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Democratization and the Future of Minortiy in Bburma


Democratization and the Future of Minority in Burma

The Democratization and the Future of Minority in Burma
January 28, 2002
Hre Mang
After once being trapped under the unionization politics of Burma since 1947 and under the political manipulation of the military leaders for the sake of unity of the nation, ethnic minorities' political fortune is being entangled once again for the sake of democratization. Since October 2000, the so called historical and skeptical talk has been going on between the military leaders and Daw Aung San Su Kyi, the leader of national League for Democracy (NLD), for the political transition from military rule to democracy and for the solution of national political and economic crises. Unlike the 1947 of nation unionization talk, the minorities are left behind the scenes. Neither the SPDC nor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi seems required the participation of minorities in the dialogue. While having cease-fire with ethnic insurgencies and after politically dismantling some of other groups, no wonder when the SPDC, the anti-federalist and ethnic rights, intends no such inclusion of the minorities in the talk. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, on the other hand, with her limited political environment had no choice except to follow what the military leaders have set for the deal. Or she might have thought that the time is early for ethnic groups to participate in the dialogue while the military leaders strongly opposed it. Or as Aung Naing Oo once wrote, the NLD's policy might have "considered them secondary to democracy." No doubt, neither Daw Aung San Su Kyi nor the SPDC will likely satisfy the demands of the minorities through the long historical dialogue. Nevertheless, the ethnic groups have no option except to humble their historical pride and accept the expected outcome of the dialogue, if there will be any.

"The NLD, although in alliance with a number of minority parties, is essentially a Burman party" (David I Steinberg ). Will the NLD guarantee the minority rights when it requires encountering with the anti-federalist military leaders and even potentially hinder the process of democratization as a whole in Burma? The SPDC, as its political mask, has been using a contemplated slogan "National Peace and Security," “disintegration of the Union” which ironically means the control of the fragmentation (federation) of the country, to subdue the non-Burman ethnic groups under the Burman controlled government. However, the SPDC sometimes ignores the ethnic issues from its political scene. On the other hand, as its divide and rule policy, it redundantly emphasizes the complexity of ethnic issues, repeating the existence of 135 ethnic groups in Burma, which numbering is not true. Therefore, if the NLD or Daw Aung San Suu Kyi would negotiate and work together with the SPDC for the democratization of Burma, there is no other option except to ignore or exclude the ethnic groups from the dialogue. However, the NCGUB's so called for "National Reconciliation" is worth to count as a political comfort for the ethnic nationalists whose expectation has been ignored in the historical dialogue. General Saw Maung once said, "While, Militarily, the ethnic groups have been dismantled and have no capacity to resist us, if we give them political opportunity, the whole nation would be disadvantaged." Although General Saw Maung may not be politically powerful any longer, his word is the true expression of the military regime’s attitude toward the ethnic minorities in Burma. Or were there any other strategy the NLD has to overthrow the SPDC from power? The dialogue is skeptical even for the majority Burman political activists.

The recent cease-fire with some of the ethic groups has been one of the best political advantages for the SPDC, which it claims as the optimistic progress of the democratization in Burma before the international community. According to the SPDC, there is no ethnic insurgency left as a major threat to the progress of democratization. The so-called "self-administered zone" policy is the SPDC's modern political strategy to persuade the ethnic groups to set themselves aside from the core political role of the nation. Although the "self-administered zone" system seems granting minorities more autonomous than any previous civil government, in reality it is misleading, which politically benefits the SPDC to carry on its political strategy without consulting the ethnic leaders for the role of democratization and reframing the whole system of the country. Moreover, the fragmentation of ethnic groups is the political weakness of the minority. They are ideologically and ethnically fragmented. Are they strong enough to overthrow the SPDC? Or even to contribute their political opinion for the process of democratization in Burma, their opportunity seems relying beyond the main stream of Burma political evolution.

As the affect of the decades long military rule, lack of education and experience, among the ethnic minority and majority political activists, a democratic practice and political tolerance is lacking. Politics is personalized as in the military rule. Instead of issues, leaders are honored and respected based on loyalty and kinship. The political intolerance for dissent causes self-withdrawal and fragmentation of the political force of the anti-military government movement. As time goes on, people feel devastated or emotionally calm down and many revolutionaries have astray from the core political circle of the contemporary revolution. Many ethnic groups have negotiated with the military leaders. While the international community's concern is focused on the whole progress of democratization in Burma, the ethnic nationalist movement has been politically transplanted into the force-line of democratization and theoretically diluted into unionized (Burmanized or militarized) idea. Thus, the political survival of the ethnic nationalists is completely dismantled and converted into unionization in which progress it has very less (if not nothing) impact and then completely depends on the mercy of both the SPDC and Daw Aung San SU Kyi (or NLD). Nevertheless, if there is a real unionized system that equally satisfies all ethnic groups, Burma will become a safe and peaceful country as the fulfillment of the military government's repeated slogan "Peace and Security of the Nation." In addition, painstakingly, it is still needed to say, Burma should not easily forget history, without the fulfillment and participation of both minority and majority's political opinions, there wouldn't be a long time solution for all that will flourish the nation. In this kind of political period, the ethnic leaders should have intellectual capacity to foresee the current and future political challenges and prepare themselves to meet the historical demand. However, if the ethnic leaders step too far from the ideological path of the majority political activists that could have, on the other side, serious negative political impact on the whole progress of the national revolution. For every group of the current revolutionary forces must avoid any kind of political alienation that would breach a barely built trust among them.