The need of Tripartite Dialogue
An overall goal of the pro democracy forces and that of the ethnic nationalities both inside and outside the country (Burma) is for the establishment of a democratic government in the Union of Burma. All the democratic forces regardless of our differences in ethnic nationality, have a common enemy, that is the ruling military Junta. To topple this dictatorial regime is a pre requisite. However, uprooting those racist military cliques from power is just only the first step of our struggle and not an end in itself especially for the ethnic Non-Burman nationalities.
When we thoroughly examine the root cause of the crisis of Burma, we can clearly see the absolute necessity of Tripartite Dialogue – which would include Non-Burman nationalities as the main dialogue partner in substantial political dialogue – as the best way to bring about our dreams of national solidarity with a democratic change and peaceful co-existence under a genuine federalism. Tripartite Dialogue has been a clarion call of the UN in brokering a dialogue in Burma which was unanimously approved in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 1994. Tripartite as the name signifies is a political dialogue between three parties – the winning party of 1990 general election i.e National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the ruling military junta known as State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and the ethnic Non-Burman nationalities under the umbrella of Ethnic Nationality Solidarity and Cooperation Committee (ENSCC).
In the mean time, it is encouraging to see the repeated assertion of the need of tripartite dialogue by Dr. Sein Win, Prime Minister of the provisional government better known as National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB). Raising an awareness among the international community about the real crisis and needs of Burma is a part of the political campaign internationally launched by honourable Dr. Sein Win and his colleagues in the NCGUB. At his presentation during ENSCC international campaign workshop on Burma in Oslo, Norway, he said ,“ I can tell you that without the participation of the ethnic nationalities in the political process, we will not be able to resolve the problems that have plagued Burma for the last five decades.” This was strongly endorsed by the European Union at the Paris Assemblie Nationale.
On the other hand, more campaigns like this are still needed to gain the unanimous support for tripartite dialogue in the international community and we will have to prepare ourselves for this Herculean task ahead. It is lamentable to witness that even among the democratic forces there are still some people harbouring the chauvinist mindset of Burmanism under the guise of Myanmar Naingan. They are the ones that insist on the bilateral dialogue between the Suu Kyi’s NLD and the ruling junta only.
This indicates the complete ignorance of the suffering and the long struggle for self-determination of Non-Burman nationalities and is wholly un pragmatic. This sort of opinion should also be considered as a failure and lack of insightful understanding the root reason of why political crisis of Burma is started since Burma gained her independence from British rule in 1948. Even though the ethnic Non-Burman nationalities and the pro democracy forces are in the same boat of fighting the current military junta, our aim differs. To repeat here, the collapse of this racist regime from power is just the first step in our struggle and not an end solution. There are numerous issues needs to be solved politically for which the ethnic nationalities have to present in the dialogue by ourselves. To come back to the point , one needs to raise a Question as follows.
Why the active participation of Non-Burman nationalities in solving the problem of Burma is indispensable? Why should they call for tripartite dialogue? Or can the five-decade long political crisis of Burma be solved without their involvement? Before answering the question, one should take note the fact that the Union of Burma is a multi-ethnic country and it is collectively owned by eighth major nationalities – the Kachin, Karenni, the Karen, the Chin, the Mon, the Arakans ,the Shan and the Burman (Bama). All these nationalities founded the Union of Burma on the basis of equality which is the essence of how the Union itself. As we are all equal, there is no law or way that one particular race above be given more privileges other than the other.
Therefore, in a brief answer to this question, the participation of Non-Burman nationalities in the political dialogue is a MUST because we are the owner of territory of the union of Burma together with our fellow Burman race equally. We are not today talking about the land which is not ours. We are claiming our hereditary birth rights and talking about our own Land. In any political dialogue on the issues related to the integrity of the whole union, we must represent our own issues and talk about our matters by appointing our own leaders. Neither the elected body National League for Democracy led by Daw Suu nor current regime has a right to represent and talk the issues of non-burman nationalities on our behalf. Once any discussion or dialogue on the issue related to the whole union whether in talking about the past or future Burma, our involvement must be considered critically essential and indispensable entity without which no problem of Burma could be resolved.
It is distinctly clear to everybody that just by replacing the military rule with a democratic system in Burma would not solve the country’s five-decade long political crisis. The problem we have been experiencing is not a mere brutal militarism but the right of equality for every nationality in our Union with out any discrimination on the ground of race, belief, Status qua and etc. Therefore, in order to bring the right of equality for all the nationalities inhabited in the union of Burma and what type of political administration system we want , we all together must discuss and make a compromise on what we want and what political system would be the best for the long well-being and integrity of the union as a whole. As talking about the Union of Burma needs to be inclusive, each nationality must be represented by their own leaders.
On the other hand, it is still worrisome to the ethnic Non-Burman nationalities that even if the proposed tripartite dialogue emerged in the near future it can be derailed or opposed by some like minded General Ne Win as in the 1960 Taunggyi Conference because scientism still prevails in the hawkish generals.
The point which I am driving is that the emergence of tripartite dialogue in the near future, should not be treated as the one, which should come only with the collective demands make by those ethnic Non-Burman nationalities but it should also be treated as an indispensable factor for which our fellow Burman nationals should call for it. Failure to recognize and acknowledge the vital roles and issues of Non-Burman nationalities in the Union politics would surely result in another hundred years of civil war in the Union of Burma.
From our own experiences of half a century of struggles today, we all now have a thorough understanding the root of political crises plaguing Union of Burma. Therefore, it is a high time that we all urge and support the quick emergence of tripartite dialogue with out which the problem of Burma could not be solved. As we are all talking about the integration of our Union at the same time, let’s all advocate and stand for the emergence of tripartite dialogue which is the core part of Union integration. Ignoring the issues of Non-Burman nationalities and failure to address this critical issue politically would rather cause the disintegration of the Union in future. The peak of our daunting struggle – uprooting the military regime and establish a genuine federal Union – is within our reach.
The new Panglong Initiative: Rebuilding of the Union of Burma published by Ethnic Nationalities Solidarity and Cooperation Committee (ENSCC)
(Salai Za Ceu Lian is currently working with the Chin National League For Democracy Exile, the party that won three parliamentary seats in 1990 general election in the Union of Burma, as an alliance secretary and also taking responsibility as acting Chin Youth representative in the United Nationalities Youth League (UNYL), an umbrella Political alliance of Non-Burman youth nationalities.)
By Salai Za Ceu Lian