Mar 24, 2014

On Myanmar & Ethnic issues & Tatmadaw

Asia Times Online has an articles on the ethnic armed group issue in Myanmar's national reconciliation. There are some interesting highlights

Asia Times Online :: A federal army for Myanmar?

Ask any ethnic Kachin, Karen, Shan, Mon or other ethnic person to name a national hero or days of national importance, very few would mention such prominent names as Aung San, the Thirty Comrades or days important to many Burmans such as Independence Day, Tatmadaw Day or Martyr Day . Instead, each ethnic group celebrates their own revolutionary heroes, political leaders and holidays that are mostly unknown to the majority of Burmans.

In other words, Myanmar's ethnic minority groups see themselves as distinct sovereign entities with their own sovereign armies. Therefore, the idea of dismantling or subordinating them to the Tatmadaw is unthinkable and politically unacceptable to many of them. Any central government attempt to take away such symbols of pride, power and prestige at the negotiation table or through force will continue to be strongly resisted.

Deep-seated fear, loathing, and mistrust of the Tatmadaw means most ethnic armed groups will remain reluctant to put down their arms or place their armies under government control. For over half a century, government soldiers have systemically perpetuated gross human-rights abuses against ethnic people through arbitrary killings and wholesale destruction of their communities. Their actions have forced tens of thousands to flee their lands and become either internally displaced or stateless refugees in neighboring countries.

Now, if any national ceasefire is too hold, the government will need to quickly demilitarize ethnic regions and drastically reduce the number of troops now stationed in border areas. Most ethnic communities still view government foot soldiers in their regions as foreign invaders with the intention of taking their lands and exploiting their resources. As long as large numbers of government troops are kept in ethnic areas, fear and insecurity will undermine prospects for national reconciliation via ceasefire.

As part of a confidence building process to restore trust between the Tatmadaw and ethnic armed groups, the government could begin to address issues of inequality and policies that discriminate against ethnic minorities. Measures could be enacted to ensure promotions and rewards in the military are based on merit and service instead of family connections and race. While ethnic groups will continue to advocate for a federal army in exchange for a peace deal, a more inclusive Tatmadaw would be a step forward towards forging national unity.


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