Thursday, November 15, 2007

Political Development in Burma

I assumed duties as General Staff Officer (Second Grade) with the military intelligence at the Defense Headquarter (War Office) under the close supervision of Senior General Than Shwe from May 1992 through September 1999.

During that tenure, I was assigned to assume duties to help bring about peace through negotiation with the ethnic armed groups; to coordinate and facilitate matters, as necessary, between the government and the ethic armed groups that have reached peace agreement with the government; to coordinate and facilitate matters relating to drug control between groups and agencies inside and outside of Burma.

In the process, I have had the liberty and opportunity to observe and learn, thanks essentially to my friends and colleagues at the Defense Headquarters (War Office), the conniving ways of Senior General Than Shwe against the citizens of Burma and other nations of the world.

To cite an illustration, in a nutshell, with regard to domestic issues, there was a popular talk among the military community about what was enunciated by Senior General Than Shwe himself, at one of the four monthly meeting held at the War Office, to military and civilian leaders. He said: “Don’t even spare the residual quarter!”

What he was trying to say he was, in effect, giving official orders to military leaders to even kill off the unborn child within the womb of the mother when they have to kill the innocent civilians.

By virtue of this verbal order, civilians who did not follow the orders of the military were put to death in Shan, Karen and Mon states and in the Tanyinthaye (Tennassarim) Division.

As an offshoot of this verbal order, untoward effects resulted in the form of force labor, human rights violations and rape perpetrated by some of the military because officers and soldiers in the front lines simply took for granted that they were given a green light by the Commander-in-Chief Senior General Than Shwe himself to do such things.

Again, Senior General Than Shwe, on his way to the passing out parade (graduation ceremony) of the Defense Services Academy, in April 1996, told senior military leaders accompanying him that, if the army needs more soldiers, the military leaders should recruit children. That triggered this process of recruiting child soldiers in Burma.

As far as foreign affairs are concerned, to put it in a nutshell, Senior General Than Shwe always inculcated hate-America sentiments among the members of the military. In 1992, he told explicitly that the US citizens at the embassy in Rangoon should be killed if the United States attacks Burma.

He also used to often say at the Defense Headquarters that Burma does not need to be afraid of the United States, if only she has the nuclear capability like North Korea and that Cuba, in point of fact, could afford to care less of America. The senior military officers took his words as policy guidance.

On the issue of drugs, Senior General Than Shwe’s mantra has always been ‘narcotics harm no Burmese. Drugs harm only the United States and Thailand. So let the Americans and Thai die!”

Globalization makes it impossible for any country to stay entirely isolated. Advanced communication systems enable individuals and countries alike to get in touch and share with each other, within seconds, useful information. Nation competitively strives for development. Thanks to globalization many countries are now treading towards democracy. In today’s world, dignity of human being has enhanced and people have come to value the essence of democracy like freedom of speech, press, religion and individual expression.

On the contrary, the Burmese Military Regime has talked the talk but has not yet walked the walk, as far as democracy is concerned. In reality, it is still embedded in a dictatorship. Prior to the 1990 election, I, personally, thought that the military regime would go for democracy in Burma. However, after the elections, we lost faith in the military regime leaders ever since they refused to hand over power.

Again, in 1993, the so-called National Convention was convened. The National League for Democracy walked out in 1996 claiming undemocratic practices at the convention. And the Burmese Military Regime began to adopt a dictatorship along the lines of North Korea and Cuba. Within Burma, civilians, especially in areas where there are ethnic armed groups, have fallen victims to forced labor, rape and forced relocation.

It is my firm belief that, under the circumstances, Burma cannot become a democracy as long as the regime led by Senior- General Than Shwe remains in power. Democracy is possible only when unity can be forged among the military and all the political groups inside and outside the country.

Therefore I believe that Burma can become a developed democratic state when all the freedoms of speech, the press, religion and expression flower in accordance with the law. To achieve that it is the vital for National League for Democracy and Ethnic Political parties, Ethnic Insurgent groups that have reached peace agreement with the regime, individuals and groups working for national good and the ruling military enter into a dialogue and find a solution.

Aung Lynn Htut
Former Military Intelligence Officer and Charge ‘d Affairs
Washington D.C

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