“Do or Die,” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi: Policy paper on Burmese Ethnic Perspective

By Kanbawza Win | 5 December 2010

Most Burmese nationalists would recollect the famous Bogyoke Aung San speech during his visit to London, in Jan27th 1947 for the inking of the historic Aung San-Attlee Agreement (Aung San as Deputy chairman of the post war British Burma and Clement Attlee the Prime Minister of Britain) when he said, “I hope for the best but prepared for the worst.” that paves the way for Burma’s independence. So also his loving daughter Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be in the same position of hoping for the best but preparing for the worst as her choice will be “either do or dievis a vis with the Tatmadaw thugs.

Her courage and sincerity, inherited from her father can be vividly seen when she tackle the most crucial and sensitive question of the Union of the country, which the Burmese Tatmadaw since under Ne Win has try to wreck it by imposing the Mahar Bama/Myanmar spirit on the ethnic nationalities and endeavour to treat the ethnic nationalities as a conquered race rather than an equal partner.

One could recollect that it was Aung San’s vision of a federal union, shared by the ethnic leaders of that time, which gives birth to the modern Union of Burma, to be exact on Feb.12th 1947, better known as the Panglong Conference. But with the early death of Aung San, this Concordat was never realised and instead was followed by more than half a century of  civil war that still goes on to this day. Furthermore, successive military regimes have identified the federal movement as a threat to their hold on power. This was also a major pretext for the military coup in 1962 by late dictator Ne Win, who claimed that he supposedly saved the country from disintegration. Many interpreted as the by product of conflict of interests over constitutional principles between Myanmar and non Myanmar nationals.[1]

Now, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's efforts to organize “an ethnic conference in conformity with the 21st Century.” which is label as “second Panglong”—a meeting of ethnic leaders and other relevant stakeholders will not only solve the problem of Burma of laying down the basic democratic principles but will also guaranteed the rights of the ethnic nationalities, somewhat like killing two birds with a stone. It is on this bold and correct platform she has place herself. However, many of the Myanmar/Burman, even among the pro democratic groups, still harbours the Mahar Myanmar spirit and are trying to prevent it by giving a lame excuse that it was too delicate and touchy. Hence she will have to take on, the evil Tatmadaw, the Mahar Burman/Myanmar spirit and of course some of the racist ethnic leaders at the same time.

Many, including the self style Burmese experts (Burmese and foreigners alike) failed to understand that this conflict of interest over the constitutional principles between the Myanmar ethnic and non-Myanmar ethnic nationals is the root of the political crisis. This has paved way for armed conflict, hatred, disunity that finally leads to gross human rights violations. Now she is taking all this by the horns and she like her dad that there is but one solution to solve the conflicts and crisis in Burma and that is to have a constitutional dialogue among pro democratic groups led by NLD, the Junta and the non-Myanmar ethnic nationals and to allocate the problems within federal constitutional principle, which will not only full fill the ethnic nationals’ interests but also safeguard the Myanmar interests, leading to democracy.[2]

She also realise that the Panglong Agreement is equally important for the people in modern Burma as the way in which the “Declaration of Independence 1776” is important to the Americans in fundamental nature. She foresee that not only the majority of the people but  national, state, and local institutions desire to live together with the ethnic nationalities within the framework of federal constitution, which can safeguard, promote, and protect everybody’s  interests and identities.

But with this historic move Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the country's reclusive generals are heading on an indispensible collision course firstly because the Generals did not want to share power with anybody else. The sad reality is that the vehemently hated Tatmadaw did not want to share power with anyone either a Myanmar or a non Myanmar and since the apex of Federalism is to share power with the ethnic nationalities, every Myanmar general will be opposed to this, for once Federalism comes into being then there is no raison d’ etre to keep on a large army something like pulling the rug under their feet. The Tatmadaw philosophy of “I am the monarch of all I survey” will be destroyed once and for all. It will also pave the way to democracy for the simple reason there must be dialogue between stake holders. Being power maniacs they loath to share it with anyone.

Ethnic issues and the prevalence of democracy are but two sides of a coin and one cannot be separated from the other. However the Generals are bereft of the Dialogue Culture and still cling on to the theory of shoot first. So somehow or other they will have to get rid of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as she threatens the whole institution which they have set up all these years. 

She has done her home work and knew very well that the signatories of 1947 had agree to the Union because they all guaranteed to treat each other with equalities in all aspects including rights and privileges in politic, economic, cultural, and self-determination right of each people within their own territories. The sincerity and trust of signatories of Panglong Agreement was revealed in Article 210 of the Constitution of Union of Burma (1948) by guaranteeing secession right of signatories state from the Union of Burma after ten years of independence, something like the sword of Damocles hanging on the Mahar Myanmar leaders. Therefore, the Panglong Agreement is the only contractual legal document of founding the Modern Burma so that the essence of the Panglong Agreement needs to be respect and perverse not only by the people of Burma but also international governments, organizations, and associations who want to see continuation of the existence of the Union of Burma. [3] However, 57 days after the draft Constitution of Burma Union was approved, General Aung San and his interim leaders were assassinated by their political rivals.  U Nu, the new leader of transitory period has not participated in Panglong Conference so that did not understand the essence of Panglong Agreement and that granting equal rights to ethnic nationals was an integral part of the Aung San and Attlee Agreement that led to Burma’s independence.

 (a)       The 1948 Constitution
Gradually, the non-Myanmar ethnic national leaders, politicians, and scholars realized that the Constitution of the Union of Burma (1948) had disregard the essence of Panglong Agreement .Therefore, the non-Myanmar ethnic national leaders gathered in Taunggyi, the capital city of Shan State in 1961 to discuss the defects of the Constitution of Union of Burma. The Prime Minister and all Myanmar ethnic national leaders understood that Federal Bill was ready to table in the Union Parliament for amending the Constitution of the Union of Burma, when there was a coup d’é tat March 2, 1962.. The Tatmadaw has to use its triumph card realizing that this is the only way to safeguard the domination of the Tatmadaw with the Mahar Myanmar policy.
(b)       The 1974 Socialist Constitution
After the coup, the Revolutionary Council drafted a new Constitution which that came to force in 1974. The new Constitution not only disregarded the essence of Panglong Agreement, but also constitutionally expanded Myanmar/ Burman ethnic national domination toward non-Myanmar ethnic nationals by creating Seven Divisions out of Myanmar inhabitant area. Therefore, under the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma (1974), the Myanmar had monopolized all legislative, executive, and judicial power.
 (c)       NLD’s Interim Constitution
 Although the Socialist military regime collapsed in 1988 and the NLD was voted for to restore democracy it has miserably failed to carry out the peoples’ mandate due to two significantly important factors. First, NLD failed to draft the Interim Constitution of Burma based on the essence of Panglong Agreement. Instead of drafting a new Interim Constitution to retain the trust of the ethnic nationalities, the NLD revised the constitution as an interim constitution. Secondly, majority of NLD’s top leaders are former military officers who were ousted by General Ne Win so that restoration of democracy in Burma is not priority for them but toppling the present military regime is always their first priority.
(d)       The Nargis Constitution
 Since the people of Burma and the international community already know the Junta’s clear intention is to legalize the military rule in Burma within constitutional framework and its dubious elections results are well known I won`t be emphasising much on it..
 (e)       NCUB’s Draft Constitution
The exiled group of, the National Council of Union of Burma (NCUB), composed both of ethnic nationals and pro democratic Myanmar tried to draft the constitution but it was soon discovered that the pro democratic Myanmar  shown no interest the Genuine (Federal) Union of Burma. This finally led the ethnic national leaders to conclude that that either the “Myanmar military leaders in SPDC” or “Pro-democratic Myanmar nationals” in and outside the Burma are sharing the same sentiment in connection with disregarding the essence of Panglong Agreement. This drives home the fact that most Myanmar either the democrats inside or outside Burma does not want a genuine Pyidaungsu but rather a Myanmar domination over the non Myanmar nationalities.[4] If this mentality continues that Balkanization may seems to be the best solution.

Now that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is on the right track on solving the country’s problem once and for all we believe that she is aware of the challenges that lies ahead and would act cautiously and conscientiously.[5]  She would try to solve the historical debt of her father towards the ethnic nationality and will really step into her father`s shoe as the one and only Burmese statesman with a far vision. Like father like daughter she will be a rare specimen among the Myanmar worthy of inspiration and imitation in terms of sincerity, righteousness, far sighted without a tint of Mahar Myanmar spirit whom all the ethnic nationalities including the genuine pro-democratic groups trust.

Foreign Powers
The West that has given lip service to the Burmese democratic movement did not expect any major changes in Burma even though they want access to its vast natural resources. It remains distrustful of recent moves, while Asian countries will increase their dealings and investments with the Junta. Hence, there will a considerable gap between the approach of West and the East. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi after her release had thanks the West especially the US for their moral support but said it should be more practical. The Obama administration priorities in Asia lie elsewhere, will not expend much political capital on the country is a foregone conclusion. The EU even though betrayed by Germany and Denmark (because of their authoritarian traditions) via their NGOs, hopes to still cling on to their ideals. Meanwhile, many countries in Asia will continue to pursue policies towards Burma based on their vested economic interests and a sense that the country is an arena for strategic competition with rivals. Here  Aung San’s speech can be neatly apply that the West will fuck you after putting some oil while the Asian will do it raw.  

China is already Burma's de-facto regional patron, as of yesterday China pulled the agenda off the UN Security Council topic.[6] Other countries are now pursuing postures more similar to Beijing's than to Washington's, which, in turn, eases the environment in Asia for further Chinese pursuit of Burmese resources.[7] For ASEAN especially for Thailand Burma offers more than just an untapped market but a respite from the environmental and other corporate standards that exists in their own countries. They can exploit the country’s human and natural resources at will, under the Generals even though they will be wearing longyi (Burmese Sarong) soon.[8]

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi realise her marginalized position this but hopefully with the help of China, and probably India, she intend to work towards renewed ceasefire agreements especially to that of the Northern Alliance of Kachin and Wa (Southern Alliance of Karen, Mon and Karenni are already fighting) and enlist the support in preventing a possible crackdown on her and for the Second Panglong Conference.

However, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is the only person in Burma with moral authority and could enlist the people en masse. Her call for national reconciliation appeal to every Burmese even among the young Turks and that her offer of rethinking the Western punitive actions including sanctions have a great appeal to the Generals craving for international legitimacy.

2011 will be crucial and critical for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma's political and economic trajectory as she will have to test the limits of the Than Shwe’s tolerance and willingness to pursue political reform. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, dubbed as one of the 100 top thinkers of the 21st century, will have to make a well calculate risks for the Junta will probably be assessing whether their experiment of releasing the lady succeeds or and they'll recalibrate as necessary.[9] If they sense that increased instability is the likely outcome of her freedom, the leadership will likely revert to old practices, including increasing the military's role in maintaining order and possibly finding an excuse to again arrest her. On the other hand, if the Junta believes their gamble has paid off -- and that the economic and diplomatic gains from her release outweigh the risks to their control over the country – then there is hope for the Second Panglong Conference The Than Shwe clique has just eaten a bitter humble pie by calling back its arch rival Khin Nyunt when the Junta realized that they could not handle the ethnic problem. Will they do the same with the Lady (which they often refer as Kaung Ma Lay little girl) is still to be seen.

Prepared for the Worst
The people of Burma in their entire history of 2,000 years have never met egregious government that subject its own people to such a barbarous regime of fear, repression and hunger, of shooting into the crowds of people, using rape as weapon, killing Buddhist monks and other religious leaders, preventing aids reaching to the cyclone victims and even went as far as persecuting the HIV patients on World AIDS Day,. It’s complicit in international outrage, ranging from murderous government (Depayin butchers now becomes government), and nuclear weapons to drug smuggling are a headache to the world at large.

They could easily mechanize the death of the Lady at any moment under the pretext of an accident and is not ashamed of going down into history books that the Tatmadaw founded by her father kills the daughter. Hence the people of Burma must be prepared for the worst for the killing fields and civil war as even now the Junta has send its marauding army to every front, to the four corners (North to fight the Kachin and Wa, West to fight the Chin and Arakanese, East to fight the Shan, Karen, Karenni and Mon) of the country to crush the ethno democratic forces still holding out.

Bogyoke Aung San has to face the British first, even though colonialist are a well cultured and civilized people prone to reason, then later he had to face the Imperial Japanese army notorious for its cruelty. But what the daughter, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi facing is the combination of these two which is far worst in ruthlessness, craftiness, cunning and liar that tries to lie the very concept of Truth itself. However the daughter has a genuine spirit which is a glowing light in pitch darkness that can be instil in every patriotic people of Burma. Even though the people of Burma are hard pressed on every side yet they are not crushed; perplexed but not despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed. The Pyidoungsu (Union) spirit still lives in weal and woe and the love of democracy and the prevalence of human rights instil by the daughter will carry on. Let us hope for the best but prepared for the worst.

[1] A majority ethnic group also known as “Bamar” or “Myanmar” by non-Burman ethnic nationals in the Union of Burma. The non-Burman ethnic nationals include Arakan, Chin, Kachin, Karen, Kayah, Shan, Naga, Mon, Lahu, Pa-O and so on.
[2] A paper written by Salai Ngun Cung Lian a candidate for Doctor of Juridical Science degree at Indiana University School of Law. He is a co-convener of the Chinland Constitution Drafting Committee; Consultant for Transitional Justice in Burma
[3] The first Draft Constitution for Burma Union and Its Territories was initiated by the Anti Fascist Peoples Freedom League (AFPFL), under the leadership of General Aung San, U Ba Win (the elder brother of General Aung San), and 110 Constitution Drafting Committee members. The Draft Constitution for Burma Union and Its Territories was brought to the AFPFL National Convention for approval and subsequently approved without dissented vote on May 27, 1947.

[4] The Myanmar Diaspora led by Bo Bo Kyaw Nyein (son of U Kyaw Nyein the one time national leader) even ridicule  the NCUB Constitution
[5] Kaung,Ba; Irrawaddy 30-11-2010               'Second Panglong' Proposal Could Mean Trouble for Suu Kyi

[6] Allchin, Joseph; Burma off Security Council Agenda 3-12-2010 DVB News
[7] Herrera-Lim, Roberto; Foreign Policy and the Burmese balancing Act in Foreign Policy Magazine 2-12-2-10

[8] Roughneen; Simon “Why Thailand Invest in Burma” Financial Times 2-1-2-2010

[9] Roberto Herrera-Lim;Roberto,”Foreign Policy and the Burmese Balancing Act” Foreign Policy Magazine 2-12-2-10

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