Scholar: Resistance movements should also negotiate with the military

Armed movements should not only insist on political dialogues with the Thein Sein government, but also call for a “military dialogue” with the military, according to one of the many academics visiting Chiangmai during the past few months.

President Thein Sein (Photo: AP)
“For one thing, political negotiations, by themselves, cannot move ahead, when you are still fighting,” he told representatives of the ethnic armed movements whom he came to meet. “Another thing is the future of the armed movements in the future Burma. Especially if you are not going to disarm, how you can integrate your forces in the country’s defense system.”

Another scholar sees the armed movements have 4 options:

  • Status quo (in order to prevent a coup or until there is complete trust)
  • As state militias under state governments (like the United States of America after its War of Independence)
  • As units in the union army (like the present Border Guard Forces)
  • Disbandment (Naypyitaw’s preferred option)

The third reason, as most academics see it, is that President Thein Sein and his chief negotiator Aung Min are “not key players”.

  • U Aung Min has signed ceasefire agreements with the Shan State Army (SSA), but the Burma Army is still attacking it
  • President Thein Sein had twice ordered the Army to suspend the operations against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), but the Army is still attacking it

“The key player is the army,” he said. “If it can get away with disobedience, it can get away with a coup too. A coup therefore is not impossible.”

U Aung Min (Photo: AP)
The said scholar saw U Aung Min as “a nice person but a poor bargainer.”

All of them also agree “what is happening in Burma is no democracy, but a little bit of opening which can be closed at anytime.”

However, so long as people like Thein Sein and Aung Min are around, the scholars think there is a chance. “You won’t get everything you want,” said one. “So you need to set up priorities.”

The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), the alliance of 11 armed movements, together with representatives from non-UNFC movements, is expected to meet him in 2 weeks time, before the end of the year.


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