If Laiza falls, the Union of Burma is finished?

By Kanbawza Win | January 20, 2013

There cannot be the Union of Burma but only the Union of Myanmar, with the imperial Mahar Myanmar race lording perpetuity over the ethnic nationalities was authentically proven to the world when “The decision to use air power against ethnic militias, a tactic unheard of even under military rule, runs counter to reformist President Thein Sein’s assurances that troops were acting only in self defense,” wrote Martin Petty of Reuters.[1] Very lately there was indiscriminate shelling kills some civilians including some women and children in Laiza.[2] 
Most of the international communities tactically approve this by staying numb in this inhuman atrocities because of Burma’s rich natural and human resources couple with a potential virgin market, dubbed as the last frontier, which they have set their hearts to exploit. It was only yesterday that EU Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashlon announced EU position as it was dominated by the Nazi ancestors just like in the southern hemisphere led by the ancestors of the former prisoners are out and out to exploit the former colony.. The hypocrisy of these Western nations were matched by the ancestors of fascist couple with the ancestors of the dictatorships of the proletariat whose Asian values pale miserably in the universal declaration of human rights, not to mention the ASEAN values that has been encouraging the Burmese Generals all these years with its Constructive Engagement. It was only US, UK and the UN that have the moral courage to protest.

When the modern Union of Burma was born in 1948, the different nationalities of Shan, Chin, and Kachin had willingly joined the Union led by Myanmar leader Bogyoke Aung San (father of Aung San Suu Kyi) with the promise that they will run on federal lines but after his assassination the concordat was broken and the central government spearheaded by the Imperial Myanmar Tatmadaw dominated by the Myanmar embarked on a divide and rule policy in their ethnic cleansing policy. The Karen had experienced the atrocities of the Burmese army in World War II. at that time under the name of BIA (Burma Independence Army) wanted to stay clean and was about to overthrow the government, when the Chin and the Kachin rally behind the Union and resolutely defended the Union of Burma where thousands of their sons made supreme sacrifices and now this very Myanmar Tatmadaw is using modern weaponry coordinating aerial attack and heavy artillery fire indiscriminately using 81mm, 105mm and 120mm mortar shells and occasionally using chemical weapons in killing Caching and injuring several innocent citizens..[3] What an irony that the patriotic Union Burmese army has become and Imperial Myanmar Tamadaw under the guidance of the Myanmar Generals?

No doubt the Kachin had made a mistake when it broke away from the other ethnic nationalities and signed a truce in 1994 leaving the other ethnic nationalities at the mercy of the Junta and now it is vice versa as the other ethnic nationalities have signed ceasefires and the Imperial Myanmar Tatmadaw has turned their wrath on the Kachin. Taking a leaf out of the Fascist Japanese, the Imperial Myanmar Tatmadaw has chosen to mount a major military offensive on Christmas season.[4] The weakness of the unity of the ethnic nationalities, now under UNFC (United Nationalities Federal Council) this divide and rule policy worked admirably for the Myanmar dominated government. It was perfectly timed because on December 14, just the day after the government offered a new round of peace talks it launched a major offensive. Since then, in an all out effort to capture the KIO administration center of Laiza has begun after 1,360 skirmishes with the Kachin Independence Army.[5].

The government’s ceasefire announcement, came only hours after Parliament approved a resolution calling for an end to a year and a half of fighting as the Imperial Myanmar Tatmadaw actions have come under increased international scrutiny.[6] But it is unclear whether the military will comply with the order because the Burmese Army is a state within a state as the 2008 Nargis Constitution has stipulated that it have its own tribunal and will listen to it only, and not to the President who had ordered several ceasefires. Rev. Samson Hkalam, the General Secretary of the Kachin Baptist Convention, said “According to our experience, the declarations by the government are one thing, What the army does is another.”[7] This was proven to be true when the fighting stop in Lajayang area only but intensifies in Hka Pot and Hka Ya Bhum, both rebel-held hilltop posts located to the north and west of Laiza, respectively.[8] However, the announcement can be influenced by a UN donor Conference in Naypyidaw which could result in a multimillion dollars aid package for Burma.[9] The disturbing image of civilian causalities and fresh atrocities has compel the rights groups to call on an international investigation into possible commission of war crimes against humanity and other serious human rights abuses in Burma. The quasi military government of Thein Sein's can lose all its international legitimacy just as quickly as it has regained it in the last two years.

If the Burmese government continues the fight to capture Laiza, it will be a pyrrhic victory, as there is every possibility that the Kachin who are experts in guerilla warfare since 2nd World War will continue to fight relentlessly and can easily became an urban warfare. The ongoing offensive may cripple the KIA militarily, but it will likely not defeat the Kachin resistance. The outcome will be intense ethnic hatred on the Myanmar by the Non Myanmar, making it even more difficult to establish a lasting peace. Many Kachin now feel that there is no place for them in Burma.[10]

According to the UNFC there will be no peace talk as long as the War in Kachin continues but more effective is the declaration of the WA communiqué which clearly says that there is every possibility that the other ethnic nationalities will have no choice but to follow the Kachin lead and take up arms again, maybe another 600 years of civil war as Burma has fought only 60 years. With the fall of Laiza it will prove that the Imperial Myanmar Tatmadaw is not the people’s army to defend the country from outside enemies but an occupational army implementing the Myanmar imperialism over the Non Myanmar ethnic nationalities.

1. Neighboring Countries Reactions

(a) China is the most responsible country in this Kachin crisis. It has sustain the Burmese Juntas all these years not only militarily but also diplomatically not only for its strategic values but also to exploit its human and material resources. Now that Burma has opened up and competition from the West has come in, it is forced to find a new strategy to control Naypyidaw. Clearly in the implementation of Myanmar imperialism over the non Myanmar it was using two way strategy somewhat a two edged sword which in Burmese we say “Ye Mote Ta Phet Mee Sa Ta Phet” literally translated meaning a can of water in one hand and a fire in another to keep the crisis going as only then she can control the Burmese generals.

When the KIO signed a cease-fire agreement with the Junta it did not result in disarmament, but give the KIO enough room to consolidate its regional hold and develop a working bureaucracy as well as relative economic autonomy. This allowed the KIO to establish a toll system on the roads linking Burma to China, providing the Kachin with a secure source of income and making them the de facto intermediaries of cross-border trade. The fundamental fact of Kachin state is that the Burmese government has very little real control over it. Historically, geographically, culturally and politically, the state is different, and that difference makes it restive and resistant to Myanmar's influence.[11]

China has taken advantage of that difference, positioning itself as moderator and in effect translator between the ethnic opposition and the Burmese administrations.

Since Burma's isolation from the West, China has been Burma’s only major ally, investor and trading partner. China's approach to Burma is grounded in its need for energy and alternate international trade routes to the South China Sea. As Burma's value grows China eyes warily any domestic political shift that could affect those interests. This entails a two-fold tactic: build strong relations with the central government while maintaining a balance of power between the government and ethnic opposition groups. That is why it allow the Burma Air force planes to use the Chinese airspace to attack the Kachin in view of the fact that this year that its oil and natural gas pipelines begin coastal port of Kyaukphyu run through both Shan- and Kachin-dominated territories on their way to Kunming in Yunnan province, leaving them open to sabotage from a variety of potential antagonists. On the other hand it has protested the falling of the shells into China’s territory and sent reinforcement to paint the picture that China is neutral in Burma’s internal affairs.[12]

For now, Burma is poised for greater openness boosting Burma's new democratic image, and outwardly Beijing encourages peace negotiations. But genuine reconciliation between Burma's ethnic opposition groups and the central government is not necessarily in China's immediate interest because China will likely suffer from Burma’s attempts to improve its reputation on the international stage, as Thein Sein's move to halt the Chinese-financed Myitsone dam projects. The relationship between China and Burma, which might look cozy from the outside, is not without tension. Because 'China is a partner of last resort the Burmese junta has to turn to China. They don't like it, but it helps them stay in power.[13]

Therefore, it can be predicted that China will continue to openly support political stability in Burma, while simultaneously working to maintain a balance of power within the country. This way China reaffirms its importance for Burma’s efforts to maintain stability without relinquishing its role as arbiter between Myanmar's center and the Non Myanmar periphery. As the only remaining major ethnic opposition group to have refused a peace agreement with the government and China's closest cultural and historical link to the region, the Kachin crisis may be in the doldrums for sometimes

(b) ASEAN’s main aim of Constructive Engagement was two fold, first to exploit Burma’s natural and human resources as the architect of ASEAN leaders, especially those from Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand knew the potential of Burmese people and only by shoring up the dictators can they keep the people of Burma suppress and able to exploit the country and its people. In this aspect ASEAN is very successful as most of the workers in these three countries (both skilled and unskilled workers) are from Burma which they are able to exploit to their heart’s desire. The second is to draw Burma from the Chinese orbit which they found it increasingly difficult and this led the Burmese government to operate freely in ASEAN without any restrictions for decades.[14] It seems that ASEAN leaders knows more about the West and Northeast Asia rather than Burma, misperceptions and miscalculations on the various Burmese Juntas led the Burmese people to hate vehemently to these core ASEAN countries. When Thein Sein suspended the Myitsone Dam ASEAN heartedly applauded because most of the ASEAN members except Laos and Cambodia have been engage in a myriad of conflict with China,[15]as even now they are trying to garland support from Burma in the Spratly Island crisis vis a vis China. Now with Burma in the ASEAN Chair in 2014 it will have some aspect to claim that their globally hated Constructive Engagement is bearing fruits in fulfilling the community building process and the quasi military government will get the legitimacy which they crave so much.

But ASEAN has served Burma’s primary goal of gaining legitimacy from the international community and to ensure that it would lead to the lifting of sanctions by the West, however with the determined attack on Kachin by the Tatmadaw ASEAN is at a loss of what to do and continue remain numb.

(3) India. Burma’s relation with India is entirely different from China basically because India is a working democracy. The different systems of political economy in China and India might also pull the two countries in divergent directions. Now that Burma is inching towards democracy, the Indian way of doing things may become more attractive than the Chinese provided the Burmese pro democracy groups prevail over the hardliners Burmese Generals.

Instead of India and China helping their fellow Asian countries to identify common norms and values -- which undergird other regional formations such as the European Union – and America the two countries are on different strategic ways.[16] This became the core of the Asian values in the perspective of the Foreign Policy.

After 1988, India with missionary zeal cut off all contact with the Burmese junta and gave the Nehru Award to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, soon reverse its policy when India realized that it had lost Burma to China. So, this shift from a moral, value-based foreign policy to realpolitik is typically the Indian mentality. After a radical change in 1992 India started supplying weaponry and equipment including 105 mm guns, T-55 tanks, light helicopters, transport planes, artillery ammunition and some naval craft. Swedish Carl Gustaf M-3 anti-tank rifles and related ammunition originally exported to India have ended up in the hands of the Burmese Army using them in its operations against the KIA followed by a media coverage brought India in the bad light of the people of Burma and the world.[17] One could not comprehend of why the biggest democratic country in the world is on the wrong side Burmese ethnic community and the NLD that represent the 55 million people Burma. Perhaps realpolitik and greed which the Burmese label as Indian mentality compel India to be on the side of the Imperial Myanmar Tatmadaw who is using 260 out of 340 Army battalions in its ethnic cleansing policy.

The competition between India and China for influence in Burma reflects a larger jockeying for power between the two Asian giants. Hence in Asia the two blocs could well emerge: a China-led coalition that values centralized domestic control and whose favorite institution is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and countries like Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, North Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan etc versus a constellation of democracies loosely tied together by a web of strategic partnerships led by India and Japan and core ASEAN countries, Taiwan and the rest.

Unlike India, China has real economic and security interests in Burma but is sensitive to international criticisms of its positions. Burma might evolve from a point of contention to an opportunity for even greater cooperation. A stable Burma that is part of the international community could benefit both China and India. China has demonstrated its ability in the North Korea crisis to serve as a catalyst for compromise in a regional negotiating framework.

Because of historical accidents that occurred at the end of the colonial period, many ethnic nationalities and their homelands are divided into different countries of Burma and India such as Chin, Kachin and Naga. Globalization effects currently represented by India’s “Look East Policy” and the Burmese military response to it. Ethnic nationalities in Burma and Northeast India have been fighting against their respective governments. These problems cannot be solved through military means alone, and a political solution is needed and the basic aspect is for the government to recognize the pre-colonial independent status of the Chin (Mizo in India), the Kachin and the Naga their autonomy and practice “self-rule”.[18] Not colonial Myanmar over the Non-Myanmar people as it is doing now with the sustain attack on the KIO the Kachin people nearer to India have seek asylum there.

2. The West and the Rest

It seems that the Brussels based organizations led by ICG are either cockeye to the economic potentials or sympathetic to the military as even now President Thein Sein who eulogizes the Imperial Myanmar Tatmadaw in their military offensive against the Kachin using Air power is being nominated for the prestigious prize “In Pursuit of Peace”. The EU follow suit and could not give much thought about it, because they themselves are so engross in saving itself from disintegrating. It was influence by Germany who stood tall, having the strongest economy. It was under their directions that the Euro Burma office has to implement their policies and every body knows it out come. Only the UK a former colonial power sense sees the writings on the wall of what the quasi military government is up to and came out strongly against it. The rest of the EU members, like the French (because of TOTAL) Scandinavian, Nordic, Benelux, Eastern Europe, Italy, Spain has to kowtow to the mighty German’s decision.

The Obama administration was tricked when the Burmese government skillfully plays the China Card. The US has known that Burma has only one patron, China in the world. In this context it must be construed that that it is not only for influence and loyalty but economic competition where US is on the defensive. But when Thein Sein decided to stop the Myitsone Dam, the US jumped into the fray. While on the other hand the end of the Afghanistan conflict with Osama bin Laden’s death, along with those of many of his lieutenants, also means that the campaign against terrorists is no longer a super-priority. The 2nd Obama administration has a window of opportunity not seen since the end of the Cold War to refocus its strategy in South and South East Asia. America needs a long-term strategy has rarely been implemented towards this crucial region and there is no better time for the U.S. to focus on a holistic Asia strategy than 2013.

The picture painted by ASEAN including Burma that China is a threat to the world order drives home to the American policy makers to woo Burma. The US is stepping up its strategic engagement in the Asia Pacific and intended to target China's "string of pearls" strategy, which could help China gain a strong maritime presence in the Indian Ocean, an area covering crucial sea lines of communication en route to the mainland.[19] So US is refocusing on "swing players", like Burma which is balancing the interests of the US and China without taking the side of either in order to maximize their own national interests and keep the military in power. The US fears that if it fails to counter the rise of China, it may have to be withdrawn from the region. So, it appears intent on developing ways to weaken China's power projection capabilities. While China has conducted active diplomacy designed to strengthen the friendly relations with ASEAN particularly Burma with the use of soft power it has struggle to erase the image of a threat because of the ideological idea of Communism. Burma has engaged China based on the principles of peaceful coexistence and Pauk Phaw friendship and enjoyed considerable space in its conduct of foreign affairs and has constantly repositioned in its relations with China to its best advantage. [20]

3. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Myanmar

Burma, like any other country has good and bad leaders, the good Myanmar like Bogyoke Aung San and his cabinet are all gone, while the bad Myanmar led by U Nu, Ba Swe, Ne Win although gone, their ancestors, particularly the Generals are still using the armed forces as their pocket army and are still deeply entrenched in their imperialist feudal nature of their thinking.[21] All these 60 years the good Myanmar like Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, U Win Tin and the 88 generation are still attempting to build the Genuine Union of Burma but are of little success.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has said that she would not step in to help end the conflict between the Imperial Myanmar Tatmadaw and the ethnic Kachin freedom fighters without Government approval.[22] This hand off attitude by a leading good Myanmar is putting in a bad light and the international community should start thinking the liberation of the ethnic communities from the clutches of the Imperial Myanmar Tatmadaw who are bent upon weakening the Kachin by military action to force them to cease fire and participate in the peace process without a political dialogue. The 23 Kachin Organizations has solicited the help of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to settle the dispute remain unanswered.[23] And if the good Myanmar stays silent, it will be like the Muslims of the world. The numerous good Muslims did not do anything and so the bad Muslims take over and tarnish their image. Not every Muslim is a terrorist but every terrorist is a Muslim. So if this hypothesis is true not every Myanmar commit human right violation but every human right violation in Burma is committed by the Myanmar soldiers.

Now it has become clear, that these Burmese generals are not only against the very grain of Democracy and the Union of Burma itself, but also still continue practicing “Lying the very concept of Truth” as the lame excuse of self defense against the Kachin as using massive air power and chemical weapons? This typical colonial war is bound to unleash a new vicious cycle of civil war.[24] Viewed from a historical perspective, the government’s escalation of its ethnic war against the Kachin reveals that the celebrated reformist president and his comrades-in-arm are the newest in a long line of Myanmar imperialists who pursue a pathological militarism towards weaker, non-Myanmar ethnic communities. Thus Dr Zarni wrote:-

“The ruling elites of all stripes and colours since independence have always looked for easy scapegoats to blame for their own failures in pursuing lasting peace and building a healthy web of ethnic relations among pockets of multiethnic peoples. Among the official scapegoats were the ‘power-mad’ Communists, secessionist minorities, Maoists in China, rightists in Thailand, Islamists in Bangladesh, Yankee imperialists and old colonialists in London.”

Aung San in a speech he delivered to the executive committee of the Anti-fascist People’s Freedom League, which he headed in May 1946 said “I am opposed to British imperialism, Japanese imperialism, and Myanmar imperialism,” The current Burmese leaders are very much afraid to quote it and if his daughter did not apply it and remain silent, there may be no choice but the ethnic nationalities of Burma should form the Union of Ethnic Nationalities and leave the Myanmar out. Let the good, the bad and the ugly Myanmar who stays on the side lines fought it out among themselves.

The architect of modern Burma Aung San believed that the only workable formula to build a healthy multi-ethnic country was to enshrine the principle of ethnic equality among different ethnic communities and improve the conditions among the ethnic nationalities in peripheral but strategic borderlands populated by the Kachin, the Shan, the Karenni, the Chin, Rakhine, Mon and so on. Therefore, the escalated wars against the Kachin represent a fully imperialist campaign. Last week, a Karen National Union delegation led Gen Mutu Say Poe, traveled to Naypyidaw and said that peace talks can begin only when the guns stop smoking.[25] The US Ambassador Derek Mitchell after visiting Kachin State in early Dec. remarked.

“I think both sides have to recognize that there is no military solution to this question, and that an eye for an eye will leave everyone blind, I don’t see a viable political strategy here if escalation of military hostilities leads to further alienation of the Kachin people.”[26]

In conclusion, may I humbly call on the international community that the bad Myanmar mentality of imperialism existing in the existing and retired generals it is far better to help the ethnic nationalities in their war of liberation against the Imperial Myanmar Tatmadaw and start dealing with the ethnic nationalities not only to save them from the carnage and extinction but also to create a much better world in that part of the globe where free trade and justice reigns.

End Notes

[1] C. S. Kuppuswamy; C.S The War with Kachin, Analysis Asian Review 11-1-2013
[2] Myat::Laphai Zen. Burma Army Strikes Hits Laiza, three civilians killed Irrawaddy 14-1-2013
[3] Letter by Kachin Alliance of United States of America to President Obama 9-1-2013 contact@kachinalliance.org
[4] 15th Imperial Japanese army bombed Rangoon on Christmas day 1942
[5] Mizzima News – 14 December 2012
[6] Burma Announces Unilateral cease-fire, New York Times18-1-2013
[7] Ibid Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/19/world/asia/kachin-refugees-reported-to-flee-myanmar-to-china.html?
[8] Win; Aye Aye, Kachin Ethnic Says fighting continues Irrawaddy 19-1-2013
[9] Burma’s Kachin advance may be its own undoing Chinland Guardian 19-1-2013
[10] Lintner;Bertil, A wider war looms in Myanmar Asia Times 12-1-2013
[11] Stratford Analysis; The Kachin's Role in Myanmar-Chinese Relations. (2012)., 36.
[12] See Sino Burma Treaty and the famous Bandung Conference of the five precepts of peaceful coexistence
[13] Feefer;John, India-China Eying Burma FIFA
[14] Chachavalpongpan;Pavin, The vexing strategic tug of war over Naypyidaw; ASEAN view of the Sino Burmese Ties. Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs.
[15] See Bertil Lintner writings 2011
[16] Feefer;John, India-China Eying Burma FIFA
[17] Sen;Gautam, Cooperation between India and Burma Armed forces- EuroAsia Review 18-1-2013
[18] Sakhong; Lian H.The future of Indo=Burma Relations, a view from divided people
[19] Sang –ho;Song US Step up Asia Pacific Pivot Korea Herald, 18-1-2013
[20] See, Maung Aung Myo 2011 Chapter V
[21] Maung Zarni, How Feudal imperialism continues to destroy the Union of Burma in DVB 15-1-2013
[22] Mizzima News 7-1- 2013
[23] Missima News 10-1-2013
[24] Maung Zarni, How Feudal imperialism continues to destroy the Union of Burma in DVB 15-1-2013
[25] ‘When the Guns Stop, the Talks Can Begin’ an Interview by Irrawaddy 12-1-2013
[26] C. S. Kuppuswamy; C.S The War with Kachin, Analysis Asian Review 11-1-2013

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