Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Burma’s Armed Ethnic Groups to Step up Resistance

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Burma's armed ethnic groups and ceasefire groups are vowing to unite to fight against government forces in the lead up to next year’s election.

According to Burma’s new constitution, all ceasefire groups must operate under the command of the military government.

However, most ceasefire groups have rejected the offer to work as government border patrol units and say they will maintain their army to protect their own people.

As Banyar Kong Janoi reports The New Mon State party and other ethnic groups say they will not accept any policy that doesn’t benefit their people.

Mon villagers dressed in their ethnic colors of red and white gather to celebrate their 62nd revolutionary day.

People sing the Mon National song.

This is the anniversary of the Mon uprising for self-determination against the Burmese government.

Mi Layi Mon says the dream of an independent Mon state is being kept alive by her generation.

“The rights of our people are in the hands of our youth because the youth play a very important role and they are very active in the political movement. So in the future the youth like us will promote ideology and education and we will get what we want."

The New Mon State Party fought an armed struggle for independence against the Burmese junta for over five decades.

But in 1995 it accepted a ceasefire agreement offered by the military regime.

Mon Sone, a resident in Karen State, says signing the ceasefire agreement was the right thing to do at the time.

"We do not blame the NMSP for signing that deal because war is not going to achieve our goal. Fighting will only destroy our people and send us further into poverty. During the conflict years we couldn’t maintain our culture, language or religion because we were on the run all the time. So the idea is we that we would try to achieve our political goals through negotiation.”

But he says the military regime has not kept up their side of the deal.

Now under the country’s new constitution the military regime is demanding all ceasefire groups must operate under the command of the military government.

They want the Mon armed wing to act as a border patrol. Mon Sone says they will never do this.

"The New Mon State Party has been fighting for the rights of the Mon people for long time. We honour and respect what they have done but if they accept the juntas offer and start working for them their honour will disappear right a way. So we very proud that they rejected this offer.”

One of ceasefire group, the Kachin Independence Organization, is preparing to fight if the junta puts pressure on them to become a border guard force.

But the New Mon State Party says they are committed to resolving the stand-off in a peaceful way.

Nai Hong Sa Boung Khine is a NMSP spokesperson.

"For us, we will still maintain ceasefire agreement but if the regime demand more pressure more on us we will have to consider in another way. So far, we would love to solve it politically through negotiation not by fighting with armed.”

The government is by stepping up confrontation against opposition groups.

The government's latest offensive against the Karen National Union, which began in June, has resulted in nearly 5000 Karen fleeing across the border into Thailand.

The conflict between the Burmese government and the KNU, which has stretched over 60 years, is thought to be one of the world's longest running.

Mahn Nyien Maung is a central committee member of Karen National Union armed force.

"If the regime is committed to building peace to avoid civil war them we will go into negotiations with them. But they are not thinking about returning Burma to the democratic path or about the rights of ethnic groups they are only thinking about how long they will be in power for.”

The military government is promising that elections will take place next year. If they go ahead they will be the first democratic vote since 1990.

Aung San Suu Kyi won that election but was never allowed to rule. The extension of her house arrest this month means she will be unable to contest next year’s vote.

Political science student Chan Jit in the Mon state says there are two ways to change in Burma a people’s uprising for a slow transitional change.

"For instance, say, if American stops its sanctions and begins doing Business with Burmese people and Burmese government and then the middle class would become larger by then. This evolution would mean the military has to give up their power slowly.”

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