Tatmadaw’s illusion of sovereignty ownership a catch-22 situation?

  • Written by Sai Wansai/ S.H.A.N
  • Published in Op-ed

Even though the union parliament has rejected the labeling the Northern Alliance – Burma (NA-B), made up of Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Arakan Army (AA), that have launched an offensive on Tatmadaw or military and police outposts in Muse Township, northern Shan State along the Burma-China border, on 20 December, the Shan State parliament decided to do just that – tagging the NA-B members as terrorist organizations, on 7 December.

The NA-B launched an offensive on Tatmadaw’s positons employing the strategy of “offensive is the best defensive”, while also showing their displeasure of the military side-lining of its members to participate in the peace process, which the government seems unable to do anything against it.

As if it was a well orchestrated undertaking, simultaneously, Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing told the officers at the North-Eastern Military Command that the NA-B terrorist must be hunted down and uprooted that have challenged the Tatmadaw and disrupted public peace and economy.

The implication is that this actually could be seen as an assault on the whole peace process, which the National League for Democracy (NLD) government is trying to facilitate and lead, aiming to hold a Union Peace Conference – 21st Century Panglong, in  February next year, in an all-inclusive atmosphere, as much as possible, according to its de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee’s (UPDJC) Joint Secretary (1) Sai Kyaw Nyunt recently told the DVB that since the KIA is a member of Delegation for Political Negotiation (DPN), an organ of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), a seven member ethnic military alliance, actively involving in negotiation with the government, the peace process future could be in jeopardy and even been derailed.

Although proclaiming an organization a terrorist group is strictly within the domain of the President and the government and the Shan State Parliament affirmative motion to consider the NA-B members terrorist organizations wouldn’t have much influence on government’s policy-making and implementation. But it did showed the Tatmadaw’s radical and animosity attitude on the NA-B. And this could be translated into an all-out  war, which has been ongoing since 2011, against most groups operating within Kachin and Shan States.

Daung Khar, a spokesperson for the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), on 8 December, told the BBC that the now damaged or destroyed peace process is due to the government-military’s forceful goading and hammering in of the ethnic armies into their desired mode, to achieve result according to its prescription.

He further stressed that that this has resulted in an about-turn situation of the Burma’s political situation, making the ethnic nationalities lose trust on the Tatmadaw,  Aung San Suu Kyi and the government.

The whole situation is like “the pot calling the kettle black”, one Shan State Progress Party’s (SSPP) leader told this writer, or better it is more of a catch-22 situation, if you like.

The pot calling the kettle black is simple enough, as the Tatmadaw with its decades-long well documented human rights violations in ethnic states by the reputed rights organizations and United Nations, which are still ongoing, to call the NA-B destroying public facilities and bringing hardships to the livelihood of the civilian, deserved to be called terrorists. Apart from that, no one is coming out much better off from the collateral damage done by warring parties, to be fair.

The catch-22 is a situation, which stems from straitjacket that the military has knitted for itself. It maintained that it wants peaceful co-existence and at the same time wants to be the sole protector of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity.

On the other hand, the NA-B including all ethnic resistance armies, plus ethnic political parties, are for the shared national sovereignty, territorial integrity and maintaining national unity, not just the sole ownership and domain of the Tatmadaw, or for that matter – the NLD government also.

But the problem is the Tatmadaw cannot accept the political aspirations of the non-Bamar ethnic nationalities and their just struggle for equal share on all the said norms or issues surrounding the country. So the Tatmadaw is convinced that it has to fight the ethnic armies, which contradict its own commitment of achieving an atmosphere of peaceful co-existence. Thus, the fight goes on and on, with no way to achieve a negotiated settlement, which only hinges on its ability to compromise. In other words, as equal negotiation partners and as well acceptance that shared-sovereignty is the key to fruitful peace process.

In sum, calling the ethnic armies terrorists and continue wearing the straitjacket of sole responsible protector of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and perpetuating national unity. Indulging in blame game, implementing total annihilation policy on the ethnic armies will just bring the country into a further mess and disintegration, where only rational sense and accommodation will pull the country out from the present down-slide into abyss of no return.