April 13, 2021
Opinions and Commentary

Response to Kanbawza Win on His Article “The Contagious Disease of Road Map”

Ever since the ENSCC Road Map for democratic transition in Burma was released, a number of reactions from both friends and foes alike are received, some are very positive but some are quite critical. Both are welcomed. Since the ENSCC has taken a big step for a big mission, it was realised from the very beginning that not every one would agree or

understand the idea behind the proposal, which suggests a peaceful democratic transition in Burma.

We all love our country and our people, and we believe that Burma deserves peace and democracy, freedom and prosperity, justice and equality for her people. We want to end oppressive regime, we want to end five decades long of civil war, we want to end human rights abuses, and we want to end any kind of injustice in Burma.

We want to see all of our beloved friends who are held unjustly in prisons become free, we want to see all refugees return home safely, we want to see all who are in exile reunite with their love one and we want to see our country becomes free.

We want see our country no longer as a big prison but as free and open society where various ethnic nationalities can live peacefully together.

We want to solve our country problem but we don’t believe in violent means. Violence only begets violence, and there is no solution after fifty years of violent conflicts in Burma. If violent means was a solution, military regime would have been a solution already for they are opting for such solution ever since they first came to power in 1962. We don’t believe in a zero-sum game, which will lead our country into lose-lose situation.

In a nutshell, we want to solve our crisis through a peaceful means where the biggest winner will be the people, the ordinary folks. We believe that we follow Dawn Aung San Suu Kyi’s method of non-violent strategy, for she herself is opting to solve our country problem through dialogue. And we obey the United Nations General Assembly’s resolution which calls for a “tripartite dialogue.”

Critics like Kanbawza Win claims that the ENSCC Road Map “does not call for immediate release of all political prisoners, gloss over the crimes against humanity such as the 1988 massacre and the latest butchering at Depayin.” He made his point quite clearly but he failed to see the very nature of ENSCC Road Map. Theories say that there are at least three different kinds of political transition road map; 1) Demanding Road Map, 2) Process Inviting Road Map, and 3) A Comprehensive Transition Plan. Our is not a “demanding road map” nor a “comprehensive transition plan” but “process inviting

road map” through which we invite our conflict partners (whom we want to turn into our peace partners) to join hand. We are not going to shy away from the method that we have chosen, because we dare to make peace with our enemy.

After all, peace is made with enemy not with friend.

Secondly, Kanbawza Win failed to differentiate “road map” from “blue print”.

Any kind of political transition “road map”, even “a comprehensive transition plan”, is not a “blue print”. “Blue print” is not easily changeable but “road map” is. In normal situation, “road map” should be produced after discussion with opposite party or parties. That’s why pre-negotiation talks are needed in transition to democracy, as we have seen in South Africa and elsewhere. Unfortunately, we are not in normal situation; our opposition does not believe in peaceful means of conflict resolution but violent oppression.

However, we should carefully avoid playing the games our enemy wants us to play, that is—any kind of violent confrontations. They know that they going to win if we engage in the games they set, because they are masters in dealing with violence. Violent confrontation is the name of their game, which we should avoid. On the other end, they refuse to engage dialogue because they know and think that they are going to lose if they enter into a dialogue table. So, we should know what are our strong points and our weak points, and turn our weak points into strong points. This simple method will be helpful, if we apply properly.

We believe in “tripartite dialogue”; not only because it is called for by the UN, has it also reflected the very nature of political situation in Burma. The essence of “tripartite dialogue” is “inclusiveness” and “recognition”, which includes all major conflicting parties in Burma and at the same time recognizes the 1990 election result, recognizes the SPDC as de facto government in Burma (not as de jure government, Kanbawza Win is just twisting the word in order blame), and recognizes ethnic nationalities as the founding members of the Union, and thereby one of major political actors in Burma.

This is unfortunate that although the UN and international community recognize ethnic nationalities—through UNGO resolution—as major political actors in Burma, Kanbawza Win plays down the role of ethnic nationalities merely as “pressure groups” or “activist groups”, by comparing with Burmese in Diaspora and international NGOs. And he wants us to follow the “Lion” like “hyenas”. It reminds me Ne Win’s exhortation of “nout-like kaung hmah khong-soung-kong peta-de”, literally, “You must be a good follower in order to become a good leader”. The simple reason for creating such a saying is that they want us to “keep silent, follow the leader, and obey the order”, as
successive military regimes since Ne Win’s want us to do. And they are always the “Lion” and we are merely “hyenas”.

Let me be very frank: without ethnic nationalities participation in this
transition process, you might be able to change the government in Rangoon but you will never be able to solve the political crisis in Burma. I am sure Kanbawza Win can see the different between changing the government in Rangoon and solving political crisis in Burma. Let me put in different way: political crisis in Burma today is not merely ideological confrontation between democracy and dictatorship which can be solved through changing the government in Rangoon, but this also is constitutional problem rooted in the question of the rights of self-determination for ethnic nationalities who joined the Union of Burma as equal partners and co-founders in 1947.

So, if you do not recognize ethnic nationalities as one of the main actors and equal partners in Burma politics, there is no way to end 50 years of civil war in Burma. I sincerely think that we should learn lessons from fifty years of civil war in which we lost too many lives already. If we try to learn this lesson, Kanbawza Win should appreciate, in stead of blaming, ethnic nationalities initiative.

Finally, I would like to clarify that in any political road map or transition
plan, there are always two components: the “process” and the “substance”. The “substance” is a matter of what we want to achieve. What kind of outcome we want to see through this road map? What sort of political structure will be the component of the solution over which we are going to negotiate during the “process”? In short, this is the substance of the solution itself, and the goal of our struggle. “Process”, on the other hand, is a business of negotiation and dialogue, which focus on the elements of the solution but not the solution itself, that is, how to get to a solution?

As such, one can clearly see that the ENSCC Road Map is for “process initiative” not a comprehensive transition plan with detail of account of the “substance”. We only produce a road map for “process initiative”, or “process inviting”, because we think that it is unwise to put everything on the table at once.


Lian H. Sakhong



By Salai Lian H. Sakhong

Chinland Guardian

September 9, 2003

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