Analyses of the three strategies laid out by the President of Kawthoolie, Saw Ba U Gyi
Saw Gay Lah
Since the Karen National Union (KNU) was established, it has been struggling for independence for its people, about seventy years. Along with the struggle, there are many changes in Myanmar/Burma politics as well as global politics and the KNU have been facing with these challenging changes. To success the Karen Struggle for Freedom and Autonomy, in other words, “Independence”, the President of Kawthoolie, Saw Ba U Kyi had laid out three strategies, which are (1) Armed Struggle; (2) Political Dialogue and a negotiated settlement with the Burmese government; and (3) International intervention and arrangement on the Karen people’s behalf. Based on my understanding, and knowledge, this essay is to analyze the pros and cons of each strategy laid out by Saw Ba U Gyi.
The first strategy is “Armed Struggle”, which means the Karen people must fight for its freedom and its autonomy to gain their own country. We must fight for our freedom and autonomy as the Myanmar politics is dominated by dictatorship. Since the Myanmar has gained independence from the British, the Karen people have been fighting for equal right through political negotiation, but the Myanmar dictators keep oppressing the Karen through arms. Moreover, the Myanmar military dictators started ruling the Myanmar after the military coup in 1962. The military dictators started building the country by using its power, which is opposite with the rules and laws of “Democracy”. Till now, we see that the Myanmar military dictators still exercise their power over the civilian and the power of military can obviously be seen through the 2008 constitution. As the country so called Myanmar has been built by dictatorship, we must fight for our freedom and autonomy though arms. Since Saw Ba U Gyi’s generation till now, political dialogue with the Myanmar government did not bring any improvement as it should be. Moreover, the Myanmar military still carry out their operation against Karen people and the KNLA fought them back to defend Karen. The Karen people can still maintain their culture, traditions, literacy, and customs because the Karen people started firmly holding and protecting themselves through arms against the Myanmar military. The cons of “Armed struggle” are causalities, injuries, weeping, and poverty. It is a time to question and to analyze the strength and the weakness of our organization. We have known that Myanmar military was much weaker when the Karen people started fighting for independence. In addition to this, the Karen people have served for the British Army and have well-experienced in wars, which lead to tremendous victory whenever it is needed. At that time, the number and the strength of the Myanmar military and the Karen army were not much different, but for now, there are many differences between the Myanmar military and the Karen Army in terms of numbers and strength. Furthermore, our KNLA have been divided among itself into many small armed groups. Firstly, the number of militaries is crucial because “Armed struggle” is the strategies that we must use our physical ability. Secondly, Karen revolutionaries have to make sure that they understand International Laws such as Human Rights, War Crimes, and other related laws. Our KNLA should not commit war crime and violate human rights and should avoid those laws as much as they can. If our KNLA have violated Human Rights or committed War Crime, our people might have faced poverty and difficulties. Meanwhile, our KNLA might have lost their supports from Karen people and international communities. In addition to this, international communities may not favor our struggle for freedom and autonomy. So, it is important to ask that whether the KNLA have followed international laws or not. Our struggle for freedom and autonomy has been about seventy years and it is important to know that this long-term struggle is not because of the intelligence of our KNLA, but because of the supports by our people. It is also important to question that do we already have a strong economy to support our armed struggle as it demands huge amount of finances. The current finances for armed struggle are supported by our people and if a fighting is started, it will disturb the economic activities of our people. If our people economy was disturbed, they will lose their profits and they will not be able to support our struggle. If we lose supports from our people, it is difficult for our armed struggle. So, our people livelihoods are important for our Karen Armed Struggle as we are interdepended on each other.
The second way in which the Karen country may be granted due to the empathy of our enemy. In this writing, I will take its meaning, as we will get our country through political negotiation. Due to political negotiation, our civilians and international communities will learn to know our political objective. If they know our political objectives, they will respect and support us more. On the other hand, the support of our enemy could be lessened if our civilians and the international communities know that our enemy is biased in political negotiation. Through the political negotiation, we can also prove our political objectives to our civilian and international communities that we are not a group loving to make the conflict in the country. We must strive to expose the political ideology of our enemy those are false. In political negotiation, we have an opportunity to meet with our civilians, make them understand politics, and explain our political objectives. If our civilians know our political objectives, they will suggest and support us as much as possible. Armed struggled can only be fought by those who are armed, but in pollical negotiation, all Karen people can participate. During the political negotiation, we have a responsibility to improve our governance system, organize our civilians, enhance the quality of our education, learn to make law, and others. If we look back when KNU signed the NCA, there have been many changes. We see our civilians are becoming braver, dare to express what they want; their understanding of politics has increased so much. Before the ceasefire, when the Myanmar military entered a village, they would kill pigs, chickens, cows, and buffalo but no one dares to say anything. Now we see that our civilians are brave and try to fight for their rights, this is the change for us. This change is a change that weakens the power of dictators and creates the dominant power in civilians. There are also weaknesses with political negotiation. Our leaders have to face many challenges, as political negotiation is too broad. With political negotiation, our enemy is fighting us on many battlefields. The enemy is fighting us through economic, by create economic domination so that our civil servants would sink in its economy and lose the ethic and interest to participate in politics. Moreover, the enemy also expands their control area, increase their armed forces that is what put the Karen people into danger the most. When the enemy does its expansion with economic, governance, and education, it is very hard for us to counter them as we do not have an equal number of armed forces, education and materials like they do. One of the important elements in political negotiation is the willingness of people. While we are in the process of political negotiation, both parties must truly have the desire for peace. Good political negotiation’s outcome could never be produced if only one party wants equality when the other party has an ugly plan. Therefore, we must make sure, if the enemy truly has the desire to give us the equality that we want. If the enemy does not want to create genuine peace and equality, the political negotiation would be vain and useless. Moreover, the enemy would postpone the process and expand its domination. As we are weaker, when the enemy postpones the time, the strength for us to overcome our enemy could be lessened.
Following the third way, implying Karen's achievement of the freedom by circumstances enforced by externality has two main arguments. The first argument seems to have possibility of occurrence since Myanmar had to stand for trial at international criminal court following its conduction of human rights violence. Due to this reason, many countries and international communities are watching over the military action. Some social media platforms such as Facebook Company have banned many individual or pages created regarding Myanmar political propaganda. Those taken actions can be considered as international pressures over the military. Moreover, Karen people are now spreading out over the world and could also express their feeling over military action to the world as well. We have seen each time the military conducted its oppression over Karen community, foreign Karen people gather to present themselves to state's conference to ensure the military's action is heard or known by the world. Our enemy could give up as a result of the continued pressures for its countlessly extreme human rights violence. The second argument over the third way could be less possibility since the military is holding total autonomy over its sovereignty. Other states cannot not intervene its domestic conflicts unless the state's government request for intervention. Humanitarian intervention has to stand UN general assembly's decision first in order to resolve human rights violence in a state. UN general assembly is comprised of five veto powers, which are China, UK, France, Russia, and US. Any operation taken regarding security need to be approved by Security Council and all the five veto powers have the right to rule the decision with their veto powers. The operation cannot happen unless one super power uses its veto to reject the decision. It is obviously difficult for international community to take action in order to resolve Myanmar domestic human rights violence since it has to go through Security Council. Besides, Myanmar military has close relationship with the two super powers, which are China and Russia, and the two super powers used to stand for Myanmar, which makes it difficult for Security Council to get all veto powers' approval. The geopolitical interest has also been favorable to China; therefore, Myanmar's military is supplied and likely to be influenced by China as well.
If the Karen people want to accomplish their goal, I believe they cannot rely on only one way. From my perspective, Karen people should hold onto three ways together while fighting for the self-determination. Most importantly, we have to illiterate, educate, and sharpen our knowledge and skill in accordance with modern standard. Moreover, we have to educate our self with required knowledge such the United Nation law so that we may understand and can figure out the strategies that are free from the pressure of United Nation while we are working. The second thing that we must work on is to unify our Karen armies into one to develop our cooperation and unity. In addition, the Karen people from all over the world have to reunify themselves and start talking for our Karen people affair in every way they could. Karen people are spreading all over the world but if we do not talk about our Karen people future, we will never be able to fulfil the dream for our Karen people. Due to this fact, it is necessary for the Karen people begin to reunify themselves as Karen people. Once we are united within ourselves, we will expand our firm cooperation with our alliances. We should work together with other ethnic armed group regarding military affair or politic. Meanwhile, we also have to develop our cooperation with international community in representing ourselves or reveal the atrocity or inhuman act. As a result, the international community can intervene in resolving the violence that is committed by Burma army. As soon so we have success, we can reform our governing, education, health, economy and military power too. Therefore, we can fight against our enemy from different aspect after we have these things for our people.