Mon 31 Dec 2007
Filed under: News,Opinion,Other
“Since too, murders have been performed — too terrible for the ear:
That, when the brains were out, the man would die, and there an end;
But now— they rise again,” William Shakespeare, ‘Macbeth,’ ACT III, Scene IV
After the Burmese military junta attacked and killed the peaceful monks and protestors, it is still impossible to imagine how the powerful military can at last be dismissed. But it is even harder to see now how the military generals will survive the latest self inflicted blow, by killing the sons of Buddha in Burma.
Since the independence in 1948, ‘Myanmar Tatmadaw’ has proclaimed itself to be the only force capable of maintaining the national peace and stability. But under the military government, Burma has become the poorest nation in the region and the home to the largest army in Southeast Asia.
While the military junta spends most of Burma’s resources on paying for the army, the military still has not gained the trust or an outright victory against the armed rebels. After dominating every facet of Burmese people’s lives since 1962, Myanmar army is still nowhere near removing the rebel armies, consisted of ceasefire and non-ceasefire armed organizations.
The legacy of armed conflicts with over a million losses of lives and the large scale humanitarian crisis caused by the ongoing military occupation of the ethnic tribal areas, have shown the Myanmar Tatmadaw to be the cause of the disasters not the savior of Burma as the regime often proclaims.
Sixty years of the army mantra –’non-disintegration of the Union’– does not seem to have made Burma more secure or gain greater solidarity with its many ethnic nationalities.
The 2005 arrests and the extra long prison sentences for the prominent Shan NLD leaders, including Hkun Htun Oo, and the ceasefire SSA leader Hso Ten indicate that the tensions between the Myanmar Tatmadaw and the ethnic nationalities have not lessened but have increased since the army takeover of the power almost a half century ago.
The junta’s obsession with non-disintegration of the Union, national solidarity and perpetuation of national sovereignty has permitted the military to tighten its grip on the political power. But the government’s neglect and mismanagement of the country and its economy has become the Achilles heel of the regime.
The militarization of the economy has plundered a bountiful nation to the poorest one. While the army continues to promise democracy and uplift of morale, the generals continue to demand a greater sacrifice from the population already suffering from the army induced poverty. Last August’s fuel oil price increase has finally brought home the military’s greatest failure, the widespread poverty, and triggered the largest unrest in two decades.
After forty five years in power the army has failed to win the war against the armed rebellions and has now failed to win the peace with the political oppositions. The regime’s legitimacy is at all time low even when compared to Ne Win’s socialist BSPP party. The BSPP has never lost an election or faced open political oppositions until its fall from power in 1988.
The SPDC in contrast continues to hold on to power against the wishes of the people who have voted for the opposition NLD party of Aung San Suu Kyi. The coercion and use of violence against the population have further eroded the legitimacy of the military. People no longer trust the junta government and they no longer see the army generals as their legitimate rulers. The people’s goodwill in 1988 helped the SLORC to finally quell the angry mobs with the promise of the 1990 election. But the present army junta no longer has the people’s goodwill and can only rely on violence and coercion to control the discontented populace.
Up until now the Burmese political opposition has lacked a unified front, within the armed organizations and the political oppositions. It may be changing. Martin Smith in ‘State of Strife’ observed that as in other political eras, the situation remained fragmentary on the surface. But he said that what was striking about most ethnic parties was not their diversity but the private unity of their views on the need for peace and democratic reforms.
The opposition political parties are also becoming unified under the surface as well. Slowly a powerful unity is emerging within the diverse forces of the political oppositions with a common goal for a free and democratic Burma. While the overstretched army is facing a dim prospect and dropping enlistments, it was evident during the recent uprising that the forces of the protestors do not suffer the same fate and have the support of the majority of the people.
Most Burmese believe that Burma has three sons, the students, the soldiers, and the Sangha/monks. Historically the students have been at the forefront of the political movements. The government’s actions, from the military’s destruction of the Students Union Hall in 1962 to the recent brutal assaults on the monks and students, have elevated the anti-junta sentiment among the young people.
The extravagant undertakings to weaken and suppress the students’ desire for democracy have obviously not been effective. The spread of information technology and the increase in political sophistication have caught up with the ’88 and ’07 student generations. The imprisonment of the senior ’88 student leaders last August did not stem the tide of the major protests that followed.
The power of the movement against the government is no longer dependent on a few top leaders. The largest public demonstrations in two decades took place in spite of the absent of many important leaders at the helm. It seems that the political awareness is helping to form new leaderships quickly in response to the army junta’s aggression.
The army under the SPDC regime is not a monolithic force impervious to the forces against it. Burma’s last sons, the soldiers, may hold the key to how long before the military dictatorship will end. The soldiers have already voted for the democracy in 1990. The purging of the military leaderships in 2004 and at other times are signs that all is not well within the military as it may seem on the surface.
The extensive recording of the wedding of supreme general Than Shwe’s daughter was leaked to Youtube in 2006 and has greatly empowered the oppositions. The thundering protest that followed a year later may not necessarily have been a coincidence. This is an important reminder that it may not take that much to uproot such little loved regime. Since only the high power elites have access to the video tapes of the wedding, the betrayal of Than Shwe might have likely come from the top.
If a video tape of the diamond studded wedding can do much damage, it is not hard to see what the recordings and live evidences of the killings and abuses of the highly revered Buddhist monks might have in store for the military generals.
The writing is already on the wall, it is only a matter of time now.
May Ng is from the Southern Shan State of Burma and is a NY Regional Director of Justice for Human Rights in Burma (J.H.B).