Friday, February 25, 2005

Burma's Ethnic Question - The Unfinished Business of Guns and Histories

Quote of the Day:

"One needs to have a (big) stick handy before joing the debate about the history (of Pagan)."

- A Burmese saying

This FBC Posting contains:

1). 'Democracy' vs 'ethnic rights' ?: The Unfinished Debate
2). 58th Mon National Day - General Statement
3). 57th Chin National Day Message by Pu Valthang

Burma's Ethnic Question - The Unfinished Business of Guns and Histories

Zarni, Free Burma Coalition

It is to be expected that the issue of ethnicity continues to play a major - or more accurately, the major - role in Burma's national politics. Fictions and facts, myths and realities, perceptions and mis-perceptions have become intertwined in the minds of successive generations of those who were born in a place territorially demarcated as Burma today. No one is claiming God is on their side; but everyone resorts to history - how their respective pasts are recorded, revised, and remembered.

Burma's ethnic disease -both the dominant one and the others - is infectious, and no one has been immune to it. Some are able to take a step back and reflect on their own (taught) prejudices while others find ethnic sentiments to be too powerful not to embrace. Underneath the beautifully worded chronic affirmation of liberal-sounding principles and policies lurks these powerful 'primodial feelings'. It is highly debatable whether ethnic consciousness is 'primodial' as some anthropologists and political scientists have asserted (e.g., Clifford Geertz) or whether it is a result of a conscious political socialization, however rudimentary and 'primitive' the process may be.

But the first order question - whether ethnicity consciouness is an manufactured item or genetic(born) - appears less important and less pressing than what one does about it as the ethnic flame rages on at the core of Burma's politics.

As such in this posting, I have included a few relevant/representative items - a political statement by a coalition of Mon organization, the text of a speech by a Chin dissident, and some interesting on-line exchanges between a few individuals on the question of the Rohingyas in Arakan or Rakhine state.

Some readers may find some items rather extreme and frightening. For instance, the one where Hitler's Final Solution was openly held up as a model for protecting racial and ethnic purity of people or peoples considered indigenous to the land.

My purpose here is not to 'shock and awe' the readers, but to offer a glimpse of what goes on in the opposition in exile on the question of ethnicity, ethnic rights to self-determination, and so on, both among those who hold leadership positions in their respective, disaporic (sp? real word?), ethnic communities and those who are 'ordinary' members of the opposition in general. The views expressed in all these pieces are fairly representive of where Burma's peoples, especially the ones who are politically aware or minded, are mentally, emotionally and intellectually.

The classic, if misleading, debate about the two seemingly opposing priorities or missions - democracy versus ethnic self-determination - has, over the past 50 years, been a major cause of spectacular failures to forge any type of genuine solidarity - both in spirit and organizationally in the country's modern political history. The late PM U Nu and his armed resistance movement parted way with their resistance brothers (and sisters) - the Mons, the Karens, the Shans,etc. - in the early 1970's over this issue, and collapsed thereafter.

There is a Burmese saying, which goes something like this - "one needs to have a stick handy before joining the debate about the history of Pagan or Bagan, (the origin of the ethnic Burmese)." In other words, the differences about people's strongly held historical views are expected to end up in physical fights.

Indeed sticks (and histories) are perhaps the first and last refuge of the scoundrels.

The Burman-identified leaders of Burma's Armed Forces have evidently taken that to heart: they are fully equipped to debate the issue of ethnicity, in the Burmese Way. On their part, the ethnicity-based political organizations have long felt necessary to approach the issue in a reciprocal fashion, taking up arms or retaining arms. Even the mainstream opposition leadership that was born out of multi-ethnic, anti-Ne Win uprisings of the 1988 has not been immune from this common dis-ease. As far as opposition groups, the outlook toward this ethnic question evolves, progressive or regressive - depending on the policy and behavior of Burma's main political player - the military leadership - at any give time. But having a much bigger stick, the generals are not adjusting their views toward ethnicity or the manner in which they will debate with anyone on it.

Rannin Soe<> wrote:

Dear Mr.Tin Aung,

we are fighting for democracy and human rightotherwise. we are not interesting your capmpaign.All of yoursaying fighting for democracy buy you are campaign for Etnic rihgt.

with best wishes

Ran Nin SoeThe Netherlands
From: "Rannin Soe" <>
Add to Address Book Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2005 19:26:38 +0000 (GMT) Subject: [NLDmembrsnSupportersofCRPPnNLDnDASSK] They are not fighting for Human right.
Dear Thiha Aung,

We respect Human Right but they are not fighting for Human Right.They are fighting for occupid our land by Islamic Back bone.
Do you know what is called Rohingya?
Who are Them?Where they come from?And what they Demand?

I believe you already know what is called Jeehad ( killed for all of non Mulslim ).
Mujaheed Protest to Muslim and fighting for non -Muslim.My friend they are fighting for Indepedent make a Islamic State.How can Bangali fight to Burma/Arakan?They are Islamis behind the Mask. For Example more than ( 200 )Bangali gave name as Rohingya Themself chacking for Asylum.

They can't speak any language from Burma Ethnic groups.So how can we accept they are from Burma.If you want to say Human Right please tried to know about what is called Rohingya.
You can lie to Burmese people about ( Rohingya behind the Mask ) but please don't tried to lie us.

1947 The Mujaheed Party, ArakanJeehad CouncilON August 20, 1947, the Mujaheed Party, Arakan was formed under Dobboro Chaung Declearation. It was led by Mr. Jafar Hussain popularly known as Jafar Kawal. The Mujaheed Pary of guided Jeehad Council consists of the then Rohingya elders who supported Jeehad movement in Arakan.

1964 Rohingya Independent Force (RIF)Rohingya Independent Force (RIF) was formed on 26 April 1964 at Maungdaw, Arakan under the leadership of Master Sultan Ahmed and Mr. Jafar Habib popularly known as B.A. Jafar. In 1969 the name of RIF was changed into AIR ( Rohingya Independent Army) and led by Mr. Jafar Habib.

1973 Rohingya Patriotic Front (RPF)On 12 September 1973 near Sack Dala on Burma-Bangladesh border the name of AIR was changed into Rohingya Patriotic Front (RPF) and led by Jafar Habib. After the independence of Bangladesh there were many changes in RPF and finaly in June 1974 RPF was reconstituted and was led by Mr. Jafar Habib, President, Mr.Nurul Islam, Vice President and General Secretary was Master Shabbir Hussain.

The Chittagonian Bangalis are tring to -

1-To have recognition of Rohingya as a nation withing Burma by changing the Real History of Rakhing State.
2-After cecoming as a nation of the country a muslim state will be created with Islamic Back bone.
3-Aftersuccessful completion of above plan, with the help of outside ( Islamic Redical countries ) aseparate state sovereign power will be established.Later it will be made a confederation state with Bangladesh.

with Best Wishes
Ran Nin Soe

Tin Aung <> wrote:

Dear all,

> > Rohingyas are ethnic or not. > >

Let me touch this question as much as I can. > > I also wanted to attract more reasonable, candid,> broad mined, far sighted, constructive and facts> bearing discussion from others. No hateful message,> please.> > I don’t know whether the Rohingya existed from the> time of immemorial or not in Arakan. This> questionable assertion should be left in the hands> of respected historians. Instead of challenging each> other to prove and end up with angry words, we> should invite the historians.> > What I do know is they’ve lived in Arakan from> several hundred years ago. Were they the intruders> from Bangladesh? Well, everybody is entitled to his> or her own view as long as resonable.> > If we think of a geo-political point of view, people> from the border areas are always criss-crossing both> sides. Wa from the North, Salone (Spelling might be> wrong) from the south, Rohingya from the west are> some examples. Wa was recognized recently as an> ethnic by military junta.> >

My lay man’s point of view regarding ‘ Rohingya> should be recognized as an ethnic in our country’ is> as follows:> > 1. They have lived there for several hundreds of> years.> > 2. They have their own language.> > 3. They have their own culture.> > 4. They have a sizable population.> > 5. Rohingya was already recognized as an ethnic by> the parliamentary democracy government of Burma.> > 6. There was a Rohingya broadcasting programme along> with other ethic programmes aired by the government> radio station.> > 7. Cancellation of Rohingya radio programme and> retracting the ethnic Rohingya status was a> deliberate act by a wicked military regime to subdue> the people of Arakan, creating the constant fighting> between each other.> > Why don’t some people want to recognized Rohingya?> > Allow me to address as much as my small knowledge> goes.> > 1. Rohingyas are secessionists.> > Once, there were many ethnics who pronounced that.> Now, they denounced it. Nowadays, I don’t think any> reasonable person can argue that today Rohingyas are> secessionists.> > 2. Rohingyas are Islamic extremists and they want to> create the scary state.> > Well, If you connect the dots, it is one of the> greatest concerns of the world including all Muslim> counties except for Iran (Iran is seen as a> fundamentalist country by consensus; but some might> argue that).> > The truth is that terroists come in all colours,> follow all religions.
> Although extremists are very few, they exist in> every segment of the society like common criminals> even in the western democratic countries.> > I believe that the separation of church and state,> guarantee for basic Human Rights, democratic> principles and collective work of our peace loving> people, we can bury these poisonous ideas.> > 3. We can never accept them as Rohingya.> > It is equivalent to call African origins as Niggers> once in western countries. The name, Nigger has> historical context as the name, Eskimoes. But they> clearly stated that they didn’t want to be called by> those names. The names were changed.> > It doesn’t matter Rohingyas settled in Arakan a> thousand years ago or a hundred years ago, the fact> of the matter is, if not millions, several hundred> thousands of Rohingyans exist now. They want> everybody to call them Rohingya. > Even they were historically called as Bangali or> Kala, what is wrong with that today, if they wanted> to be called Rohingyas. It is not a wise idea at all> to refuse to address the will of Rohingyas and treat> them as sub-human or surbodinates by saying that you> must be called what we want. The adamant, outright,> refusal doesn’t serve the interest of Rakhaine, but> will undermine its own interest.> > This is a critical time for soul searching.> > Does anybody sincerely believe that under the> democratic Federal constitution, he or she can say> no to Rohingya rights, including the name?> >

I urge the people of Arakan to build the unity and> fight the common enemy.

> > Fighting each other only serve the SPDC.
> Aung Tin, Toronto
Posted by
58th Mon National Day - General Statement

The International Committee for the Mon National Day (ICMND) is united in celebrating our 58th National Day. Celebrating the Mon National Day with music and dance is banned in major cities in Burma despite these activities being peaceful and unrelated to political conflict.
The Mon people have lived in lower Burma and Thailand for over two thousand years and peacefully co-existed with other ethnic groups where we preserved our language, culture and traditions. We were once one of the leading civilizations in Southeast Asia with a social and institutional foundation we received from the teaching of Buddha Gotama. Our political sovereignty was destroyed, our cultural heritage was damaged and our language was assimilated by the Burman nationalist elites many decades ago.
We have struggled for over 247 year to regain the peace, equality and prosperity we had enjoyed under our royal institution before the Burmans and the British occupied our land and sovereignty. The Mon people have paid a heavy price for the cause, being killed, persecuted, raped, displaced and discriminated against in our homeland by the military led government of Union of Burma/Myanmar. Moulmein, the capital of Mon State, no longer exists as the symbol of the Mon community under an oppressive Burma military regime.

Meanwhile, in Burma we are unable to teach, read and publicize Mon language newspapers, magazines and radio broadcasting in our community. Teaching the Mon oral and written language is banned at public universities and public schools in urban areas. Mon children are only able to read and learn the Mon language in rural areas that are under the control of the Mon leading political party. We believe that we should be able to teach, read and learn our cultural heritage freely in our homeland.

It is time for all world leaders to play a proactive role in a Burmese political settlement, to pursue regional stability and economic prosperity for all the citizens of Burma.

We are committed to unconditional peace and an end to the civil war in Burma, with a guarantee of civil and political rights, social and economy rights for all, according to the new constitution of Federal Union of Burma. The current assembly of the National Convention of Burma is not legitimate until all elected MPs are invited to debate the future constitution. As long as only the military leaders control the executive power of Burma, the concept of human rights, freedom, liberation, self-determination and federalism is dead and civil war remains as the only political instrument for disadvantaged people.

International Committee for Mon National Day
Euro-Mon Community (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands)
58th Mon National Day Committee (Akron, Ohio, USA)
58th Mon National Day Committee (Australia)
Mon Canadian Association (Toronto, Canada)
Mon Canadian Society (Alberta, Canada)
Mon Community (North Carolina, USA)
Monland Restoration Council (MRC-USA)
Mon Unity League (Thailand)
Mon Workers Association (Malaysia)
Mon Workers Union (Thailand)
February 24, 2005
From: "hre mang" <>
Date: Sat, 19 Feb 2005 11:30:27 -0800 (PST)

Subject: [NLDmembrsnSupportersofCRPPnNLDnDASSK]
57th Chin National Day Message by Pu Valthang


The background history:
The Chin people belong to the south Mongoloid racial group and are linguistically a branch of Tibeto-Burmans or Chin is a group of tribes of Mongol origin, occupying the southern most parts of the mountain ranges separating Burma from India, from the Chin hills in Britannica by encyclopedia.

In 1102 B.C Western Chou Empire had been comprised by CHIN, CH"IN, CHI, CHU and SUNG tribes in Wei valley of CHINA. In 700 B.C that Empire splited up into great five provinces. Later on among them the CH"IN province became strong and occupied the CHU province and then established CH"IN pinyin QIN dynasty. That dynasty king, king Shi Huang Ti founded the term CHINA in his period and built the Great Wall of China. HAN dynasty succeeded CH"IN dynasty in B.C 210, HAN dynasty ruling in B.C 210-226. SHANG dynasty succeeded HAN dynasty in B.C 266 did not mention the period of that dynasty.

CHIN pin yin JIN dynasty comprised two distinct phases, western CHIN dynasty and Eastern CHIN dynasty in CHINA. Western CHIN dynasty started from A.D 265 up to A.D 317, and the Eastern CHIN dynasty ruling (317-420) AD. That dynasty was succeeded by SUNG dynasty in AD 420. (From CHIN in Britannica by encyclopedia, founded 1768 15th edition page 217-219)
Some Chin groups had migrated to the YUNAN state of China later on. In that state Chins had been fought by TAI people who had already been there before Chins. That war Chins were defeated. Some Chins fled up to Korea through the North-East of China and some Chins moved down through Park-way mountain range which stretches out from China country to Chitagong hills tract of Bangladesh country. (In The Tai and the Tai kingdom by Dr.Ko koi page 87 and in the History of Manipur by Ibal Hal Singh page 142-143).

Ibal Hal Singh said that the arrival of Chins into Burma might be about A.D 700.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honor to be invited here today. I am honored, patrons, special guest and my fellow Chin crowds been here. Today is Chin national day, it is the only significant day for Chins in histories and political means.

The brief history of Chin national day:

Chin national day was founded on Feb 20, 1948 by more than 5000 meeting members under the leadership of the late U Vom Tu Maung the first Chin affair Minister of Burma. Union of Burma was comprised with eight great territorial lands under the agreement of Pang long. The Pang long agreement had been enacted by the representatives from four territorial lands. They were Chin, Kachin, Shan and Burmen on Feb, 12 1947 before hands of getting independence from the British government. That means to get independence immediately by Chin, Kachin and Shan from British government. (Refer from the preamble of Pang long agreement). Among eight nationalities Chin and Burmen, have national day. Burmen are much greater in population than Chin. Burmen takes advantage upon its population and acting seem to be the owner of the whole Union of Burma. Burmen do not want to have two national days in one country. Burmese government tried to change Chin national day with any another name since 1962 after the falling of government power into military regime under the leadership of Gen, Newin. Gen, Newin empowered himself as the head of the country and formed the cabinets under his leadership. He ruled the country with the affair policy within (1962-73). His government did triY to change Chin national Day into Chin affair day. Again in 1974 the Junta changed the country government policy as the people council under the controlling of Burmese way of socialist party. Gen, Ne win become the president of the country and named seven territorial lands to be the so-called seven states and Burmen territorial land had been divided into seven divisions. After then the Chin land also got the new name Chin state in 1974. From that year the Junta again tried to change Chin nation day as Chin state day. In 1980 the Junta ordered the regional authority to celebrate Chin national day into Chin state day. At that year on Chin national day I wrote a denied letter to Gen, Newin the president of Burma that I do raise the objection about Chin national day replace with Chin state day. In the next year U Mang Lian (MP) wrote to Gen, Newin with the same idea of Chin national day concerned. Unknown name from Tidim Township wrote to Gen, Newin that he raised the objection of replacing Chin national day into Chin state day. From 1984 Chin national day has been celebrating as regular as before for a couple of years. But now Junta authority forces Chin people to celebrate State day instead of Chin national day in Chin land.

Chin state day is not only concerned with the land which is bounded with the boundary but with all Chin people who are living in Chin state, outside Chin state and in overseas. Chin national day is the only what the Chin people have as the _expression of our national identity as Chin. If Chins lost Chin national day, also will lose our identity .If we lost our identity there will be no more Chin on earth.

Ladies and gentlemen, right now we are celebrating Chin national day, but in Chin land our fellow Chin people are celebrating Chin state day under the soldiers’ boots, and in front of the gun points. Have you ever thought about that, how to preserve our identity, our culture, our customer, our literature and language. I would like to say that please do not forget yourselves, who you are? Where do you come from? And where you will be? Your land and your people beckon you. God bless Chins and God bless Americans.

God bless Chin people,

Pu Val Thang

Note: Pu Valthang is a former prisoner during U Thant ayi akhin in 1970s, and was former teacher in Burma. After joining the Chin National Front, he served as the General Secetary untill he left the party in 1992. He was also jailed in Bangladesh during his political movement as the GS of CNF.
From: "Tin Aung" <>

Date: Wed, 23 Feb 2005 01:41:32 -0500 (EST)
Subject: [SYCB] Excessive patriotism can lead to xenophonia.

Dear all,

While the vast majority of our comrades are putting their effort to uproot the SPDC, as much as they can, some of us are busy with identity.

I ought to say that identity talk is important too, however.

Meanwhile, lone gentleman suddenly came up with, I would say, a kind of extreme patriotism, saying such as anybody whose citizenship status should be down graded if he or she married foreigner, all Burmese citizens must take DNA tests to prove their purity as an ethnic and chase out all Chinese and Indian origins.

That gentleman also pointed out that if we don’t protect the ethnicity by making the law to punish the intermarriage (sounds scary), the ethnics would disappear (sounds more scary).

Here are my suggested questions we should ask ourselves.
1. What kind of country are we going to make? Are we not ready for the 21st century yet?
2. What I.D Amin did in Uganda and at what price? What were his real intentions behind?
3. Do we really want to create a new dictator bred from xenophobia in our land?
4. Had we not learned enough lessons from the dark part of human history such as apartheid era is South Africa or some evil emperors tried to wipe out some human beings?
I fully understand the desire to protect the identity. There are many subtle ways to prevent the intermarriage such as discouragement or disapproval by the society, but to ban by law, it is disgusting.

Preserving identity can only be achieved by educating the people, not by fascist law that comes with expense of basic human rights.

If anybody has a vision of the future of our country, think of a united one that comes with justice, equity and liberty which is ready to compete with other countries. Not one that we intimidate each other, suspect each other, hate each other and destroy each other which leads to be a parmanent member of the world poorest countries.

We’ve already lived with fear for almost two generations. After the SPDC, we don’t want to live with another kind of fear,
No fear monger, hatemonger.
Aung Tin, Toronto.
"moe kyaw tun(kma)" <> wrote:

Hitler is evil only for jews. He got good vision for his own people. Because of his partiotic propagations, german race became more cautious about foreign illegal immigrants problems and thats why until now majority germans are not welcoming foreigners for residing in their country. Thats why german can now proud of being monoethnic country. Their strong partiotic spirits and intelligent mindsets help their country to recover within short time after World War II. Patriotism and ethnic identity are very important for a country in long run. If you learn about G8 (G7+ russia), all are found as monoethnic ones except USA and Canada which two are formed with white immigrants from Europe on virtually no man land.Please check our nearest neighbours. Why china and india now developing very fast and china even faster. There are very few ethnic problems facing in china. Almost all minorities except a few percentage had been successfully absorbed into main stream han chinese and therefor they can do development job efficiently. In india, different states got various ethnicity and they speak loudly about their voices. This is infact obstacles in development. I don't want to elaborate too much about that. You can carefully study these cases. What are the most developed countries in South East Asia. Sinapgore in which chinese dominate in almost all areas and act as monoethnic country, but they cleverly disguised as cosmopolatan country giving equal rights to others. In reality, there is no equal rights. If others ask for their rights, they(chinese) simple turn down by democratic means( by voting out). The second most prosperous country in south east asia is Malaysia, where chinese and indian are positively discriminated by constitution.

In Thailand and Indonesia, minority (chinese) control around 70-80% of business. And now these countries are legging behind malaysia although they were wealthier than Malaysia in the past century(during the era when no chinese were there).

What I mean is the country should be monoethnic and majority race should control almost all so that the country can be developed easily. If the minority could grib firm power in politic or economy, they will do for their own( this is common sense, people will do for their own first, then family and then friends, as mentioned in Buddha' teachings or Confucian's teachings.)
Therefore, there should be no compromise on rights of ethinc rakhine who is the decedents of Tibeto-Burman tribes( not Bangali or Indo-Aryan).If not, so called Rohingas or Bangalis who are traditionally better in saving money than ours will dominate all our economy first, then our political power will be bought our through some corrupted Arakanese and then they will import their culture also. This evidences can easily be found in modern Burma(Myanmar) where Chinese gradually control our economy and then politic. There are many majors, generals and high ranking official of chinese decedents in myanmar now and they help lobbying government to do favours for china. Now , they even trying to import chinese culture.
" Save our Land even as Hitler if necessary....instead of losing out in foreign hands "