Open letter to President Barack Obama

The Hon. Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dated 12/11/2012

Dear Mr. President,

We, Tai/ Shan Communities of the Shan State, Burma would like to congratulate you on your victory in being elected President of the United States for the second time. We very much welcome your visit to Burma at the end of this month, and wish you success in your endeavour to bring peace to Burma.

As your pre-visit to Burma may we present some facts and information, so that with some added knowledge of the past and present you may make better assessment of the causes of the dire political situation in Burma, and thereby give you clearer direction when steering Burma towards a genuine democracy and Federal Union of Burma.

Before 1886 there were several small semi-independent Shan or Tai states along the S.W border of China. These states were divided between Britain, China and France, and a treaty was signed between the three countries. Geographically the Shan State was put under British Burma. If language and culture of the population had been taken into consideration at that time the Shan State could have easily gone to China or Thailand, as the ethnic Tai or Shan of the Shan State and the Dai in Dehong and Xixuangbanna in Yunnan province, and the Thai of Thailand belong to the same ancestral Tai group and together they represent one of the largest group in S.E Asia.

Previously, the Burmese military generals have convinced the world that the non- Burman ethnics are a minority in Burma. In fact, non-Burman ethnics may make up half or more of the population, and their ancestral homelands cover most of Burma’s borders and international trade routes, and are rich in national resources, which the successive dictatorial regimes have violated for their own benefit, and used to fund the military expenses. Each of Burma ethnic nationality is also the majority in their own respective state.

Under their own rulers and Britain as their protectorate, the diverse peoples of the thirty-three Federated Shan State lived peacefully side by side for several decades, until their homeland was forcibly occupied by the Burmese dictatorial military regime in 1962.

The Union of Burma was formed soon after Burma became independent from Britain in 1948. Based on the principles of the “Panglong Agreement”, it was a Union of eight ethnic states: Burma Proper,where the majority of the Burmans live, Shan, Kachin, Chin, Karen, Mon, Arakan and Kerenni States, all of which were to have equal rights and opportunity, with the right of self'-determination and the right to secede after ten years, which was in 1958.

From 1962 until 2004, when the internet was not yet accessible to the people of Burma, particularly in the Shan State, the Shan citizens suffered most brutally and inhumanely at the hands of the Burmese dictators. The Army violated the “Panglong Agreement”, put all the leaders in prison and forcibly occupied the Shan State. The people were treated like slaves or prisoners in their own homeland. During this period the Burmese soldiers and officers committed ethnic cleansing, genocide and gang-rape. They forcibly relocated a large number of the population, and confiscated many farmlands without any compensation to the owners. As reported by the Amnesty International and UN Human Rights Group, an exodus of Shan refugees fled to neighbouring countries and many became IDPs. Those who remained in the homeland lived in fear and terror and many were psychologically affected, and still are today. Being completely silent, especially in the subject of politics, was their only safety and means of survival.
During the last year or two, there has been some changes in some parts of Burma, and the Western Powers have regarded this as something wonderful and hastened to engage with the Government which is still being powered and driven by the dictatorial generals, while ignoring those who are the victims of aggression and human rights violations.

The Thein Sein Government's present policy is for Burma to undergo democratisation only to the level acceptable to Western Governments, and to have greater military control over other ethnic states and their people. Besides the fighting in the Kachin and Arakan States, in the interior of the Shan State, inspite of the cease-fire agreement the Burmese dictatorial armies are still attacking the Shan resistant armies, as well as ordinary villagers.

With respect, we would like you to be aware that although the present Thein Sein Government appears to be willing to reform, it is the dictatorial Generals, who have the final say. They are members of the ancient Institution, based on the ideology of empire building, chauvinism and revenge. They are fanatical and this ideology is passed down from generation to generation, which is similar to some form of religious fanatics that exist today. This is shown in the six decades of their treatment of other ethnic nationalities in their quest to nation building of one Myanmar race, one language, one religion and one culture by any means. We would like to ask the US and all Western governments that they should not be persuaded by what they can only see on the top surface of many layers.
The priority of values between that of the dictatorial regime and the ethnic nationalities are still very far apart.

  1. The non-Burman ethnic nationalities, as in the Panglong Agreement want Federal Union of Burma, where all the ethnic states are equal partners.The ethnic Burmans politicians/Generals want the Burman ethnic to have control over other ethnics, and with absolute power.
  2. The regime wants Myanmar to be a unitary nationstate,with one race,one language, one culture and one religion., while the other ethnics believe in plurality    
  3. The non-Burman ethnic nationalities belief in genuine democracy, where the military is accountable to the Government and the Government to the people. But the regime wants the military to be at the top of society. As Thein Sein said in his interview with the BBC on “Hard Talk,” in Burmese politics the army cannot be excluded.
  4. The Non-Burman ethnics believe in honouring an agreement; the Burmese military think they have the right to break it, as in the Panglong Agreement and recently in the Cease-fire agreements.
  5. The Non-Burman ethnics believe in the Universal norm of right and wrong.  As an excuse for the violence caused by the Burmese army in ethnic states, Thein Sein said, “We did what we had to do”. 
  6. There have been so many detailed evidences of human rights violations by the Burmese officers and soldiers in ethnic states, yet Thein Sein has blatantly denied this.

To achieve peace and genuine democratisation the regime must let go the military control and withdraw from all other ethnic states; and readopt and abide by the Panglong principles.

Even after all the injustice and unfairness, the non-Burman ethnic nationalities are still prepared to become part of the Federal Union of Burma, and since the Panglong Agreement was signed they were still committed to make the Federal Union of Burma work.

May we ask during your stay in Burma that you make it possible for all ethnic leaders to have the opportunity to meet you to talk about their situation. We hope you would think that it is only fair to meet all factions whose contribution and opinions would be useful to your decision making. You would make us very happy if you could meet the leader of the Shan National League for Democracy, Hkun Htun Oo. He has just been released from prison and is still suffering from the effect. He is a very experienced man, a quiet, but a fair and deep thinker.
Please do not marginalise the Shan and other ethnic nationalities in important discussions which concerns them.  If the future of Burma were left entirely to ethnic Burmans, and the voice and rights of other ethnic Nationalities were ignored they might be forced to seek other alternatives.

Finally, we would like to ask you, Mr President, to convince the military regime that in a modern world there is no place for dictatorship. We have hopes that you will help transform Myanmar into a genuine Democratic Federal Union of Burma, where everybody, regardless of race or religion enjoys liberty, human rights, justice and fairness. As President of the USA we are sure you can make this happen.

Tai/Shan Communities


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