Pondering the BGF issue's imminent death
J. M. “Martin” Edmunds
Special to OKA News
It's February 2010, near Laiza, Kachin State – “The Border Guard Force issue will die very soon, the way I see it. The Burman junta will change strategy then, and I hope you KIA fellows can roll with the punches and keep up the opposition” said a civilian Kachin elder who's frequently consulted because he's always been trusted. As he intones, two uniformed men and two other civilians plus myself, sit with him, and listen intently, noting each word. The two in uniform are the top leaders of the KIA. The other civilians are respected leaders in their communities. To this observer a number of things are highly unusual, and overall, this meeting reflects the nature of the Kachin opposition to the SPDC today in a number of ways. I would like to share some of these with you.
These gentlemen are pondering politics beyond the BGF detente between the SPDC generals and the KIO.
A second civilian leader next speaks. “All these months while the BGF issue is being discussed on the surface, the junta is really studying why the Kachin civilians and the KIO, I really mean the KIA, have such strong unity, they are trying to find a vulnerable point that they can attack. This is what we have to worry about more than anything. The BGF talk is just a ploy for now.”
Another chimes in, “Plus, how many deadlines can you give and keep a straight face? This BGF requirement started last year about this time.”
The first civilian leader adds “Our dilemma as I see it, will be that they will say let's keep the ceasefire agreement, and then attack our unity as a people. We must always understand that they fear the civilian population far more than the military. If their soldiers attacked our civilians, the international media will be all over them, that's why. Right now they are trying to think up strategies to destroy our unity within the ceasefire framework. They have always worked on the divide and rule premises.”
At this juncture the senior KIA man says “Look at page 14 of the document that was circulated to everyone. It says here that the junta fears civilian power the most, and for this reason, the junta will seek to control the Burmans first and foremost because they have the largest civilian population that does not want to accept the junta's plans for this country.”
The third civilian leader adds, “ We need to remember that under the ceasefire the junta army can still intimidate our civilian population, but the KIA cannot. We do not treat our fellow Kachins in the manner that the junta army treats the Burman civilians and all others. So Kachins will be at a tremendous disadvantage in the post-BGF game. It is clear that our KIA must pursue a very proactive and energetic relationship with our own people. We must constantly reassure and reaffirm our unity.”
The second KIA officer now says, “This will be the right thing to do, going to the people. We are supposed to be opposing a military regime for the purpose of rebuilding a democratic system. We must go to our people because that's the right way.”
Everyone nods in agreement.
It is clear that these Kachins are already looking beyond the BGF detente, late in February, 2010; it is also clear that looking beyond together are civilian leaders (4) and KIA men (2), neither of whom is among the usually familiar KIO leaders.
Now, late April --Advance now to the end of April, and the course of BGF has indeed ended, by decision of the junta, that it is hopeless. The barrier presented by the KIO has been that Kachin people do not want to accept it. What the Kachin people want is in the Panglong Agreement, 1947, and Constitution which founded the Union of Burma in 1948.
The imperial SPDC's new clothes
The big news today sees junta generals resigning from the military to form political organizations. In Kachin State the junta generals have invited those members of the KIO senior leadership who have been soft on the BGF debate; they are being invited to form a political party with them. In lower Burma some twenty generals have similarly resigned to enter political participation as civilians!
What is not changing
All the generals who are resigning to enter politics hold positions related to civil administration; they do not command troops. The commanding generals of the directional commands (or taing:hmu rank) are not taking this step.
It is clear, as the Kachin leaders already realized, that this is driven by the fear of civilian polity, and it is intended to dilute Kachin and other ethnic groups' political feelings and dissuade us all from a potential eruption, as in 1988 and 1990. In Kachin State it is so clear that their new target at the moment is the political unity of Kachins. Remember, that the junta is well practiced in the strategy of divide and rule...
J. Martin Edmunds is a contributor to OKA News, the official eNews of Overseas Kachin Association