burmese army soldiers in cease-fire zones than in conflict areas. Less travel restrictions and economic opportunity, and the local NGOs can implement the work without molestations resulting in the development of health, education and lessening of IDPs.
 
But on the negative side is that there was extensive militarization compounded with forcible relocation so that the Burmese army consolidated their position in these contested area and if there were a possible outbreak these ceasefire groups would stand no chance. Widespread land confiscation was well documented in Mon State to meet the need of the self-supported scheme of the army. Rampant natural resources extraction and environmental degradation to undermine the livelihood of the local population, which is well known in Kachin control area. Opium is greatly encourage in the Wa areas and a strict order has gone out to the Burmese soldiers to respect the opium cultivation while in some places junior officers themselves participated in these narcotic trafficking.
 
It embarked upon the ethnic cleansing by using the technique of "let the minority fight the minority" while preserving the major Myanmar race. e.g. in Shan State the hereditary land owned by the Shan were taken over by the Wa who now introduced opium cultivation. The Junta simply neglected these areas and leaves it to the local warlords to do its best.
 
It deliberately neglected the political progress indirectly encouraging the split among the ceasefire groups, the Kachin are unable to heal the split, the Mon split fighting with each other, the split between the KNU and DKBA was highly encouraged, while in the smaller Karenni, the split between KNPP and KNLF was magnify, as even now the Chin has the smaller groups. This creation of the split story was not only confine to the major groups but also much smaller ethnic nationalities as the Pa Oh, Pa Laungs, Lahus and so on. The Junta has taken every advantage of the lack of vision and education of the ethnic nationalities and has worked in multifaceted ways to encourage the splits. Ironically the ethnic name it as "Myamar Nyan Ne Nyan Net" meaning by hook or by crook, the Myanmar way.  All these clearly indicates that the Junta is bent on its ethnic cleansing policy while even in the dominant Burma tribe the army want to have a perpetual prominent secure place so that no one would dare to question their gross human rights violations. On this most important issue of ethnic problem and power sharing, the longer the dispute continues on the more complicated it and the stronger the military leadership becomes. Because it feels that only Burmese army, the great can put the country together to prevent the implosion of the entire system of governance.
 
The difference not so much among the ethnic group but between the Myanmar and the non-Myanmar is the direct result of the divide and rule policy of the different Burmese administration. After 56 years of independence, the people of Burma are still disunited. This was also felt even in the Myanmar group e.g. in 1988 because of disunity among “old guard” politicians and new generation politicians. Veteran politicians like former Prime Minister U Nu and former Brig-Gen Aung Gyi were unable to join forces with newcomers like Aung Sun Su Kyi, Tin Oo and the youth groups. The result was another military takeover. Has the present generation learnt anything about unity from these historical events? I fear not. But it is high time to learn and to remedy quickly.
 
Burman/ Myanmar Group in Diaspora
 
The political parties of the so called 8-8 88 generation of democracy fighters of Myanmar , taking into account those at the peripheral as well as in foreign countries, are so numerous that no one would be in a position to count all of them. The standard joke that "If you put two Burmese in a cell, they will form three political parties." seems to be true. If ever the Myanmar group were to be united, there is no doubt that they will become very formidable force. Most of the 1988 generation that had seek asylum in the West have somehow or other assimilated into their respective countries of their choice, or at least their sons and daughters have, as some of the kids cannot even speak Burmese. What they have is only their dream of going back one day, at least for a visit because their offspring had become nationals of foreign countries and would be unable to adapt themselves once they are in Burma . Besides, even if there is democracy the chance of their offspring getting on in life is not as rosy as they are now. Obviously very few will find their way back. But still they got the will to do something for democracy and are at a loss of what to do in the absence of a strong leader. The Myanmar intelligentsia stays quite aloof and seldom mixed with the grass root level while jealousy and backbiting is common among the Burmese in North American and Australia . Even the Junta does not think that these overseas Burmese students can do much and the release of Min Ko Naing is just a classic example because it construe that the movement of the Burmese students had died a natural death and is no longer a threat to them.
 
Their de facto leader Dr Zarni, founder of the Free Burma Campaign visited Burma and the majority of the Burmese in Diaspora disapproved it bitterly. They construe him that he has betrayed their cause, without delving deep into his theory. Lamentably the Burman/Myanmar group still needs to learn and live in harmony and in diversity, as this is the essence of democracy. One cannot label Zarni as a traitor only because he did not see eye to eye with them. What more, the Free Burma Coalition group has a lot of young educated think tanks producing different theories and assumptions and if they became really convinced that it is useless working outside the country and switch side to the Junta it would be a great loss to the Myanmar community. So I would humbly advice the Myanmar Diaspora not to push Zarni and his colleagues too hard.
 
But it is a fact the Burman/Myanmar Diaspora needs to have a single strong organization, they cannot rely on the UB groups (NCGUB is busy endeavoring to prevent the funds falling into the hands of the Junta, while the NCUB is implementing its level best to form the Federal Government in exile) that seldom correlate with each other latter not to mention organizing the Diaspora. There is an urgent need to form the grass root level organizations based on locality e.g. the Burmese community of a certain city and state encompassing all Myanmar and Non Myanmar. Then these cities will form the states community like the Burmese community of Indianapolis or Ontario and later it can from the country community e.g. the Burmese community of Canada , or the Burmese Community of America, Australia , European Union and so on. Finally it will come to the Burmese Community in Diaspora. Whether this idea is but a dream or a distant reality is still yet to be seen. It depends on each individual and if that individual say "Oh this is not my business," then we might let the Junta rule forever. However, once this Burmese community in Diaspora came into being, then it is time to correlate with the ethnic communities at the peripheral. But will the Myanmar (Burman) group ever follow this road or let the Junta do as he wish?
 
The big problem of the Myanmar exiles, if I may quote the remarks of Dr Zarni is "that they are very vocal and seldom evolve into serious revolutionary exiles equipped with serious intellect and knowledge base. The poverty of their hearts which results in small-mindedness, short-sightedness, ego-driven, as opposed to mission-driven - activism, and the poverty of the intellect have made no progress after one and half decades. They tend to repeat the same old mantras - tried and failed.  These issues which the Myanmar exile face have been dealt with in the previous waves of resistance, which have come and gone. But no lessons learnt." Not that I agree with him but it comes near to the truth. He also added "If it weren't for the Internet and its connectivity, no one would know we exist. I don't see how the exiles are going to pull off a successful change process, given our dogmatic and hero-worshipping behaviors amply on display." 
 
The Thai Administration
 
Who ever came to power in Thailand , they will try to placate the Burmese Generals for Thailand is Nge Naing. Starting with the Chatichai Choonhovan administration since 1989 the attitude of the Thai administration is well known. From the perspective of Thailand , this seems to be the only option because they have no choice being geographically close and nobody can blame them. Even now Prime Minister Thaksin is convinced that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, pose a threat to Burma . Hence, the die is caste. But one has to remember that the Thai has the superb diplomacy. Their diplomacy can be considered to be so well advance that all these 2,000 years have never been a colony of the Western nations. One cannot under estimate them.
 
They seem to construe two entirely different concepts of the Burmese problem, one is the struggle for democracy which she condoned or indirectly help the Burmese dictators, the other is the ethnic problem which she is very much interested because Thailand's numerous hill tribes. Another reason is "Balkanization" which the late Eugene (CTY) vividly portrayed would be a threat to Thailand , since Pan Thaism was launched and incorporated some of Laos and Malaya territories into Thailand , some of the lesser tribes had not accepted a fait accompli. In other words they see Burma , as an ethnic cauldron that could easily spill into Thailand as even the Muslim in the South and Ei San in the North think quite different from Bangkok . The third is the narco menace. So obviously she would not encourage the Burmese pro democracy movement and try to meditate in the ethnic conflict. Any Burmese political movement in Thailand , especially in cities, that were often raided by the Thai security authorities was related to democracy and rarely ethnic related. Obviously, the on going process in Burma alarmed Thailand especially in the narco sector.
 
No matter how many times the Burmese Generals lie to ASEAN, she won't care because they have known that every Burmese Generals, if it suits its own means would lie as lying the very concept of truth is the standard norm of the Burmese Generals since 1948. Thus when Daw Suu is not release, there is no surprise from the Thai side. But they were shocked when Khin Nyunt and his gang was ousted because with him goes along their much trumpeted Bangkok process and of course Thaksin himself lost a few million dollars as Shin Corporation has worked with Khin Nyunt's son. But what the Thai leaders saw was that since Burmese economy cannot sustain half a million men army they will be make to live off the land, as usual. This means the Junior Generals will became Sawbwas (Shan chief) of their locality and the only way to sustain them is they must get more involve in narco business. This explicitly means billions of Ya Ba (amphetamine pills) and other narco will flow into Thailand or via Thailand to the international community. This is what the Thai administration is afraid of. Obviously it will favor the settlement of the ethnic problem in Burma and leave the democracy in the cold storage. This also means that the ethnic nationalities have a sway over Thai policy.
 
The hidden aspect of Thai policy is that it wants to be a de facto leader of the ASEAN and that she wants to proof to the world especially to its ASEAN partners that she alone knows how to handle these unruly Generals. The classic example is the latest Vientiane Conference where the Thai Premier stands shoulder to shoulder with Depayin Soe Win in defying the ASEAN's consensus.
 
Larger External Factors
 
There is just a little negative comment on the role of US and EU but it is a fact that their rhetoric could not match their actions, as the biggest European Oil Company, TOTAL continues to pump in $400 million to the coffers of the Junta while UNOCAL and other existing American companies continues to do business as usual. Will the Western countries have enough morality and guts to push the Burmese Problem into the UN Security Council and takes action according to its decision, remains a big question? The Indo-China rivalry plays into the hands of the Junta as both tries to woo the Generals with lavish loans and pay out and most importantly arms and ammunition (partly to suppress the dissidents). China is quite smug with the Generals as it serves its strategic purpose and India wants the status quo for its economic goal in 2020. But the hidden agenda is the Sino-Nippon rivalry, not only in economic but its wooing of a fair lady name ASEAN, for affluence. Both of these eligible bachelors endeavor to please the fair lady and Burma one of the components is soft on the Junta. Russia wants to maintain Rangoon as the hub of KGB's network and is supplying them with nuclear facilities while North Korea needs as much friend to stand up against Uncle Sam obviously fell in bed with the Burmese lady. No doubt the Generals exploited the situation to the full. All these indicates that the Burmese regime is in a very strong position to push its way to the National Convention and its illogical road map to democracy. The only aspect to face the Junta solidly is the united ethnic nationalities standing shoulder to shoulder with the Myanmar/Burman groups including both the NLD and the Diaspora.        
 
The EN Group
 
In spite of the rhetoric of the Western countries (save an outright aggression) there is every possibility that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD would be leaving out in the National Convention and be marginalized soon. Hence the EN group became important as the highlight is on them. The international community has already known the aspirations of the ethnic nationalities and can certainly influence the EN group. The united force of the ethnic groups and the Myanmar group is an essential component to success. The NLD must be a part of the force and the EN must play the most important role in a united front of federal and democratic forces. We are all fighting for the same and similar cause and by letting the Myanmar in the EN will certainly become stronger and more democratic. I am not placing the burden on the ethnic nationalities to implement this Herculean job, which the mainstream Burmese organization such as the NLD and others or their celebrated heroes have not been able to do, but the current situation is like this. It is an inevitable historical task now placed squarely on their shoulder, whether they will shirk it or face squarely is still yet to be seen.
 
On the other hand the Burman group must accept the EN to be as a flag bearer and keep it standing against the strong wind. The political weather in Burma is changing rapidly in unpredictable ways Prime Ministers and cabinet members come and go while law enforcement officials become criminals the following day. The military itself is going through changes institutionally and with these changes come opportunities and drawbacks. Whether these changes can become progressive and for the better depends on all players in Burma 's politics in and outside of Burma for change doesn't mean progress. More than 15,000 prisoners were freed and the neighboring countries are all clamoring to give the Junta the much-needed legitimacy. Hence, to face the formidable Burmese Junta
 
The EN groups must not only represent but must sway influence over all ethnic cease-fire and existing fighting groups and must be able to stand firm against the various tactics of the divide and rule policy of the Junta.
 
The Myanmar (Burman) groups in Diaspora must form one monolithic group to cooperate with the EN group and the NLD must have a working relationship with the EN since the latter will be their de facto representative.
 
To get to this goal, is the EN group must be magnanimous enough and have the vision to take on the Burman/Myanmar group into their bandwagon and what more importantly is will the Burman/Myanmar be able to form a monolithic whole and be wise enough to merge with the EN groups. Until and unless these two conditions are met it will be very hard to face the formidable Junta (backed by China , India and ASEAN numbering more than half of the population of the world ready to legitimize the Generals) both in the negotiating table and the battlefield. Or are we going to allow ourselves to become the victims of our own ideologies and political passions? Please remember that in the absence of the NLD, the inflexible generals have even fewer obstacles in their path as they seek to ensure they will maintain most of their power after any election. Besides they could content themselves with narrowly opening the door to the marginalized ethnics and small political parties to show the world that they introducing elements of democracy and perhaps when everything is in place they may release Daw Suu, if they do not mechanize her death to appear as an accident. So either we do or die.
 
The EN group must be bold enough, to take a leap of fate, to embark upon the bottom up approach. Up to the day the Myanmar group or rather the people of Burma have focused on the elite level regime change and the necessity to install a more accountable government in the country. Such approaches are based in the assumption, shared both by the Junta and the NLD that political transition must come from the top to down and directed by the central government whether, dictatorship or democratic regime.
 
But in the political climate, with only limited options available for national level transition, the re emerging civil society networks represent an important vehicle for the long-term change. Every body seems to overlook this trend. His civil society in the form of NGOs both inside and outside the country has shouldered a huge task with their respective donors. Furthermore, these civil society actors often have access to conflict affected areas that are out of bound to international agencies. Local associations can implement community development and humanitarian projects in the peripherals of Burma and inside the country, which unwittingly build local capacities and human capital. The advantage of the EN group is that these civil society networks within and between ethnic national communities has been the most significant but unexplored of the social and political situation in Burma for nearly a decade. Although these local initiatives in themselves will not bring about a change in the national level-any centrally directed reforms are unlikely to succeed unless accompanied or preceded by these grass root organization. What we need is, for the EN groups to redirect these numerous groups inside and outside Burma with a strong political leadership.   
 
Will the EN group plays the part of the conductor, in a mass choir accompanied by a symphony orchestra, is yet to be seen? Only the conductor knows how to be in harmony for presentation, because the melody moves from one set of musical instruments to the other as sometimes it is on the strings and soon passed on to the woodwinds and again to the brass wind with the percussions always following. The different parts of the choir, the soprano, alto, tenor and bass came in and go out at the required time, but the melody, sometimes loud and sometimes soft is maintain and harmony is always there. In other words, the different cease fire groups, the fighting groups of the ethnics, the UB groups, the Diaspora groups some taking a soft line while others take a strong stand, together with the international donors, the Western countries and assuring groups, all must be in harmony and the EN must tell them when to act and when not to act with the main focus of democracy, human rights, federalism and self determination still retaining the Union of Burma. Then and only then our cause will have some hope.
 
(Any criticism, comments, analysis or doomsayers are welcome to write directly to this polemic via profwin@gmail.com, however, a reply cannot be promised)
 
Professor Win seems to be is rather sad to choose the media to write this policy paper, as this is the only option left for him. After reading a paper in New Delhi he deliberately drop into Thailand to share this knowledge with the EN group but was turned down saying that he was an outsider. The views express here are solely the opinion of the author. (Kao Wao’s Editor)

Online debate on Kanbawza Win’s “United We Stand”
 
19 December 2004
 
Burma - UN Security Council Action
 
Dear Professor Win,
 
You ask in your persuasive and thoughtful paper "An Ethnic Nationality's Perspective: United We Stand" - "Will the Western countries have enough morality and guts to push the Burmese Problem into the UN Security Council and take action according to its decision, remains a big question?"
 
To try to respond to your concerns, we should first look at the configuration of the Security Council from 1 January to 31 December 2005, when the 15 Members will be:
 
Permanent Members
 
China - France - Russia - US - UK
 
Elected Members
 
Algeria - Argentina - Benin - Brazil - Denmark - Greece - Japan - Philippines - Romania - Tanzania
 
Any one of the five Permanent Members of the Security Council can veto a UN Security Council Resolution. As you say in your article: "China is quite smug with the Generals as it serves its strategic purpose", so China is almost certain to oppose a sanctions Resolution. As you also say, "Russia wants to maintain Rangoon as the hub of KGB's network and is supplying them with nuclear facilities", so Russia would be opposed as well.  As you further say,  "TOTAL continues to pump in $400 million to the coffers of the Junta", so France could likewise be unhappy. The US and UK would probably enjoy support for a sanctions Resolution from Denmark, and possibly from Greece and Romania, who co-sponsored the 2004 Human Rights Resolution in the 3rd Committee, though such support may not necessarily be taken as support for sanctions - as Kofi Annan said in his 2002 Annual Report: "The international community should be under no illusion.....humanitarian and human rights policy goals cannot easily be reconciled with those of a sanctions regime". As for the remaining members, Algeria, Argentina, Benin, Brazil, Japan, Philippines and Tanzania would be likely at least to abstain, while some among these seven would possibly vote against. So the line up for a sanctions Resolution would probably be something like: five (maximum) in favour; seven (minimum) opposed, including vetoes from both China and Russia; and three abstentions.
 
There is accordingly not the remotest likelihood that, in present circumstances, any Security Council sanctions Resolution would either achieve the necessary 9 votes (out of 15) needed, including positive votes or at least abstentions from the 5 Permanent Members. This would be so apparent from the informal consultations which precede placing any such item on the Security Council agenda that to force such an item through would be to risk the virtual certainty of defeat, which would give tremendous comfort to the junta. 
 
It is, curiously, much more likely that an alternative Resolution, which sought to provide increased development aid and humanitarian support for Burma, would secure a greater number of votes in the Security Council than a sanctions Resolution, though such a Resolution could in turn be vetoed by the US and UK. One might however ask whether the US and UK would, to use your phrase, have the "guts and morality" to support the will of the majority of the Security Council seeking the resumption of international aid to Burma.
 
Bringing freedom and an end to human rights abuses in Burma so that the people can choose the type of government they wish is, in the probable view of most members of the General Assembly and also of the Security Council, less likely to be achieved through sanctions than through critical engagement and the resumption of development aid and humanitarian assistance. This could particularly come from international financial institutions (IFIs) like the ADB and IMF who have many years of experience of the need to secure transparency, effective monitoring and accountability from recipient Governments. It is bizarre that the EU has recently decided against voting for loans for Burma in IFIs, though their decision on this matter does not mention their position on IFI grants, which is presumably negative as well. It is noteworthy that this year no country from either Asia or Africa, whether less developed or industrialized, sponsored the Resolution on Human Rights in the 3rd Committee. This indicates just how split and polarized the international community remains on how best to bring freedom and stability to Burma.
 
In early October 2004, the US representative at a Security Council meeting, held under UK chairmanship during that month, sought to introduce an informal discussion on Myanmar. I do not have the precise details, as there are no Minutes of the discussion which preceded the formal adoption of the agenda for that meeting, but it would have been normal practice to circulate a paper beforehand so that the matter did not come as a complete surprise to the other 14 members. The UK Chairman sought views at the opening of the meeting on whether there should be such a discussion. The representative of the Philippines - one of the most democratic countries in South East Asia - expressed the view that, as the matter was not on the formal agenda of the meeting, it would not be appropriate to discuss the subject. The UK Chairman had no choice but to rule any discussion out of order. No doubt the US representative was acting on instructions following Resolutions in both the US Senate and House of Representatives that Burma should be raised in the Security Council. This incident does however show how difficult it is to secure even an informal discussion on Burma in the Security Council, let alone to get the situation in Burma inscribed on the formal agenda of a Security Council meeting.
 
When I was at the British Embassy in South Africa 1983-86 under apartheid, the popular slogan around the world at the time was: "You are either for sanctions and against apartheid, or against sanctions and for apartheid". The reality was that apartheid was eventually defeated primarily, if not overwhelmingly through the actions of South Africans themselves, white, black and coloured, who made their collective will irresistibly known. In my view, trade and other sanctions, only fitfully applied, delayed rather than encouraged the end of apartheid. The one measure which really had an affect was the decision by international and particularly US banks, on grounds of perceived financial risk, not to provide further credits to South African banks. But this measure was not a UN or government-inspired sanction; it was the decision of the market-place made on a shrewd business calculation of acceptable risk. There is nothing like the verdict of the market to bring recalcitrant regimes to their senses.
 
I would judge from your article that you too believe that the will of all the Burmese peoples should be made irresistibly known.
 
There is much talk nowadays about "smart" or targeted sanctions against Burma. Those "smart" sanctions introduced in recent years by the EU have been almost totally ineffective. "Surely sanctions should be effective to be smart?" commented David Cortright and David Lopez in their 2002 study: "Smart Sanctions: Targeting Economic Statecraft". While in the EU some 379 individuals have been targeted for visa bans (progressively since 1996) and asset freezes (progressively since 2002), most of these people are not junta officials at all, but their families, including sons and daughters and their wives and husbands, and even grandchildren. It is a fair guess that at least some of these individuals are supporters of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD, but political correctness requires that they too be punished. (The list also includes several officials who have retired, or are now imprisoned and could possibly be considered by "Amnesty International" as "Prisoners of Conscience".) The modest amount of some Ј4,000 of assets has reportedly been seized in all 25 EU member countries during the last two years - not counting zero seizures in the four Candidate Countries, the three Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and the three EFTA countries. A confusing system of investment and financing prohibitions was introduced by the EU in October 2004 against 50 Burmese companies, including 19 Joint Venture companies wrongly thought to be subsidiaries of the Burmese Ministry of Defence.  The British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw acknowledged to the House of Commons on 8 December 2004 that one Joint Venture company had claimed it had been "erroneously implicated" while:  "We are not aware at present that any other EU-Burmese joint ventures have been affected." Indeed, there is no evidence that any of the 50 companies have, or will be affected in any way by these measures, which are as precise in their targeting as some of the missiles launched by US forces against Fallujah during 2004.
 
The point of this response is to show that action through the UN Security Council is not the panacea which many Burmese (of all nationalities) now living overseas might suppose. Such action could even be seriously counterproductive.
 
With best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
Derek Tonkin
 
British Ambassador to Thailand 1986-89

 
Derek Tonkin
 
British Ambassador to Thailand 1986-89
 
Date December 20th 2004
 
Dear Mr. Ambassador Tonkin,
 
After reading about revelations of the biggest scandal in the United Nations history, Iraq’s Oil for Food Program where Saddam Hussein milked more than US$21 Billion (yes with capital ‘B’, according to the U.S. Senate Investigating Committee) with the help of so-called diplomats from so-called civilized countries, I am not surprised that former diplomats like yourself are boldly promoting the interest of the military regime in Rangoon.
 
I do not subscribe to the idea that United Nations Security Council could solve Burma’s problems because I am aware of the UNSC history in dealing with global security issues. If UNSC could not handle Darfur crisis in Sudan where Colin Powell had declared as “Genocide” there is very little chance of UNSC addressing the Burma crisis.
 
Personally, I believe that the Burmese themselves must solve Burma’s crisis.
 
Nevertheless, I will have to disagree with you strongly in your analysis on sanctions towards SPDC especially in the area of financial assistance from International Institutions such as IMF and ADB.  As you and I and every student of Burma studies know full well, OSS has targeted their efforts toward these institutions. At every opportunity, SPDC agents and sympathizers work hard to change the perception of decision makers in these institutions and high officials in the countries that influence these institutions, mainly United States of America.  We all know that as long as SPDC enjoys the support of China, ASEAN and its South Asian neighbors, they can withstand the trade sanctions. It makes it so much easier for them when they are finding Natural Gas in both ‘M’ and ‘A’ zones and the world is in tight supply of energy sources.
 
It is therefore the finance portion of the sanctions that SPDC is really targeting at.
 
With the renewal of these loans they can free up money from their pet-projects and they will have extra resources to buy more military equipment and build up their armed forces and extract more concessions from countries like Thailand. As you know Mr. Ambassador that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  It is also intoxicating. The Generals are enjoying the country’s wealth while the population is suffering and they still cannot control their greed. Whose responsibility will it be, to repay these loans that they have piled up? It is the future generations and future governments. You must be pretty familiar with the GDP numbers of Burma. Burma GDP has been around US$6 Billions to 6.2 Billions and the debt burden of Burma is US$6.8 Billions, bigger than her GDP and this was carried over from BSPP time. Thank GOD, because of the sanctions they have not ballooned to hundreds of Billions.
 
The problems facing Burma today is not rooted in sanctions. It is a systemic problem rooted in Military Dictatorship. Military wants to control every nook and cranny of the society and they are trying to build a Sparta-like system where the Military has become a ‘class’ to rule over the whole society.
 
In my article “Voodoo Politics”, I even threw out the idea for NLD leadership to consider running Humanitarian projects so that they can help the people and have access to the people through these good works and break the isolation of NLD from the people. And if SPDC rejected then NLD can still claim that it is SPDC who is blocking the aid. Even if my dream comes true and SPDC agreed to let NLD run these humanitarian aid projects there is little chance that a great success can be realized because the infrastructure and social fabric is completely controlled by military that is totally corruption ridden. So it is the chicken and egg situation where nothing can succeed until we remove this military dominance of the society.  Humanitarian aid money will be just throwing good money over bad situation.  I hope you are not eyeing for aid program along the line of Iraq’s Oil for Food Program run by regime’s (SPDC) well-connected cronies.
 
Although sanctions are meant for economic effects they have also become a significant POLITICAL SYMBOL. It shows to the ever-suffering Burmese people that principled leaders in the West are still standing squarely behind DAW SUU and keeping faith with their aspiration for democracy.
 
Depending on where your heart lies, both sides can argue intellectually for or against sanctions, just like some British intellectuals who argued for colonialism in its hey days as the white man’s burden to bring civilization to the savages of conquered nations.
 
Until we can establish the rule of law in Burma it will be very difficult to build the genuine free market economy (and uplift the people) under this military rule, which is infested with corruption, and arbitrary rule. Please ask those Singaporean and Japanese businessmen who invested with great hopes why they have not yet recovered their proper return on Investment (ROI). It is the system Mr. Ambassador. It is the system.
 
Happy Holidays to All,
 
Bo Kyaw Nyein
 
Burma Strategy Group for Democracy
 
bnyein@aol.com

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