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Published on Monday, 24 December 2012 10:44 Written by Than Htut Aung
Than Htut Aung continues his 10th part of 'I will Tell the Real Truth' series.
This article is the last installment for this year. At the beginning of 2012, I was very much heartened to see the changes in our country.
Two sides re-viewing troops deployment on the map
on June 20, 2012 (Photo - Kachin News Group)
It was truly encouraging to witness the events such as the understanding between President U Thein Sein and opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the re-entry of Myanmar into the international community, the release of political prisoners including Ko Min Ko Naing, the possibility on the lifting of international sanctions against our country. Consequently, in an interview with Bangkok-based The Nation newspaper, I proclaimed “Amazing Changes in Myanmar”.
Despite the apparent rapid changes and the stability that we witnessed in conjunction with the supporting of the international community, I have written an article entitled “I will tell the real truth (1)” in the May 23, 2012 issue of the Weekly Eleven News Journal pointing out that the situation in Myanmar is enveloped with indicators that could pull the country back from the point where we had arrived.
I highlight three potential and salient factors that could backtrack the country. At that time, the situation was not as complicated as the present time.
Following my warning, unprecedented crisis fell on the Rakhine State, north-western part of Myanmar, in June 2012. The tricker point was a violent murder in the Taunggup Township in Rakhine State, followed by communal violence in the Maungdaw Township. The violence spread like wild fire to Sittwe Township in the northern part of the Rakhine State.
The Taunggup probe commission has yet to issue its findings to the public on the Rakhine crisis. Beside that the government is also accountable to give answers.
Compounding the complexities and the chaos, the international media and the exiled media including the Irrawaddy fuelled the blaze with wild imaginations. They created further confusion if anything but twisting the real problem.
The affairs of the ethnic national races and the creation of the genuine federal system are the main issues that could trigger backtrack to the country's reform and democratic process. Moreover, the ongoing peace talks undertaken by the government is the main concern in shaping the genuine federal union system in the country. Without authentic federalism, the country is still far from peace.
The State Constitution, which solidifies relations between the government and the armed forces, could be interpreted that the president is in no way has absolute influence over the military Commander-in-Chief of the and the military affairs.
The proposed amendment of the Constitution depends mainly on the decision of the armed forces whether it accepts or reject the federal union system - key to the reform process and future of our country.
On the apparent civil war in the Kachin State, the demand of the KIO for equality and autonomy, in other words, the federal union system, I support the call. However, the denial of the ceasefire from the KIA, whatever reasons they may have, I could not support.
In a state of war, the armies breed command and power. The military dictatorship will prevail. The people will ultimately suffer.
According to the information received, the responsibility in ceasing the war in the Kachin State does not depend just on the government and the armed forces. Therefore, it is not fair to put pressure solely on the President.
Moreover, some Kachin ethnics posted a very narrow outlook on the nationality issues on the web pages based on the biased concept of Bamar national applying racial supremacy. Such accusation is tantamount to creating division and hatred between Bamar national and other ethnic national races.
In this context, the accusation aimed at our national leader General Aung San that he was a liar and deceiver is entirely unacceptable. For those accusations and slanders - explanations are needed.
In fact, the hilly parts of Kachin State are inhabited by Jainphaw ethnic race and Kachin national, and the plain regions are occupied by Shan national and Bamar national for thousands of years.
My grandparents were the residents of Kachin State with the ethnicity of Shan and Bamar.
The nation of Myanmar is not solely owned by Bamar national, while Kachin State is not exclusively related with the Kachin national.
At this juncture, some questions arise as to whether the wars and conflicts came into fore due to the militancy of Bamar, Kachin and Kayin nationals on the one hand, and the claims that Shan, Rakhine, Mon and Chin nationals took backseat due to less aggressive character, on the other.
I am of the view that recent trends indicate the wars and the war lords are pivotal to the fate of the country.
Whatever the situation may be, the ongoing war must be stopped if we want to build a democratic nation and a genuine federal union.
I have some Kachin acquaintances and I always told them that the KIA should agree to a ceasefire. They always responded that they have been bluffed and cheated all the times. They asked how could I guarantee. I gave a simple answer that I could not issue such guarantee myself.
So far, I have not even contemplated my own exit strategy, if there is a backtrack.
Let us set aside the lies and the suspicions, and adhere to belief and trust. The ongoing battles and skirmishes in the Kachin State are hindrance to democracy and federal union building. Therefore, those who aspire and hope for democracy and genuine federal system must take to their task to stop the conflict.
The reality is that in the 21st century, either in the world of politics or in Myanmar politics, it is not possible to leave behind and exclude the political system based on the power.
The powerful nations and the authoritarian leaders maintain power by the following methods.
1. Military Power
2. Economic Power
3. Soft Power (Faith and belief; Power/Authority/Influence)
They always endeavor to maintain these three elements.
In the 20th century, the military power and the economic power were combined into 'Hard Power'. Later on, when information technology arrives, the Soft Power takes precedent.
Dictators such as Hitler, Stalin and Mao Zedong used and manipulated through “Propaganda”, but they mistook it to be “Soft Power”. Stalin once asked sarcastically how many armed divisions the Pope possessed.
History of the world shows there were evidences that even the warmonger leaders with the heavy arsenal and the business tycoons with uncountable wealth eventually faded away from this world. These are the indicators that the two combined forces such as the military power and the economic power are not enough to ensure grip on power.
However, to crush Al-Qaida, the military force is needed in Afghanistan and so the Hard Power remains vital.
It is not surprising to see a nation with 400,000 trained soldiers hold and suppress
under iron grip for over 50 years. The armed forces have become an established institution. However, as the army could not hold on to power for extended period, it evolved into Burma Socialist Program Party (BSPP) as one party system in 1974. Later, the one party system switched into multi-party system and tried to hold on to power. In the meantime, there are many persons in the circle of the armed forces who believe in genuine democracy as crucial foundation to the development of the country.
Although the President is committed to dismantling economic cronyism, it is a fact that half of the country’s wealth is the hands of a handful of persons and family members in the thousands.
The GDP of the country may be on the growth trend, and investment may be on the rise - and yet the hope and inspiration of the middle-class and the poor are dim.
The banking industry, and assets such as finance, land and all the factories are owned by the cronies. It is also a fact that even under this government 90 per cent of the investments officially registered with the Myanmar Investment Commission are related to the cronies.
The land grabbing issue is shocking. The root cause of poverty is the seizure of farm lands, disguise under the law but in fact illegal and unjust.
One of the bottom lines in power seeking is the establishment of economic power under its own jurisdiction. With this strategy; the hope of the people in Myanmar of better livelihood and advancement is fading to the wilderness.
The lack of efforts to levy taxes on the cronies is tantamount to putting extra burden to other tax payers and the people.
(The worst case was when President himself praised ac major tax evader).
In fact, the people who wish to see progress backtrack have never forgotten or neglected “soft power”. The main strength of soft power lies in the public opinions, political values, and the policy shifts.
In exercising soft power, the manipulators deploy the divide-and-rule tactic on individuals, apply indirect media control, and
manipulate shift in the political environment.
If the political landscape of Myanmar is to be genuinely changed, then the following must be achieved:
1. To shape the genuine democratic system into reality.
2. To stand by the principle of creating a genuine union.
The national reconciliation does not necessarily complete through hands shaking between two leaders. The right and genuine national reconciliation stands on the principle for unison and harmony among the brothers and among the soldiers, the democratic forces, and all ethnic nationalities.
The Nation of Bangkok is in the process of publishing a book entitled “Doing Business in the New Myanmar”. First, I thought to commit myself into editing of the book. Later, I have no interest at all for the task. I candidly denied the request to write the “Preface” of the book. I explained the person concerned of The Nation about the breach of promises even over the minor issues.
At this time of indecisive atmosphere, I don’t want to be party to deceiving people. Those who dare to take risk will meet the consequences. The situation is very much uncertain and highly ambiguous.
Talking abundantly that there is no backtrack possibility but progress is not being made. At this messy time, it is not possible to advocate one's own heart and soul.
Without the correct and righteous principles and without standing on the sincere and clear stance, the organizing and unifying on personal level will bring nothing to the nation.
Supposedly, if I take side with them due to their personal approaches and make me part of their inner circle on personal basis, it would be nothing but an addition of person into the group of opportunists and a person that only flatter in servile way. The country will remain the same without development.
Genuine changes for the country are at risk of being derailed.
(Written on December 22, 2012)