Kokang’s Peasant Crises is for the International Community to review their Perspective

By Kanbawza Win | February 28, 2015 | Taunggyi Time

The Introduction to Tatmadaw Dynasty

The word "peasant" is derived from the 15th century French word païsant, meaning one from the pays, or countryside; ultimately from the Latin word pagus. The peasant sector occupies around 70 percent of Burma’s population and undoubtedly the most productive workforce in the country. Obviously, the country recognizes the powerful role of farmers in driving the country’s economic output and at one point Burma was the rice bowl of Asia but the Tatmadaw (military) has reduced it to the rice hole of Asia even though it is climbing back after 2011. But it is still the farming sector which usually suffers whenever a power struggle happens in the country because resistance fighters usually flew to the jungles of Burma to avoid prosecution and seek protection from the cruel Tatmadaw.

The Myanmar ethnic race, unlike the non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities are nationalistic, xenophobic, clever and crafty and did not like to go along with the international calendar whom they dubbed the international Calendar as a Christ’s Calendar (ခရစ္သကၠရာဇ္) and naturally did not want to mark the 1st of January as a holiday, but at the same time they did not want to be the odd man out in the international community, and hence the founders of modern Burma marked it as a Peasant’s Day. But after General Ne Win launched a coup d'état on March 2nd 1962 he shifted the peasant’s day from 1stJan to 2nd March to mark the anniversary of his coup against a democratically elected government. Successive military backed administrations did not change it back in order to continue its Myanmarnization (မဟာျမန္မာ) but in actual practice is the continuation of the 4th Myanmar kingdom better known as the Tatmadaw Dynasty as can be seen in the 3 mammoth statues of the founders of the three Myanmar kingdoms in Naypyidaw. Who can say that in another score years the statue of Ne Win or Than Shwe may be added to the existing ones?

Obviously, there is a power struggle going on between the old and the new Generals, Ne Win compatriots have either died or in dotage stage and the next generation lead by Than Shwe are retired or about to be retired. The third generation their grandsons are now in power e.g. General Min Aung Hlaing is the son of the commander of Western Command and Home Minister, who is involved in ethnic cleansing of the Karen and other ethnic nationalities. At that time he was just a lieutenant and, now the son is the head of the intelligence and commander in Chief.[1]These third generations of generals want to exploit the country and people did not want to give up power and hence are doing everything to prevent it. They knew that genuine reforms to democracy and federalism will be just digging their own grave and is out and out to prevent any way. Reforms are only for the foreign companies to invest. Hence the change is more hype than reason; there is no valued added change

The ex-military officers and their active-duty brethren retain complete monopoly control over all aspects of reforms. In the new era of "democratic transition", these ex-brass in longyi or in uniforms, continue to hold all levers of state power at all levels of administration, including "people's bicameral parliament", judiciary, foreign affairs and finance, besides their legitimate domain, namely state security apparatuses. These existing young generals are saying to the old one “your turn is over and it is now our turn,” hence in the existing Tamadaw Dynasty the third generation of leaders are out and out to prevent real democracy and federalism.

Asian Values vs International Values

As Burma marked its 67th Peasant’s Day, it is high time for the international community especially the West led by EU and US, not to be swayed by the Asian values that economic progress comes first to political settlement as outlined Singapore’s Lee Kwan Yew 李光耀 and Tun Dr Mahathir Bin Mohamad of Malaysia in their infamous version Constructive Engagement Policy in helping Burma to maintain the tyrannical military dictatorship under the pretext of helping in its transition from Dictatorship to Democracy. ASEAN was able to invent a ploy to exploit Burma’s natural and human resources which they are still implementing up to this day and lamentably this was followed by the Western Companies.

The current Thein Sein administration has often declared that once these ethnic nationalities war lords became rich they would not rebel and have solicited the help of the West to do so and many a western country has fallen into these false fallacy. The corrupt leaders from Karen (KNU) and Shan (RCSS) have fallen into their trap and signed while the majority of their own ethnic nationalities still remain poor and marginalized.[2] The international community must realize that the ethnic nationalities of Burma, who are the majority of the people of Burma wants a genuine federalism. The national census was a trick used by the successive Myanmar to appear that the Myanmar are the majority and the nationalities are the minority and the official figure was never released. The real figure is just the opposite.[3] Only that the Myanmar ethnic race controls the army and the administrative apparatus of Burma. Their hidden agenda of One country (Burma), One religion (Buddhism) and One race (Myanmar) is not working but had led to gross human rights violations, ethnic cleansing, continue resistance by the ethnic nationalities up to this day since the creation of modern Burma in 1948 to be exact more than 67 years.

A federal structure of political settlement must be found and this is where the international community should help. It is very natural that one cannot put the cart before the horse, how can there be a ceasefire when there is no political settlement? If the two antagonist are fighting they must first agree to talk and reached a consensus or otherwise they will continue fighting. So there must be a talk before cease fire and not the other way round. There has been so many ceasefires since 1988 but not a word of political settlement was ink as the following shows

- 1989 NDAA (Kokang) UWSA (WA), NDAA (Kokang) SSA (Shan) NDA. (Kachin)
- 1991 KDA 9Kachin) PNO (Pa O), PSLA (Palaung)
- 1992 KNG (Karenni)
- 1994 KIO (Kachin) SSNPLO (Shan)
- 1995 NMSP (Mon) DKBA (Karen) MRDA (Kokang), SSNA (Shan)
- 1997 KPF (Karen) CPB-A (Rakhine, MRDA (Kokang), SSNA (Shan)
- 2000 KNPP (Karenni)
- 2007 NDA (Kachin) KNLA (Karen)
- 2011 NDAA 7/9 (Kokang) 3/11 DKBA (Karen)-5 (Karen) 5/11: KHB DKBA (Karen) 19/11
CNF (Chin),KNU (Karen), RCSS (Shan) 11/12 DKBA 5 (Karen), RCSS (Shan)
11/12 DKABA 5 (Karen) 26/2 UWSA (WA) 17/12 NDAA (Kokang)
- 2012 16/1 RCSS (Shan)1/2;NMSP (Mon) 25/2: NMSP (Mon),KNPP (Karenni) 5/4
ALP (Rakhine) 7/4 KPC (Karen0 9/4, NSCN-K (Naga) 7/5 CNF (Chin) 19/5
RCSS (Shan). 9/12 CNF (Chin)
- 2013 23/3 PNLO (Pa O) 10/5 KIO (Kachin),12/7 UWSA (WA). 5/8 ABSDF 10/8 ABSDF
- 2014 NDAA 2015 KNU (Karen) RCSS (Shan)[4]

Hence it is high time for the international community to reconsider their approach to Burma, They should refrain their companies from investing into Burma which will tantamount to indirectly encouraging instability, ethnic cleansing, human rights violations and all sorts of vices which the regime could think of.

Western Investment is Helping Military Dictatorships

Foreign investment surge in Burma, too few companies publicly discuss their human rights policies and due diligence efforts, according to the findings of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre on 17th Feb 2015. Over 800 international and local business leaders, policymakers, financiers and economists who attended the Burmese Global Investment Forum at the Burma International Convention Centre 2 in Naypyidaw on September 16, 2014. Only a handful of foreign companies investing in Burma were able to point to substantive actions when invited to publicly respond to questions on their human rights commitments in Burma, the UK and US-based centre reports after reaching out to over 100 companies through its “Burma Foreign Investment Tracking Project.” The centre said only 57 out of 108 companies approached responded, and only 24 of them referred to human rights policies with respect to their investments or activities in country. Even fewer described undertaking due diligence efforts prior to investing. These findings echo concerns raised by local communities and human rights organizations that human rights issues are not being adequately addressed as foreign companies invest in resource-rich Burma.

Some companies showed through their responses that they are leading in the area of human rights due diligence in Burma, and have provided useful guidance for other companies, according to the centre. Ms. Irene Petropolis, a researcher for the project, noted that too many foreign companies investing in the country are not doing enough to address the risk of causing or contributing to human rights. “The inability of most companies contacted to disclose their human rights commitments is worrying. Foreign companies are entering a country in transition where their responsibilities towards people and communities are extensive, and where enhanced human rights due diligence and transparency are especially important in taking a leadership role and influencing local partners,”[5] she said.

It has been said that the centre wrote to foreign companies investing or operating in Myanmar in the extractive, manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, finance, construction, and information and communications technology sectors. The response rate of companies with headquarters in Europe the Americas is over 65 percent, while that of companies headquartered in Asia and the Pacific is 35 percent.[6] Among the Asian companies that responded is Wanbao Mining, which has been facing a series of human rights allegations in relation to its Letpadaung copper mine used the survey as a platform for explaining its community efforts, including land compensation and impact assessments. The Western government should see to it that their companies operating and investing in Burma must take practical steps to ensure that they are not involved in human rights abuses, and must use their influence to promote respect for rights among local partners and suppliers. Then and only then will it tantamount to helping Burma in its transition to genuine democracy.

Kokang Crisis and the Current Fighting

Martial law has been declared in Kokang area and the Tatmadaw has issued an order to shoot on sight resulting in 130 unarmed civilians including women and children killed and blamed the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) for instigating the latest round of fighting.[7]

The True story is that Ethnic Kokangs (果敢) are Han Chinese. History has it that in the Chinese palace coup and the Han tribe lost and ran away to Burma and seek asylum under the Burmese king who allowed them to stay in the Sino Burma border area. After modern Burma come into being with the concordat at the 1947 Panglong Conference, the Burma Communist Party (BCP) rebelled and made Pegu Yomah their central base but when it was overthrown, the BCP ran away to the Sino Burma border area and recruited the ethnic nationalities including the Kokang WA.[8] However, in 1898 the BCP broke up and Ethnic Kokangs led by Peng Jiasheng, 彭家声 rebelled and had signed a bilateral ceasefire with the Junta under Khin Nyunt and was officially recognized as MNDAA (the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Arm). The MNDAA and fellow rebel groups such as the United WA State Army were granted a degree of autonomy to run affairs in their respective regions.[9] So the central government decided to teach them all a lesson by focusing its ire on the Kokang's MNDAA. The group is much smaller and doesn't have the firepower of rebel armies like the 30,000-strong UWSA. And so, in August 2009, the current army chief, Min Aung Hlaing led an assault that ousted Peng and reneged on its two-decade-old ceasefire agreement, replacing him with its own proxy, Bai Suoqian, to warn the KIA and WA of what will happen to them if they do not become Boarder Guards and Thein Sein predicted that it will finished off KIA in 3 months.[10] For the past five years Peng has sought dialogue with

Myanmar top brass in a bid to return to power, but they weren't interested in listening to what he had to say. He certainly has their attention now, Peng has made good on his promise to return to retake the territory from government troops. This is a case of chickens coming home to roost.

Kokang case is a classic example when a popular leader was overthrown by force of arms and substitute with a yes men as the Tatmadaw has been doing all over the country. The USDA (the ancestors of Depaeyin incident) is the ruling party together with 25% of the men in uniform in the parliament.

Hence how can there be peace in order to implement trade and business. After more than half a century of Tatmadaw rule in Burma under different pretext, it is paradoxical that the West still believes Tatmadaw as the most liable institution to lead Burma. I am not saying that the West must be involved in overthrowing the quasi-military government. What I am pointing out is that the West should take a leaf out of China to be involved in the peace negotiations between the advisories either with the democratic movement or ethnic nationalities. Intense fighting in Kachin State, Kokang area has led hundreds of thousands of refugees running into China and she realise that unfair treatment of the local by the Tatmadaw is having an adverse effect on China.

Although China has in the past supported the military junta [11] this time it has warned Burma to end the situation, saying Burma should "properly handle domestic problems and maintain stability in the China-Myanmar border region"[12] and urging Burma to protect "Chinese citizens in Myanmar" Chinese officials were said to be "furious" and "extremely upset" over not being forewarned about the offensive on the border.[13] Chinese and other analysts expressed concern that this conflict could lead to a civil war in Burma. China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei says urged the parties concerned to exercise restraint and cool down the situation and prevent it from undermining the security order of the border area and hoped Burma will take all necessary steps to safeguard the security of Chinese organizations and personnel in the county and continue to give necessary assistance and proper refuge to the Myanmar citizens who fled to China due to the fighting.[14] The United Nations and Amnesty International have warned that Burma is backsliding on its commitment to human rights. A UN statement, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said on Wednesday that Burma “seems headed in the wrong direction and needs urgently to get back on track”[15] Hence the rhetoric of the West helping Burma toward democracy seems hallow.

Lessons for the West

In a democratic free country where laisse faire is prevalent most of the companies have only one motive, i.e. profit at any cost, even though their high sounding rhetoric is 3 Ps (Planet for the sustaining of environment, People for the benefit of the local people, and lastly profit), there is little or no government’s control as describe above. However, every government wants to have peaceful environment and the rule of law to implement trade with any partner, and since Burma is considered to be the last frontier in opening up for trade and business with much human and natural resources, the people of the Burma as well as the civilized international community desired the companies of adhere to the basic ethics of the homosapiens.

Since the Burmese military has taken power in 1962 there is simply no peace even though that are hundreds of ceasefires but no record of political breakthrough has ever been is recorded. This is because is Tatmadaw’s e anathema to both democracy and federalism, as has been clearly demonstrated in their 2008 Nargis Constitution. It is for the Tatmadaw, of the Tatmadaw and by the Tatmadaw, and nothing to do with the people or the country.

The men in green uniforms are simply power maniacs, what more proof is wanted by looking at their actions towards the people of Burma. A man in the street can understand how dictators will shoot into the crowd of peaceful demonstrators in 1988 killing some 20,000 people in six major cities of Burma or in 2007 Saffron Revolution killing thousands of revered monks because it challenge their authorities. But preventing the international aid for a week during the cyclone Nargis in 2008 that is so crucial for the survivors indirectly killing more than half a million survivors because of the Generals paranoid of foreign invasion under the pretext of relief supplies is beyond human’s apprehension.

How do the civilized international community deal with such kind of regimes? Is it confined to Trade and Business only? It is high time to rethink their morality, norms and international values. In Kokang after the declaration of martial law, the people who dared to return were shot on sights and propagate in such a way as if that it was a foreign instigated invasion to get the sympathy of the people with its usual lies and craftiness.[16] In the local administration popular leaders are being replaced with proxy like in Kokang how can there be peace in order to do normal trade and business?

Burma has admitted there are 135 non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities and that only federalism type of government can work and yet the Tatmadaw is against the very grain of the federal type of government because the sole reason is that they did not want to share power and construed themselves as “ the monarch of all I survey,” the right to rule. Moreover they are afraid of a popular figure born from a pure Myanmar parent founder of the modern Union of Burma, born in Burma of a Burmese citizen, well-educated and speak eloquent Burmese and foreign languages, popular, dedicated Nobel Peace Laureate to lead the country and have tried their level best with all sorts of lies and unfair rules to prevent her from leading the country.

Yet the international community is considering of doing business with this regime? Even though business always overrules the conscience, it is high time for the West to really think their stance that in their rhetoric of helping Burma to change to democracy is not going an inch and is going backwards.

The only option left is to team up with China and the UN together with the blessings of the ethnic nationalities particularly the UNFC is to be an observer in the coming peace negotiations and ceasefire parleys or otherwise there will be several Kokang episodes. In the 21st century Orwellian type of cease fire has become out of date. The international community participation in negotiations will not tantamount to interfering in Burma’s internal affairs, but, instead it will solve a near century old problem of democracy and federalism for Burma cannot solve its problem alone for the last 70 years or so. No doubt the General will resist because want to continue its old technique of “Divide and Rule” policy over the ethnic nationalities and bully pro-democracy movement to continue to sustain its power. But pressure must be used.

Last, but not the least is that the West must help Burma to have one and only union federal army in order to prevent itself from the encroaches of foreign invasion and that the standing two armies, the narco army of UWSA and the Myanmar Mudane (rk'drf;) Rapist Tatmadaw must go, to have a genuine peace and federalism in order to implement trade, business and genuine development. Then and only then, the West rhetoric of helping the country from dictatorship to democracy will be a little meaningful and at least the regime will have a human face for the West to implement their trade and business and of course that part of the world will be a little more happier place to live.


[1] Speech of Dr. Maung Zarni in Copenhagen Conference on 10-2-2015
[2] It has been ear marked that KNU leader Mu Tu Say Po will become the Vice President of Burma after the elections.
[3] The Myanmar has only 28% of the entire population while the rest are non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities
[4] Speech of Prof.Joakim Kreutz in Stockholm Conference, “What happened to the peace and democratization process in Burma”, on 10-2-2015
[5] Report of Burmese Global Investment Forum
[6] Ibid
[7] Civilians Massacre in Myanmar, the Nation 27-2-2015 http://nation.com.pk/international/27-Feb-2015/civilians-massacred-in-myanmar
[8] Kuppuswamy C. S Myanmar; the War with Kokang-Analysis Eurasia Review 23
[9] Chicken home to roost in Myanmar Nation Newspaper Editorial 20-2-2015
[10] Thousands flee Myanmar conflict as state of emergency imposed in Kokang. S C M P 23-2-2015
[11] "Fresh violence near China-Myanmar border". The Times of India. Retrieved 29 August 2009
[12] "Refugees Flee to China as Fighting Breaks Out in Myanmar". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 August 2009
[13] Islam, Siddique (29 August 2009). U.N. Voices Concern As Fresh Fighting Breaks Out In Northeastern Burma
[14] China stresses ‘non-interference’ in Burma Mizzima News 26-2-2015
[15] DVB News 26-2-2015 Can also refer to their annual report
[16] http://nation.com.pk/international/27-Feb-2015/civilians-massacred-in-myanmar

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