The responsibility of non-disintegration

By Sai Wansai
Thursday, 12 September 2013

Sai Wansai
No doubt, Burma is a multi-ethnic state and as such, all ethnic groups big or small should be responsible for the well-being of the state-nation. State-nation is deliberately used here to give more visibility to the fact that the nation is made up of different states, such as Kachin, Shan, Karenni, Karen, Mon, Arakan, Chin and Burman.

The only problem is the country we all know as Burma or Myanmar is a newly created political entity, which comes into being only in 1948. The 1947 Panglong Treaty or Agreement is a cornerstone that should construct the Federal Union of Burma as agreed upon, complete with common “national identity”. But with the death of General Aung San and his cabinet members in July 1947, the constitution drawn later was only federal in name but unitary in essence. To correct this constitutional flaw, a federal proposal was tabled in 1962. But a military coup, claiming to safe the union from disintegration, while parliament was debating the constitutional amendment, the same year in March, killed the only hope of peaceful reconciliation once and for all.

To cut the story short, the following next five decades were the implementation of ethnocentrism based on Burmanization and military suppression and occupation of all the ethnic homelands.

And thus, the relation between the Burman and the non-Burman ethnic nationalities, even to this very day, could be termed as a colonial master and colonized relationship. And as such, no nation-building has ever taken place, much less the formation or an acceptance of a common national identity, which all could live with and agree upon.

Having said that, the co-responsibility for the unity of the territory called Burma falls wholly on the laps of the Burman political class and military top brass. As for the non-Burman ethnic nationalities, they could theoretically either opt for separation or agree to stay within the forced-union, given the agony they have to go through all these years under military suppression.

The key word is that the forced-union should become a voluntary-union, where all have equal rights in all aspects, either as individual citizen or as state unit. But first, the people in power must have the political will to do it. And that is to convince the ethnic nationalities by words and deeds that staying together will benefit all than going it alone and separately.

(Note: Commentary on “Self-determination and constitutional reform in Burma”, by Saw Kapi, DVB - 11 September 2013)

The contributor is the General Secretary of Shan Democratic Union (SDU) - Editor


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