Will 2013 be Burma’s Triskaidekaphobia?

By Kanbawza Win | December 30, 2012

In a country like Burma, where the ruling Generals still harbors the savage mentality and irreligious, astrology is somewhat like a sort of a religion and plays a crucial part in steering the country’s path.

General Ne Win change the currency notes from the universal 10 digits to 9 decimals because the astrologers construe that No 9 will bring him back to power and directed him to climb the Shwedagon Pagoda, backwards which in Burmese say Nauk Pyan Tet Min can also be interpreted in the local dialect as the next monarch of Burma, just to satisfy the omen.. Very lately Than Shwe and the ruling generals all dressed up in Women Longyis (Burmese skirts) when they supposedly hand over power to the civilian government so that they will be able to control from behind as the astrologers predicted. What a queer country?

Now the ruling generals seems to sense that 2013 will be a crucial year, as their harsh rule in their thinly veiled disciplined democracy is slowly showing of its true color and already Triskaidekaphobia has made its presence felt. Triskaidekaphobia is a long word for the fear of No 13. To be frank it is not only the Burmese but lots of people seem to fear it. History reveals that the Romans were spooked by it, so were the Vikings.[1] Even today some people will not sit down for dinner if there were 13 in number. Some will not travel on 13th and some hotels rooms have no number 13. In China some tall buildings have no 13th floor, from12th it goes on to14th, if so what about Burma’s Triskaidekaphobia?

Mounting a major offensive with fighter jets, (the Burmese and Chinese military officials met at Yurui hot spring in Ruili on the 27th instant and gave the green light to use the Chinese air space to bomb the Kachin, the next day because next year the gas from Arakan will be transporting to China) helicopter gunships and chemical weapons on the Kachin Christians at the festive season, did not augur well with the civilized norms. It also clearly indicates that the Burmese army of Myanmar Tatmadaw is just like the Japanese Fascist of the 2nd Word War who bombed Rangoon on Christmas Day. History has recorded that as the Burmese celebrated their Christmas thanks giving and came out of the church the bombs fells directly on their heads. That is exactly what the Myanmar Tatmadaw is doing to the Karchin Christians in Laiza.

Burma’s Civil war has been going on in for more nearly 70 years. Why? What is the rationale and why did all the ethnic nationals fight against the central government dominated by the major Myanmar race? Or is it just and attempt for Balkanization as the Myanmar Tadmadaw claims? Something must be hidden from the International view?

A meticulous study will reveals that there is entirely no such phrase as ethnic problem in Burma for no ethnic fights against another ethnic race as they have all live in harmony since time immemorial. So the struggle is not horizontal one but all ethnic nationalities fights against the central government dominated by the majority Myanmar, which means that the struggle is horizontal. The simple logic is that the central government is a bully and the Non-Myanmar had no choice but is being forced by circumstances to fight the Myanmar dominated government. The clear and vivid answer is because of forced Myanmarnization by the major race over the minority ethnic races, just like the Caucasians over the non white in Europe and America. Currently the central government was backed not only by the neighboring countries but also indirectly encourage by the Western powers by their open market lazes fair system?

The ethnic nationalities of Burma are waging a war for their very survival against the Orwellian type of dictatorship It is against what they call the three A's -- Annihilation, Absorption, and Assimilation. In fact, just entering its seventh decade, it's the world's longest-running war for autonomy. Continually outnumbered by the Tatmadaw and driven by internal division, it's showing its age and slowly but surely learning its lessons. It is heartening to witness that the ABSDF, the pro democracy Burmese students and the Arakanese army have send their fighting forces as a token of solidarity and we hope to see the rest of the ethnic armies such as the Shan, Chin, Karen, Karenni and Mon will soon be sending their fighters to show their solidarity with their ethnic Kachin in such a cruel war. For once the Myanmar Tatmadaw defeat the Kachin they will soon take on other ethnic armies one by one as they have done before.

The cease fire is just a ploy and have no inclination or intention or to solve the ethnic grievances after all these years. The Government tried to seek a ceasefire as it hoped that by making a token attempt at democracy it can convince the West to ease the sanctions it's imposed on Burma and re-open economic relations and would accept them in the community of civilized nations.

An average Myanmar view the ethnic nationality as somewhat the necessary evil of the country where he is destined to live forever and that it is his unbounded duty to lead him to civilization He/she must be showed the real civilization of the Myanmar people and finally lead him to Theravada Buddhism on to Nirvana. Whereas the ethnic nationalities view that the Myanmar people spearheaded by the Tatmadaw is still uncivilized and act as savages as shown by their actions especially in the killing women, children, raping and exterminating the Buddhist monks and way they are behaving for the past half a century, if not more and should be brought back to civilization and educate them to be in the international civilization. On the other hand the Burmese intellectual view that the ethnicity is an incurable disease -both the dominant one and the others – as an infectious disease which no one is immune to it.

The ethnic flame rages on at the core of Burma's politics. Many Myanmar hold the extreme and frightening view that Hitler's Final Solution of the Jews as a model for protecting racial and ethnic purity of people or peoples considered indigenous to the land.[2] This is what the Mahar Myanmar is thinking in their mind and there are scores of precedents in the past as for examples of what Burmese king U Aung Zeya, founder of the Third Burmese kingdom done to the Mons, hence the ethnic cleansing is still gong on today.[3] It will definitely 'shock and awe' the readers, to copy the ethnic cleansing on the Rawanda lines but it offer a glimpse of what goes on inside the mind of a average Myanmar.

The classic, if misleading, debate about the two seemingly opposing priorities or missions - democracy versus ethnic self-determination - has, over the past 70 years, been a major cause of spectacular failures to forge any type of genuine solidarity - both in spirit and organizationally in the country's modern political history. The late Prime Minister U Nu and his armed resistance movement parted way with their resistance brothers (and sisters) - the Mons, the Karens, the Shans, etc. - in the early 1970's over this issue, and collapsed thereafter.

The Myanmar-identified leaders of Burma's Armed Forces have evidently taken that to heart: they are fully equipped to debate the issue of ethnicity, in the own Myanmar version. On their part, the ethnicity-based political organizations have long felt necessary to approach the issue in a reciprocal fashion, taking up arms or retaining arms. Even the mainstream opposition leadership that was born out of multi-ethnic, anti-Ne Win uprisings of the 1988 has not been immune from this common disease.

The ethnic élites’ search for legitimacy in their community thus coincided with the search at the mass level for communal unity and identity. Ethnic consciousness which hitherto had implied dependence upon the state became translated by the mobilization activities of the ethnic élites into a stance of ethnic autonomy against the state. The significance about this formulation is that both the élite and the mass level behaviour can be understood in the same terms, as attempts to resolve the problems of insecurity.

In this aspects security tends to be perceived in terms of group’s worth relative to their groups, and that the insecurity of backward groups can develop into an anxiety in which every issue can become a survival issue.[4] The assimilation policy of the Myanmar ethnocratic state such as forcibly changing the name of the country and the national flag constituted such a threat to both the élites and the masses when it led to the disruption of communal authority structures at the ethnic community that there is no choice but to rebel.

Most if not all the ethnic resistance is just out of desperation as they are give no choice by the Burmese government both civilian and military. For the élites, the dilemma was that they had come to rely increasingly upon the state for their career and authority positions, but the state seemed now to undermine and threaten these positions. It was essentially the feeling that they been betrayed by the state which led them to find a new basis for attaining security by apposing the state. For the masses, insecurity appeared in the form of disruption of their communities, and the solution was to find new myths of community unity and this was found in apposing the state.

In Burma both the élites and the masses were equally threatened and obviously ethnic nationalist rebellion provided for both a response which offered a symbolic solution- the assertion of a group worth, status and rights- and also, potentially, a practical solution- authority positions for the élites and communal stability for the ethnic masses. The Mahar Myanmar attitude which identifies with the state has played a very important role in driving the ethnic nationalities to desperation and to rebellion. It became the character of the state that drove all the ethnic nationalities to rebellion.

The Myanmar dominated central government never seems to consider for the cultural pluralism of the state structure, the limited capacity of the state, the economic exploitation of the periphery together with the defence of autonomy by the ethnic nationalities and the self interest of the ethnic élites. All these combined together gives rise to ethnic struggle in the long history of modern Burma starting from 1948. It is time that the Maha Myanamar intellectuals should give a thought and sit down with the ethnic leaders for the long term solution of the country.

The conflict of present Burma neither is that of the legacy of colonial rule nor is the secession rights entailed in the Union Constitution. But rather the chauvinistic mindset and Myanmar superior ethno-centrism possessed by the ethnic Myanmar thinking that majority Myanmar ethnic groups are superior to the rest of the Non Myanmar and other nationalities was raison d’ être of Burma's internal conflict. The tyranny of the majority Myanmar and the blatant refusal to accept the equal status of the rest of the ethnic nationalities as equal partners of the Union dragged Burma into a conflict zone.[5] One should understand that the colonial rulers had fully recognized the national sovereignty, self-determination, and legitimate independence of the Chin, Kachin, and Shan nations and Karen as a distinct from the majority Myanmar.

From the time the Union of Burma became independent in 1948 until today, regardless of the parliamentary democracy era under Prime Minister U Nu, the Revolutionary Council later known as the Burmese Socialist Program Party (BSPP) which later continue as the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) under Saw Maung, and currently the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) under Than Shwe, and now the new administration by Thein Sein administration are all of the same belonging to the Myanmar ethnic group. Their underlying philosophy behind their grip on power is driven by the same ideology. Their view is to hold up Burmese as a superior one and maintain that the Myanmar should control the Union by exploiting the rest of the other nationalities. Their move is to be interpreted as a force to assimilate all the diverse ethnic groups into Myanmarnization.[6] The late Dr. Choa Tzang eloquently pointed out that:-

“It is important for all the races, especially for the Myanmar/Burman, to fully embrace the idea of equality. Many Myanmar seem to think that they as superior, or as Big Brothers, although there is no evidence should not act collectively and equally.”

So until and unless the Myanmar ethnic groups discard the superior ideology of their nationalism, no stable Union can be established. There can be no peaceful co-existence of those culturally diverse nationalities within one political system. There is no predestined provision or any sort of authorization provided to the Myanmar ethnic groups to exploit against the rest of other nationalities in today’s political arena of the Union of Burma. Hence to establish a stable Union in future, the onus totally is on our fellow Myanmar. They should sincerely mull over whether they would discard their superiority mindset or they would continuously repeat the colossal mistakes that they committed behind the long political deadlocks of the Union of Burma which the entire history seem to witness never unendingly. In this aspect the more sober and educated Myanmar should lead and educates the rest of the populace and if they refuse to do they are encouraging Balkanization.

A year and a half into the conflict in Burma’s northernmost state, the country’s military shows no signs of relenting in its efforts to crush the KIA, the last major ethnic armed group to engage in combat with government forces. Rather than letting peace negotiators bring the fighting to an end as they have elsewhere, the Tatmadaw appears determined to settle matters its own way, through brute force. They believe that the tenuous peace in other parts of Burma has given it a free hand to handle the Kachin conflict as it pleases. The military remains in absolute control, and former dictators—who siphoned state funds and committed countless crimes including heinous human rights violations—continue to enjoy impunity. The handling of the Letpadoung copper mines indicated that they will not let go their bounty without a fight. All it is doing is fanning the flames of ethnic resentment, and making real peace harder to achieve in the long run. Many potential flashpoints remain, as the tragic events in Arakan State since this June have demonstrated.

Contemporary history of Burma has authentically proves that only the Myanmar race that did not recognize the Union of Burma as the first rebellion were the PVO, followed by the Burma Communist Party both the White and the Red flags were Myanmar whereas all the ethnic races are sincere to the Union. So what is the alternative in view of the fact that since the military coup of 1962 no ethnic group is left that did not rebel against the Myanmar dominated government because of its Myanmarnization policy in other words forcing the Non-Myanmar to follow the Myanmar ways. If the scenario is on this pattern then the choice is for the ethnics nationalities should form the Union of Ethnic Nationalities and leave the Myanmar out to sort out by themselves between the dictators and the pro democracy movement.

The point to ponder now is if Thein Sein regime would insist that the ethnic nationalities forget the Panglong Agreement and should be satisfied with some piecemeal handout, under the rubric of 2008 Constitution, it would mean the total capitulation of all the ethnic nationalities, forsaking their national identities and sovereignties accorded to them by their forefathers. And thus, the option could eventually widen to include total independence or secession, if the Thein Sein government would cling stubbornly to its racial, military supremacy stance vis-à-vis the ethnic nationalities. So the question arises that in view of the 2008 Nargis Constitution won’t it be a much more peaceful place on this part of the globe if the ethnic nationalities were to form the Union of Nationalities and leave the Myanmar out? In this scenario Balkanization of Burma seems to have no choice. Burma faces many challenges in the years ahead, but it must not forget that the root of all its problems has been its failure to address the needs and aspirations of its ethnic peoples. Burma has had more than half a century of forced “unity,” and will remain at war with itself for decades to come unless the Tatmadaw is called back to the barracks and the government begins taking its own job much more seriously. Hence the Burmese Generals who believe that 13 will bring misfortune have one thing in common, i.e. total lack of reasoning behind their convictions. One thing is quite positive for 2013 will not win the hearts and minds of the people of Burma especially the ethnic communities with the way they are doing.

End Notes
[1] Unlucky 2013 in The World in 2013, The Economics p 34
[2] See Dr Zarni’s Articles on Ethnicity
[3] Myanmar still worship him as one of the mammoth statues standing in Naypyidaw is U Aung Zeya
[4] L Horowitz; Donald: Ethnics Groups in Conflict Berkeley p 176
[5] Za Ceu Lian, Salai; The Crux of the Ethnic Conflict in Asian Tribune 23-4-05
[6] Ibid

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