In today’s struggle for democratization in the Union of Burma, apparently, there are two politically contested views among the pro-democratic forces: to topple the regime from power should be our sole movement focus advocated by one side and, as opposed to this view, the other side of view is those strongly believing in the need to simultaneously prepare for the post-military regime change era while struggling to remove the military dictatorship from power.
Between the two, those proponents of zeroing the movement in on toppling the regime should be the movement priority and the talk about issues like rebuilding the Union should be the next step argue that all human, intellectual, and financial resources should only be geared towards the programs leading to overthrow the regime from power. Their reasoning explains that overthrowing the military junta from illegal power is first and the talk about federalism and preparation for programs like state constitution and federal arrangement etc. should be addressed after the fall of the military junta.
On the other hand, visionary leaders and advocates of taking further steps by working out a blueprint how the country should be restructured at the same time while attempting to overthrow the military junta from power strongly propose the essentiality of preparing ourselves and getting well-organized for the post-regime change era with view to avoid chaotic situations and various tensions. They believe that removing the military regime from power is the only first step in our pro-democracy movement and not enough in itself. In line with their political beliefs, visionary leaders have taken systematic initiatives by means of spearheading and promoting their political agendas such as processing the state constitutions drafting innitiatives, raising awareness about what federalism means for a multi-ethnic country like Burma, and implementing various capacity building projects in anticipation of the post-military regime change era.
As briefly laid out above, the main argument between both sides lies in the question of whether or not the movement indeed should be made narrowly focused on removing SPDC from power? Even though there is an ideological split between these two sides on the question of making the movement more efficient and effective, it is crystal clear without question that the first and foremost objective of both sides and the ongoing pro-democracy movement as a whole is to overthrow the military junta from power. It is common sense and understandable that toppling the regime from power should come first by all means. Unless the military regime is removed from power, it is clear that the drafting of state constitution and different programs that are designated to be practically implemented in the post-regime era cannot be employed anywhere else.
However, what the movement as a whole need to foresee is that the fall of this dictatorial regime from power will surely occur one day in the future. The only question is WHEN that change – collapse of regime – would take place? This question of WHEN is a key here to think about. This is the very reason and notion challenging and motivating visionary leaders of the day to step up the need to take political initiatives with broad view to lead the post-regime era Union of Burma into prosperous and peaceful one. Therefore, at this stage of our struggle, the rationale advocating that the movement should narrowly focus on overthrowing the regime from power without necessarily considering the challenges ahead that would inevitably confront the future Union of Burma is NOT adeguate move.
The questions needed to be considered are these: If the military regime falls from power in the near future, what would the Union of Burma face? What kind of Union and political system we want to have? Do we want a classical federal system or con-federal form of Union or unitary system? These are the questions leaders of the day both outside and inside Burma should keep in mind before the actual change takes place. As a matter of fact, if the regime hands over power to the civilian government, which will happen one day for sure, the post-regime change leaders would be faced with the question of what and how to lead the collectively owned Union of Burma. Therefore, it is a must based on the past experiences and the historical task demanding the visionary leaders of our movement today to prepare for the post-military regime era of the future Union of Burma by means of courageously, rationally and openly tackling and addressing the historical impasses and political roadblocks confronting the ongoing movement without waiting for the future democratic leaders to tackle it.
It is foreseeable that the sole focus to topple regime from power without preparation for the post-regime change era can be a dangerous move, which could lead the Union of Burma into deplorable situations. In order to astutely avoid such deplorable tensions that would challenge the post-military regime era of Burma, it is essential for all leaders of the movement to unconditionally accept and support the concept encouraging leaders of the ongoing movement to take further steps by working out the blueprints and political roadmap sketching how the Union be restructured.
Understanding the movement challenges and with the intension of saving the Union from undergoing through such destructive conflicts associating with the collapse of the military regime, it is very impressive to witness the fact that the dominant forces of pro-democracy movement embrace the notion supporting the need to prepare for the post-military regime era. In line with the guiding principles in rebuilding the federal Union of Burma under democracy, visionary leaders and policy makers in the political fronts such as the United Nationalities League for Democracy (UNLD), National Democratic Front (NDF), National Coalition Government of Union of Burma (NCGUB), National Council of Union of Burma (NCUB), leading individuals, and other fronts put considerable amount of efforts in drafting the State Constitution and capacity building projects in anticipation of having a smooth transition and rebuilding a genuine federal Union of Burma. This historic move is timely, relevant, and noble step that the entire pro-democracy forces need to strongly endorse.
Notably, the call for a genuine federal form of Union under democracy has been widely supported by all forces of the ongoing movement for democratization in Burma except group of dictators and like-minded individuals who still refused to recognize the national equality of all constituent member states of the Union of Burma. Let us be assured once again here. For a multi-ethnic country like the Union of Burma, made up of diverse national races, where a political identity based on a collectively shared sense of nationalism and seperate land ownership like Karen nationalism, Kachin nationalism, Chin nationalism, Burman nationalism, Rakhine nationalism, Karenni nationalism, Mon nationalism, and Shan nationalism shape the politcal landscape of Burma so strongly, the classical federal form of Union is the only best system which would best accommodate diverse national interests and competing issues in the Union. Therefore, in order for the Union of Burma to be stable, united, and developed, all the constituent member states of the Union should unequivocally support the timely call made by visionary leaders of the day which is to rebuild a genuine federal Union of Burma.
At this juncture of our movement, it is clear that making the movement narrowly focussed on removing the regime from power is not alone enough. Therefore, all the pro-democracy forces need to stand in unison behind the political beliefs of the visionary leaders of the day and their ongoing historic initiatives advocating the need to prepare for the post-military regime change era which is underway.
Commentator, Salai Za Ceu Lian, a second year student at the University of Winnipeg, Canada, doubly majoring in political science and communication, is currently the General Secretary of Burmese Community Organization of Manitoba, Canada. He is assistant general secretary of the Chin National League for Democracy (Exile), a political party which won 3 Parliamentary seats during the 1990 general elections in Burma. He was a former Chin Youth representative at the United Nationalities Youth League (UNYL), multi-ethnic youth alliance based in Thailand, a former general secretary of Chin Students’ Union (CSU), and was a former Assistant General Secretary of the Committee for Non-violent Action for Burma (CNAB) based in India. He also works as Associate Editor for Chinland Guardian and Rhododendron News, a bi-monthly human rights newsletter published by Chin Human Rights Organization)
By Salai Za Ceu Lian
February 2, 2006