Burma, Laiza

KIA soldiers patrol in downtown Laiza, northeastern Burma Friday. Pic: AP.

Burma celebrated the 65th Anniversary of Independence Day Friday. In his Independence Day message, the President of Burma (Myanmar) Thein Sein said that with a sense of duty, every citizen should take part in nation building since it is essential for ensuring peace and stability. Thein Sein confessed that Burma has lagged far behind neighboring countries in development because of the disunity between leaders and the people and prolonged civil war in the country after reinstating its independence.

In his message, he blamed British colonialists for exploiting natural resources. He also said colonialists systematically damaged religions, customs, literature and languages, accusing them of ruling the country with the policy of divide and rule.

General Aung San together with educated nationalist youths fought against not only colonialism but also Japanese fascists to gain independence said Thein Sein. He emphasised that independence came about through co-operation between the army and the people.

The nation regained her independence on 4 January 1948 thanks to collaborative efforts of all national races and statesmen who made supreme sacrifice for their country, he said.

Burma President delivered his first New Year radio message to the nation on 1 January 2013, Tuesday.(Photo: http://www.president-office.gov.mm)

However, the President’s message is at odds with the situation on the ground. Poverty is rife in Burma’s border regions where the government has failed to sustain development on education, health, transportation, and the economy due to fragile stability and the problems with rule of law. After 65 years of independence, there are no electricity supplies, clean water systems and modern hospitals in ethnic populace areas. But, privileged capital Nay-Pyi-Taw which was completed in 2005 has emerged as an extraordinary metropolitan area in the middle of a jungle.

Thein Sein emphasized that there has been progress in making peace with the ethnic armed groups, with the exception of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). While the Thein Sein Government has publicly declared its reform plans, including national reconciliation, it fails to control its armed forces in accordance with the peacemaking efforts. Right now, the Burma Army seems to be disobeying the peace plan made by the head of its government.

It is inexcusable because the government has used not only heavy artillery but also enforced gunship helicopters and jet fighters in this military operation against the ethnic Kachin rebels. The news about government airstrikes hit the headlines this week. The United States and the United Nations are warning the Thein Sein government to stop air strikes against the Kachin rebels.

The escalation of air attacks is menacing the country’s reform process. The intensity of the air strikes with the threat of a ground invasion of Kachin administrative capital Laiza further complicated relations between Burmese government and Kachin Independence Organization, Kachinland News said.

Despite the President’s call for cooperation, the trust is not there. The ethnic armed groups do not believe the government’s call for peace. The fact is that while offering peace, the government has been increasing its military deployment to the conflict zones.

If government armed forces continue combating ethnic rebels, it may damage the president’s reform process. The President should not run the country by issuing rhetorical messages, but command the armed forces to withdraw from the ethnic territories immediately.