Peace Process: The good, the bad and the dubious

Burma, during the last two and a half years, has virtually caught the rest of the world, including its armed and unarmed opposition, with their pants down by a series of measures purportedly aimed at turning over a new leaf.

Since then, there have been a lot of news coming out: some good, some still bad and some dubious but almost nothing boring.

The good news, as Free Burma Rangers (FBR) succinctly reports, includes:

  1. Aung San Suu Kyi holds a position in parliament and she, along with others, has received honors from the international community for her dedication to freedom for the people of Burma.
  2. Many political prisoners have been released.
  3. Censorship and travel restrictions have been eased.
  4. Ceasefire negotiations are ongoing with many of the ethnic groups and there is an overall reduction in fighting.
  5. Burma Army leaders have signed an agreement to end forced labor and there has been a reduction in some areas.
  6. The FBR had the opportunity to meet leaders of the new government and this is a positive step.

With them came news of new attacks and ongoing oppression:

  1. Burma Army attacks against the Kachin intensify into new areas and continue, with over 100,000 Kachin people displaced by over 100 Burma Army battalions in northern Burma. Attack helicopters and fighter jets have been used to bomb, strafe and rocket the Kachin.
  2. In Shan State, fighting and displacement continue and in the southern Shan State there have been continued clashes between the Burma Army and Shan resistance.
  3. In Karen State the Burma Army has used the ceasefires to supply their camps beyond the normal supply rate and continue to use forced labor. They have also expanded their camps. Border Guard Forces under the authority of the Burma Army have continued attacks in Karen State through 2012.
  4. Many political prisoners remain under arrest. Censorship laws such as the Electronic Transactions Act remain in effect as does the threat of arbitrary arrest.
  5. In Arakan State, over 100,000 people have been displaced by inter-ethnic violence between the Rohingya and Arakan. This has been partially fueled by repressive Burma government policies.
  6. Humanitarian access is still blocked in many areas of Burma.

Also not to overlook was the world moving to engage with the long isolated country:

  • US, Canada and the EU relaxing/suspending sanctions
  • Derek Mitchell appointed as the first ambassador to Burma since 1990
  • The World Bank and Asian Development Bank opening offices in Rangoon, followed by US government announcement that international financial institutions would be allowed to invest in Burma
  • US President Obama visiting Rangoon

It was as though a giant snail has been turbo-charged. Things that were moving slowly and laboriously are now going fast and furious. This kind of situation isn’t for the faint- hearted and slow thinkers. Neither is it for those who are reckless and without well thought out plans.

Because although the tiger cave is now open for cub hunters to go in and catch them, what one must not forget is their daddy and mummy are also in the den as well. And that it was them that had made the decision to open up the cave.

So the situation is:

  • If you are too slow to move, the cave will close and you may have to wait another generation
  • But if on the contrary you are too reckless, you’ll easily fall a prey to the tigers

This state of affairs indeed, as Ashley South said in the FBR annual publication, calls for “courage and imagination.” Lacking either one will never do in this kind of scenario.

Looking around, SHAN sees there is no shortage of those who are both courageous and resourceful among the Opposition, particularly among the younger generation. The only thing they will need is that those who are blessed with just one of the two gifts make way for them as well as make themselves available to support the new leadership.


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