Analysis of Saw Ba U Gyi's three strategies to achieve a full self-determination
Saw Taw Ka Lu Gaw Moo
I believe that all Karen people recognize Saw Ba U Gyi as our founding father of the KNU along with his principles that are still effective and paramount in signifying Karens' struggle for self-determination. We know that he turned his back on his wealth and career to free his people from the injustice and repressive society. He envision Kawthoolei where Karen people would be able to shape and cherish happiness of their own future. With his strong foundation, we believe our Karens' struggle for freedom someday would rest. His death became a bomb for Karen revolution and that legacy continues to live on until now. He build a charismatic leadership foundation for the Karen people as a guiding light but after his forming of Kawthoolei government, armed struggle came along as Myanmar military started to get rid of it.
His valuable ways and strategies are still considered constitutional bases for Karen' struggling nowadays. He found three approaches for Karen People in order to achieve Kawthoolei which are still debatable and not clear optional rest yet. The first approach requires political dialogue and the freedom we want will be voluntarily given to us in a good will by our enemy. We have always ensured that the enemy will never give us a country, so this possibility could be ruled out. We have had several political dialogues and agreements with the tyrants and they all failed. Good things about political dialogue is that they can possibly find out the interests and fears of their enemy regarding political scopes. They could also design an appropriate process in clarifying and allocating roles of different support actors, and plan for an appropriate communication strategy with the press as a backup party to reveal the process's reality. At the same time the connection with international actors for the mediation of the process. During ceasefire period, KNLA has a huge advantage of time and opportunity to build and shape a stronger army as well.
Of course, there are many damages and concerns over KNU control of Karen communities. However, comparing the ceasefire period to armed conflict, obviously there are more damage and impacts on the society with armed conflict. With less armed conflict between the two parties, KNU can also focus more on reconciliation, political values and culture over political interests rather than just solving the damage of armed conflicts. Many departments of KNU can also act on a better future such as education and health departments, giving better service since medical service is not considered as an emergency new recently which could also help increasing educational and other services in communities as well.
Political dialogue requires a credible facilitation that we are not seeing it during this ceasefire process as well. The joint monitoring committee are those from the two parties in conflict which is inefficient and both of them will however act on their own interests and on behalf of their people. Negotiation needs a fair facilitation so that the parties will feel more comfortable. There is also no sufficient political commitment which requires a genuine political will for the dialogue to reach inclusive agreements at certain levels that is supported by an effective implementation from both parties or other support actors from either external or internal. And again we have not yet seen those factors in ceasefire process that the parties' political commitments are influenced by those actors and political pressures. I am sure that most leaders do not fully feel the sense of ownership on the dialogue process so far but a strong will of participation.
KNU does not seem to have a collective capability of leadership to determine the success of its dialogue with the enemy. There is no strong will of forming coalitions with other political and social divisions or other ethnic armed groups instead act on its own bureaucratic will based on its constitution. Therefore we expect less from political dialogue where such coalitions does not exist. We have seen many recurring doubts resulting from the dialogue which could lead to tensions anytime, therefore it is necessary to specifically focus on the measurement of implementation process, otherwise it could reduce our confidence of capability and increase cynicism, and lately could lead to dialogue fatigue where there is no realistic action taken.
Political dialogue also requires powerful negotiators to demonstrate its approach related behaviors that KNU does not have it in order to give positive moods to other party and gain its rewards. Our KNU is still considered a powerless negotiator which seem to experience our own inhibition and fear of the potential threats resulting from the impact. Comparing with Myanmar military, they have negotiation power with fearlessness of losing anything and that what makes them decide more, and receiving offers than accepting ours. KNU does not have conditions to offer and also less inclined in order to produce a distinct bargaining advantage, because only powerful negotiator could manipulate the behavior of the enemy in political dialogue.
The second approach knowingly by the right of military conquest seems to be a practical and precise way for Karen revolution. Although the Karen revolution is considered a just, it makes it too difficult to be victorious by just military conquest. We have seen the reality of the struggle which has been almost a century and we can compare the beginning of the revolution with nowadays when there was less technology to produce weapons or supplied by outsiders for both parties. However, Myanmar's military has been using more technologies to produce weapons and are supplied with submarine, and weapons of mass destruction, while the KNU armed group has to only use guerrilla warfare tactic. What if the army use the weapons of destruction for the targets of our people, we can not possibly prevent it at all and there will be a huge damage to our own people.
For a wider scope, the military has it backup from two veto powers in UN such as Russia and China so they do not care more about conducting human rights violence. With current power of KNU army, it can not guarantee the safety of the whole Karen people. During armed conflicts, there were more impacts on civilians and casualty as well. Most people are also fed up with civil war effects, which lead to no civilized society and bad communication system for younger generation to have better access to education as well. Besides, the military will never be defeated with just our small armed group, we can see that they tend to be stronger, retains control of its own affairs, and adapt to new technologies to masterpiece people' mindsets. Their power of controlling ministers of the interior and border security, giving them control over the police, intelligence services and border guards.
In fact, without KNLA, the situation could be worse for certain groups of people who live under the guardian of KNLA and could also make KNU a no power of negotiation. Guerrilla warfare that we have been using somehow create a disturbance to our enemy at certain level and affect the life of people living in the control areas to some extent as well. The military can not aggressively oppress the land of control areas as it has to go through those dangerous surprise attacks and small groups could be safe from the torture or porter by military as well. Without army, Karen could be considered a nothing but a group of rebel without any identity that create chaos with no instinct destination. Our voice could be less heard by external actors and government. KNU can also gain more trust from its own people by having a stronger army is also a point to be considered in order to guarantee our people' safety.
Third approach of achieving Kawthoolei by international pressure or specific circumstances is a way that requires more favorable occurrence for international communities. KNU failed to grasp several opportunities such as 88 students protest and others as internal circumstances. It did not even present itself by either military or political means and forced its will on the enemy. Foreign intervention seems to lead to a more conflict and instability internally since it has to stand moral reasons that will justify the intervention as well. Although there are some competing frameworks for justifying intervention that have been embraced by international community, it all seemed inappropriate after all the evaluation regarding the right to protect its own sovereignty which was approved by UN general assembly. This approach sounds more likely a luck or fortune since humanitarian interventions has its limited success in addressing the issue under a state's sovereignty.
Intervention rarely happen unless an intervening state has a powerful motivation for interventions because most states seem to apply realist theory in their international relation which is motivated by their own interests. It seem unlikely that international actors would use power and make a circumstance since they don’t see any favorable interest they could promote in this case. However some super powers promote the military's interests because they gain rewards from doing it so. So far we have only seen military rulers have resisted external demands instead reinforced the mindset of the people that foreign pressures are to blame for creating the problems since colonialism.
On the other hand, international humanitarian organizations become more concerned about what is happening in Myanmar especially ethnic areas. Supranational actors try to look for ways that seems appropriate with international norms of national sovereignty and humanitarian needs for the population that are suffering within the state as well. Although military rulers are fully driven by an obsession of seeking a full national sovereignty and total autonomy from outsiders' influences, they dare not to extremely commit international criminal laws that the state signed for it as well. They might obviously show lack of understanding in international affairs and the motivations, and values of other nations, however civilians tend to enjoy international norms, democratic cultures and values more nowadays. The country need to open itself more and more since civilians are demanding for more international norms and globalism. The civilian government has come to focus on a more practical immediate action in facilitating gradual loosening of military control, approaching to transform its relationships with the regime, political parties and population first as well.
Considering all the approaches, I find political dialogue a better way which we could immediately take action to reduce damaged factors in Karen communities. However other two ways of approaches are also important while having dialogue as well. They all are relatively backup powers for negotiation and political dialogue. Reaching a peace agreement is often a difficult process, however there is a way to resolve conflicts and prevent the reoccurring through a well-coordinated approach, using civil society organizations to ensure the process is well paid attention so that international communities. As mentioned beneficial from the first approach, it is the only immediate goal that can be taken now. KNU could grasp the efforts from international communities by pulling as many countries as possible while having its dialogue with enemy.
Ultimately, Karen revolution's strength is mainly from the people, therefore KNU could take advantage of time to reconcile the people. "We need to respect and love our people so that we can be loved" as our first president suggested. We could build stronger offensive and defensive strategies of KNLA and ensure the time is not in vain. Civil society institutions have a critical role to play in monitoring agreements and holding parties to be a more accountable as well. The dialogue process should not end with the signing of agreements, but has to enforce other relative factors to focus on implementation so that the dialogue can be facilitated. The fact that KNU had signed the agreement does not mean the Karen revolution is over. KNU is just too young with political dialogue literally and has to face many more problems, but we have to cope with them all. We cannot just concentrate on the few, but also the benefits of majority.