WELCOME TO MY PAGE‎ > ‎Casiar ding‎ > ‎BUMRA POLITICS‎ > ‎

Total Replacement or Peaceful Negotiation

A Total Replacement or Peaceful Negotiation (Burma)
Hre Mang
Mizzima News
December 17, 2003

The recent political development on the process of democratization in Burma has further frustrated many observers, activists, politicians and sections of the general public. There are two major identifiable models of political transition which opposition groups are advocating. First, a peaceful negotiation with the junta and second, a total replacement of the junta.

The military leaders' open approach is through a peaceful political process by which they consider themselves able to monitoring the political transitional process in their favor. In order to keep the keys to political transition in their hands, the regime leaders have been accumulating political capital through a road map of peace-talk and cease-fire processes with insurgency groups. The military leaders appear to be clearer in their approach towards potential transition than the opposition. For among the opposition, there are not only diverse political segments, there are also diverse ideas and approaches toward the potential transition.

On September 6, the Ethnic Nationalities Solidarity and Cooperation Committee (ENSCC), announced a new road map for Burma's political transition, adding a few more political requirements for the deal to the SPDC's road map. In their December 9 press release, the Free Burma Coalition (FBC) cautiously welcomed the SPDC's plans for a National Convention. Inside Burma, 16 ethnic insurgency groups are under cease-fire agreement with the SPDC, while the KNU has engaged in cease-fire talks. These divergent positions point to a steep challenge for the opposition to keep their political approaches for potential transition transparent and mutually supportive in their direction. One awkward outcome of this situation is that the regime leaders could come out appearing as "peace lovers" in the eyes of Asian neighboring countries and international sympathizers. At the same time, serious ideological chasms could appear - or may have already begun to appear - between the opposition groups promoting a peaceful negotiation approach and those holding to a total replacement model.

Some thinkers have suggested not only policy revision but also structural and strategic reformation among groups in the opposition movement. Professor Kambawza Win, in his article "Strategy of the Junta and How to Resist It," advised strategic change by dismantling the NCGUB to reform the political structure of the hard-core opposition force. This is unlikely to take place, because it is more likely that many of the opposition leaders would defend the status quo as much as the regime leaders would. Should such reformation and re-capitalization take place, the opposition force would definitely be strengthened.

To revise the various stances in the current political standoff - as for example, in the case of the ENSCC road map but not necessarily as in the cases of the cease-fire groups - the whole opposition movement would have to moderate their baseline political positions to effect immediate change. In light of a clinical political calculation, the regime's political point-scoring currently outweighs the force of the opposition. Therefore, if the opposition is to continue to hold their long-standing political demand for the total replacement of the military junta, political change is unlikely to take place soon unless an unexpected miracle happens. Thus, examining the political factors that contribute to the overall process of Burma's political development, the regime holds a stronger position than the opposition, at least to defend its temporary status quo. This is despite, theoretically and politically, the opposition holding more rational ground.  In an obvious political scenario, the majority of the opposition, without significant political policy transformation over the years appears to be holding the same old rod; a total replacement model transition.

For a total replacement model of political transition to be appropriate, the opposition has to have absolute control of the political process such that the regime would have no other political option except to surrender or be killed. For this to eventuate, four critical factors need to occur which have not yet happened. First, there would need to be the internal collapse of the regime. Second, there would need to be the military or political victory of the opposition. Third there would need to be the inevitable public uprising, and fourth, there would need to be  international humanitarian (and possibly military) intervention.

The least expected of these four factors for opposition groups, the internal folding of the regime, seems to have all but disappeared since the death of U Ne Win and the arrest of his son-in-law and grandsons for an alleged attempted coup d'etat. Second, through constant internal political and administrative purging, the military has been re-energizing its strength to defend its political survival. Needless to say, the opposition has no competitive force to amount change militarily. Politically, there is almost no chance for the opposition to overthrow, arrest and try the military leaders in the current political environment as a total replacement model suggests. Third, having witnessed the brutality of the military regime, such as during the "8888" massacres, further public uprising is unlikely to take place inside Burma. In saying that, however, it could happen at any time. As the regime has been reinventing its social capital building strategy through the USDA movement and other means of social construction, there could be serious public confrontation should there be another "8888"-like public uprising inside Burma again. Fourth, there is no clue to signal a possibility of an international military humanitarian intervention. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other major opposition voices, having a non-violent political resistance, are unlikely to ask the foreign military intervention. Even if international military intervention was requested, the US and other western democratic countries are unlikely to get militarily involve in Burma's domestic politics.

From the perspective of the military regime, such political transition will be resisted until the last breath and bullet. Without guaranteed safe exit for the military leaders, such that they would not be brought to trial, there will be no peaceful political transition. Persecution for human rights violations is a clear future political nightmare of the military leaders. Although the reformers and some leaders within the military might be willing to give up their political role in the country, to return to their professional barracks and handover governance to the elected officials, no military leader will be ready to welcome such personal nightmare. This is not an option for them. Therefore, if the opposition leaders are ready to include the military leaders in the political process, they should also make sure of their stand on the exit guarantee for the regime leaders. Otherwise, political attempt to take revenge on each other will result with no end to this heinous and vicious circle.

Therefore, the regime leaders, although they are sure enough about their future political challenge, have been playing not to have the political process turn against them. They have been accumulating the political capital by persuading the ethnic insurgency groups through peace deals and by the so-called "Khin Nyunt political road map". In summary then, with the 16 ethnic insurgency groups under cease fire agreement while the KNU is engaged in the process of talks, and with the support of the neighboring Asian countries for a peaceful negotiation, the regime government has reserved enough political capital to defend itself from facing a total replacement model political transition. This understanding encourages the opposition to strategically yet cautiously welcome the military leaders at the political round table or to confront it with another course of actions.

On the other hand, to maintain a policy of a total replacement model of
political transition, the opposition must at least revise its strategy if it cannot moderate its stance. Restructuring the opposition, as Professor Kanbawza Win  advised, is unlikely to take place. However, without dismantling the current political mechanism, the opposition has to learn from its past weaknesses and prepare for essential change - reinventing the assertive ideas of the contemporary revolution. Without this, a gradual evolutionary development Burma's road to democracy will take another decade or so.