Letpadaung Inquiry Commission should counsel negotiations

The most prominent inquiry commission set up in Burma’s new history was the Frontier Areas Commission of Enquiry (FACE) in 1947. Its job was to find out the best way a union between Burma and the Frontier Areas, as the non-Burman territories were known at the time, could be forged.

There was no question about whether or not the British rulers still wanted to hang on their colonial possessions, because they had already decided to leave.

The result was that the Frontier Areas wanted a federal system to manage the union, as already implicit in the Panglong Agreement signed on 12 February 1947.

Since then FACE has set the model for later inquiry commissions to come. The only problem with it was its recommendations were never implemented.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi reaches for supporters as she leaves after a public meeting close to Letpadaung mine in Monywa, northwestern Myanmar, Friday, Nov. 30, 2012. (AP / Gemunu Amarasinghe)

This year we have inquiry commissions for the communal violence in Arakan State and now for the protests against Letpadaung Copper Mines project.

Looking at the 3 commissions, differences in the issues involved in each case are obvious:

  • FACE: No problem between the powers-that-be and the governed; it was a matter to be settled among the governed, who, if they could not be called friends, were not enemies either at that time
  • Arakan: Mainly the problem between the communities, where the powers-that-be were trying to capitalize upon
  • Letpadaung: Problem between the powers-that-be and the governed, where neither side is ready to give ground

Even those poorly informed could see the latest inquiry commission formed (and reformed) last week has a tricky job to handle.

On the one side are the people who have been driven out of their lands and have no power except that has been granted by the powers that be. On the other are the Chinese government backed Wanbao company, the Burma Army backed Mganma Economic Holdings Ltd and the government itself.

Not that the inquiry commission’s mission is bound to be a fool’s errand. Ancient sages have already taught us ways to handle problems:

  • By a court of law
  • By consulting the wise
  • By negotiations
  • By paying (to the satisfaction of the recipient)
  • By claiming kinship (like calling China Paukhpaw, meaning sibling (s)
  • By occult methods

We could of course dismiss the possibility of the inquiry commission led by The Lady herself counseling the use of either force or occult methods.

What should be hoped instead is that she recommends other methods, especially negotiations, through which a win-win solution could be worked out.

This will set an example for all the popular grievances emanating from the ongoing land grabs in the rest of the country.


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