7 February 2004
The Military's 'Roadmap' as a Catalyst
Help comes from unexpected quarters. As the Burmese saying goes,
"A yay jee yin thway see", unity comes in time of need.
The State Peace and Development Council announced a "seven-point
future policy program" or a seven-phase roadmap on 30 June.
It came at a time when the international community was strongly
condemning the military for the brutal crackdown and massacre of
members of the National League for Democracy near Tabayin on 30
May. Nevertheless, the knee-jerk reaction paid off and pressure
eased on the generals who promised to the world, particularly neighboring
and regional countries, that they were bringing democracy to Burma.
The generals previously had also tried to impose military domination
over Burma's political future with its version of "disciplined
democracy" through constitutional principles drafted by a National
Convention attended by delegates of its own picking but the process
was suspended in 1996 when the NLD demanded that the National Convention
be more democratic and representative and decided to stay away from
it unless its demands were met. That convention which dismissed
the NLD had already prescribed what is known as the "104 principles"
which were to be used in drafting a constitution that would legitimize
military rule in Burma.
The generals' pledge once again to steer Burma to "disciplined
democracy" under the same "104 principles" naturally
became a cause for concern to all legal political parties, and ethnic
nationality and democratic forces. Even the ceasefire groups, which,
under intense pressure from the generals, have pledged support for
the National Convention, are saying they want to see reforms in
All political parties, organizations, and politicians that have
legal standing inside Burma as well as others beyond the reach of
the military and in exile are openly voicing their opposition to
the roadmap. And that voice of opposition has become a unifying
and rallying cry for all dissident forces.
Unifying the Visions
The Third Ethnic Nationalities Seminar, which was held recently
(from 28 January to 2 February) at the Burma border and attended
by 61 delegates and observers from the ethnic nationality alliances,
parties, and organizations, agreed that the resolution of political
problems in Burma must be through a "tripartite dialogue"
and the establishment of a true Federal Union. The participants
said the "road map" and "the attempt to reconvene
its National Convention would not lead to democratization and establishment
of a federal union but only sustain a military dictatorship in the
They said, "tripartite dialogue, as called for by the UN resolutions
annually since 1994", must be held "at the earliest date"
to form "an interim government" comprising of representatives,
proportionally, of the SPDC, the NLD and other political parties
victorious in the 1990 elections, and the ethnic nationalities,
based on the agreement arrived at the tripartite dialogue."
They believe that that interim government should convene a legitimate
The Seminar also called upon the junta "to unconditionally
cease all military offensives against the ethnic nationalities,
declare a nationwide cease-fire, release all political prisoners,
including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi."
The ethnic nationality leaders expressed their conviction that
constitutions of the Federal Union and the constituent States must
be drafted by commissions formed "with the approval of the
National Convention" and these constitutions must be adopted
through "national referenda" held in various constituent
States before elections can be held to form Federal and state parliaments
which then would elect Federal and state governments.
A major accomplishment of the Third Ethnic Nationalities Seminar
is that all the organizations were able to agree on a single plan
involving different phases in particular order that Burma needs
to go through to achieve democracy and long-lasting peace.
Another important achievement is the decision to form an "Ethnic
Nationalities Council" which will no doubt contribute greatly
in helping resolve the nagging question of who will represent the
ethnic nationalities in the "Tripartite Dialogue" given
the diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds and political
leanings of different ethnic nationality forces.
The results of the Third Ethnic Nationalities Seminar also put
to rest all speculations that ethnic and democratic forces are at
odds over the military's roadmap. Like all struggles, anomalies
are bound to emerge from time to time, but the main goal remains
as clear as ever for the democratic and ethnic forces.
Bringing Ethnic Rights to the Fore
In fact, the concept of "tripartite dialogue" first appeared
in the United Nations resolution on Burma in 1994 when it was proposed
by the NCGUB delegation at the United Nations in recognition of
the importance of ethnic nationalities having an equal voice in
the decision-making process of the country.
The ultimate objective of all political organizations in the ethnic
and democracy movements, including the National Coalition Government
of the Union of Burma, has always been the establishment of a democratic
federal union that would guarantee democratic and equal rights to
all nationalities in Burma.
Hence, the clarion call made by the Third Ethnic Nationalities
Seminar on the democratic and ethnic forces, at home and abroad,
to unanimously support and make concerted efforts to realize the
aspirations of the people of the Union of Burma is bound to be answered
with a resounding yes.
The united front of the ethnic and democratic movements of Burma
will also expect world nations, particularly neighboring and regional
countries, the United Nations, and the international community to
respond favorably to this call and help bring democracy to Burma.