Peace Process: Edges that need to be blunted

Burma’s history since Independence in 1948 is a series of promises made by the government and broken by the military. Outstanding examples:
  • Panglong signed by Aung San, but broken by the military in 1950 when it declared martial law in Shan State
  • Constitutional amendment movement approved by the government but the military took action and seized power in 1962
  • The military government of Saw Maung promised to hold a free and fair general elections (which it did)) but after results showed military-backed party suffered crushing defeat in 1990, it refused to hand over power
  • The same government promised political dialogue to the armed resistance movements that concluded ceasefire pacts in 1989 but when constitutional proposals were submitted, they were not considered let alone accepted

No wonder few concrete outcomes are yet to be seen after 6 September 2011, when the first ceasefire agreement was signed with the United Wa State Army (UWSA) up to 25 August 2012, when the PaO National Liberation Organization (PNLO) became the 13th group to sign it.

Union level meeting between U Aung Min and KNPP leaders (Photo: KNPP)

The press conference held in Chiangmai on 31 October did not tell what the press already knew. The stories related by the 9 member Karenni Civil Society Network (KCSN) were not new. They were essentially the same stories told by other groups. The only differences were the names of places and players involved:
  • On 27 June 2012, 3 months after the ceasefire was signed, a skirmish broke out when government troops entered Korenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) controlled area without prior notice
  • The two sides had agreed to form a joint state-level committee to assess the will of the people regarding the construction of military training facilities in Pruso. However the committee that was formed following the meet was made up mainly of Kayah State government personnel. The report produced, not surprisingly, did not reflect the will of the people but instead supported continued construction
  • Both sides also agreed to provide information on the planned mega-projects in Kayah State to the public and to allow local people and CSOs to seek information. However when a CSO went to visit the Ywathit Project site, where the Chinese company Datang is carrying out survey for the 600 MW dam, it was stopped from entry.

“Thus, the agreement with the KNPP is only written on paper but not being followed,” it concluded.

It accordingly called on Naypyitaw to honor the agreements made with the resistance movements and implement the FPIC (Free, Prior and Informed Consent) Principle for mega projects.

Ongoing construction of 14th Senior Training School on confiscated land

One of the existing problems, as sees it, is that leaders of these mostly rustic resistance movements are gentlemen (and ladies) and hope to play fair. The military, on the other hand, entertains no such sense of honor, not when its empire building dreams are at stake. It clearly has an edge over the rebels when it comes to this.

Another edge it holds over them is that it is effectively the government. And being so, it can afford to break the rules in the book and people outside are apt to forgive, forget and merely regard it as a harmless joke by a big, fun-loving boy.

But if the resistance is thinking of playing the military at its own game, please think twice. Because while the military is likely to get away with what it does to them, you might end up being a small, nasty and trouble making boy and nobody loves you, that is, in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we cannot try any other alternatives apart from telling sob stories to the world. For every problem we face, there must be a thousand and one ways to tackle it.

View of Ywathit dam project site (Photo: KCSN)

That doesn’t also mean the military’s troubles will be over soon. Nobody ever gets enough anything, once he has savored the taste and finds he likes it. In addition, bad deeds are invariably followed by more of the same kind. As the Buddhist saying goes: We may forgive those who hurt us, but we never forgive those we hurt.

And that’s when the vicious circle will return.

The full KCSN briefing paper can be viewed on

N.B.     The briefers were not altogether bitter. They had two good things to say about the ceasefire situation:
  • Before the ceasefire, farmers were not allowed to visit their fields during nighttime. Now they are able to do that without undue worry.
  • The group was allowed to hold a press conference in Rangoon on 2 October. They carried no national IDs, but were allowed to visit the city and return.


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