War or Peace?
covering burma and southeast asia
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War or Peace?


By AUNG ZAW NOVEMBER, 2010 - VOL.18, NO.11


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Nai Kao Rot, the former deputy army chief of the NMSP, told The Irrawaddy: “High-ranking officers in the Thai army came and asked me last month whether we will fight the Burmese regime because they have to secure the border.”

China may have even more reason to be concerned after a surprise Burmese military offensive against the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) in the Kokang region in August 2009 shattered a 20-year cease-fire and sent an estimated 37,000 refugees into China’s Yunnan Province.

“For a risk-averse Beijing, it all makes for a volatile mix in an election year. At a time when China is pushing border stability in Myanmar [Burma], elections lacking participation from major border ethnic groups—the Wa, Kachin and others—may set the stage for potential conflict,” said Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, the International Crisis Group’s (ICG) North East Asia Project Director in Beijing in a recent article.

When Snr-Gen Than Shwe traveled to Beijing on a five-day state visit in September, he sought to reassure Chinese leaders that the Nov. 7 election would not produce any negative fallout along the 2,192-kilometer Sino-Burmese border. In return, Chinese President Hu Jintao praised peace and stability in Burma’s ethnic areas along the border.

Behind the scenes, however, Beijing was reportedly not convinced. The Burmese regime has proved time and time again that it is not capable of finding a peaceful political solution to the conflicts with ethnic groups. And while Than Shwe was in China, the Burmese military mobilized hundreds of soldiers into areas near the Sino-Burmese border controlled by armed ethnic groups, including the UWSA, KIO, MDAA and the Shan State Army.

Chinese officials in Beijing said that when the Chinese leaders raised the border stability issue with Than Shwe, who in the 1980s was the regional commander in the northern region, he was taken aback and became agitated. Burmese reports of Than Shwe’s visit, however, were slanted in the regime’s state-controlled press, which said that China promised not to support any armed ethnic groups that carried out anti-Burmese government operations along the border and damaged bilateral relations. Afterward, Chinese officials told Wa and Kachin leaders that these reports were not true.

The Burmese don’t trust the Chinese when it comes to ethnic issues. Beijing previously backed the Communist Party of Burma in its armed struggle against the Burmese military, and despite the fact that Beijing is currently the closest ally of the regime because it provides much needed political and military support, it is well-known that Beijing is directly engaged with ethnic groups along the border, even helping mediate between the regime and the armed border groups to prevent conflict.

The ICG recently said in its report that the KIO has had “basic discussions” with Beijing over the contours of a “genuine union” within Burma in which the ethnic groups would have autonomy, possibly similar to the Special Administrative Regions in China—Hong Kong and Macao. The ICG’s 20-page report titled “China’s Myanmar Strategy: Elections, Ethnic Politics and Economics” said: “The Kachin are working on a common peace proposal for which they plan to seek Beijing’s backing.” However, Beijing has also lost the trust and confidence of the cease-fire groups due to its large-scale investments in Burma and its political backing of the pariah regime.

Leaders of the cease-fire groups say there is also no trust between their militias and Naypyidaw, and the lines of communication have been strained since the regime began pressuring them to join the BGF. The regime’s former spy-master, Gen Khin Nyunt, who previously won the trust of the ethnic militias, has been under house arrest since 2004 and ethnic leaders say there is no one else they can speak with in Naypyidaw.

In this environment, and given the regime’s belligerent demands that all cease-fire groups join the BGF before the election or face possible military consequences after, it is hard to imagine a scenario in which the regime does not at least attempt to send a message by attacking one or more cease-fire groups, not to mention the potential of an all out assault intended to clear the country of armed militias.

If this happens, the days of armed conflict on multiple fronts in Burma may return and any hopes for national reconciliation may be destroyed. As always, it will be the people of Burma who suffer, and ethnic leaders who have been fighting to achieve fundamental human rights, self determination and an autonomous region will see their dreams disappear over the horizon as rapidly as a Russian helicopter.

Irrawaddy reporters Wai Moe, Saw Yan Naing and Lawi Wang contributed to this article.



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Gam Seng Wrote:
02/11/2010
Dears Comrades
we don't want to embrace war in order to restore the Federal Union in Burma, but there is no other way to solve the political conflicts made by the elite ruling Burmese since 1962.

There is enough strength for both defensive and offensive battles against the the junta's army, which is the junta's mechanism to demolish the principle of Federalism upon which the Union Of Burma was formed by.

Amidst violation of political means, war is just.

Fortuner Wrote:
01/11/2010
I very much agree and since long ago have been waiting to see the ethincs groups work together to fight the SPDC.

Khurtai Kornkhaw Wrote:
01/11/2010
The situation now is that the cease-fire armies and resistance armies are without a clue on how to formulate a grand strategy for their survival and to deliver the peoples' aspirations, within their respective territory of influence or control areas.

The problem is that the non-Burman armed groups are at most only reactive and have never strived to become proactive.

It is alright that once the first shot is fired by the junta's troop, all possible war fronts would open and the junta would have to defend its positions in all directions. And that an urban guerrilla Warfare would be introduced.

But these measures are in nature just reactive and besides, they still need to be translated into real implementation when the time comes.

A more proactive approach would be to agree upon a strategy among the non-Burman armed groups on how to weaken the junta's power base, e.g. as soliciting alliance with dissatisfied junta's commanders and soldiers, before and during an uprising when it occurs.

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