2 injured in Muse landmines explosion

Two people – a Burmese army officer and a firefighter – were reported injured after a landmine exploded on Thursday in northern Shan State’s Muse Township, an important border crossing for trade between Burma and China.

Sai Hin Lek, a local resident in Muse, said that the incident took place in Bok Mai, Jelant tract, as a bomb disposal team from Burmese Army Division 33 was working on a landmine clearance program.

The ordnance devices were found by local villagers who had gone to hunt for wild food in the forest near Bok Mai, he said. They then informed the village headman, who reported it to the local military unit.

“Two people got injured – a Burmese army officer and a firefighter – and a truck was slightly damaged,” he said. “Fireman Sai Yi Song Kham was wounded on his right leg.
“Five mines exploded while the bomb disposal team were trying to clear them,” he said. “Another one went off this morning.”

He added that, to date, the soldiers had only been able to remove three devices.
Locals in the area say they suspect the mines were remote-controlled devices.
At the time of reporting, no further information had been provided by local authorities about the blast.

Last year, The Myanmar Times reported that on 24 August 2015 an individual on a motorbike threw a bomb at a local bank in Muse Township. Local ethnic armed groups were accused of involvement.
According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), a non-governmental organization active in some 100 countries around the globe, Burma is the third-worst country in the world for annual landmine casualties.
Between 1999 and the end of 2014, landmines had affected 3,745 people: 396 killed; 3,145 injured; and 204 unknown, according to an ICBL report on 25 November 2015.However, it noted that the real figure could be much higher.
The ICBL said that state-owned Myanmar Defence Products Industries still produces landmines at a facility in Nyaung Chay Dauk, Bago Region.

Several ethnic armed groups are also believed to still produce or use landmines.
By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)

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To Hopeland and Back: The 22nd trip

The following journal is about what had taken place during my last trip to attend the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) signing anniversary which was held in Naypyitaw on 15 October 2016.

As the Shan saying goes, “Salt never rots and knowledge is never in excess,” I’m sure the reader will benefit from the reading, some if not much. In either case, the reader won’t have to spend so much time going through it, because I have never been known to be long winded. I would never know how to.

Day One. Monday, 10 October 2016
Sharing a meal makes it delicious
Sharing a burden makes it light
108 Dehong Tai Proverbs
Tai Studies Institute (1994)

This 22nd trip of mine to Hopeland is quite different from others: when the long practiced formula is just to observe, report and advise. But this time I’ve been asked to help coordinate the arrangements for the upcoming Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) signing anniversary. As the Coordinator of the Peace Process Steering Team (PPST) was away in South Africa and asked me to assist. And to my eternal regret, I had accepted. Because if something goes wrong, I’ll be held responsible, partly if not totally.

Being unburdened for so long, I must admit I don’t like it at all. I might even be getting real old (as if I weren’t already) doing this sort of thing.

There’s one thing good about it though: I’m learning to appreciate the troubles the active participants are going through, and not to attach too much blame on them for some of the occasional slipups. 

State Counselor announcing the MPC,
 a semi-government organization, 
will be transformed as NRPC, 
a full government organization, 
15 May 2016. (Photo: MNA)
To my relief, Hkun Okker, the PPST Coordinator got back last night and is now accompanying me (or rather it’s the other way round) to Mingladon.

We arrive there at 12:30 but it takes us another hour negotiating through Rangoon’s notoriously heavy traffic to reach the National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC), formerly the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) on Shweli Street. The meeting, scheduled for 13:00, has accordingly moved to 14:00, thanks to the NRPC officials.

Dr Tin Myo Win, the State Counselor’s chief negotiator and Vice Chairperson #2, NRPC , opens the meeting saying, “Now NCA is known even by children. Hearing my 2nd grade niece using it, I asked her what it meant. And she said, ‘It means we don’t shoot at each other anymore.’”

The long and short of the 2 ½ hour meeting is as follows:
·         The invitation will be issued by the State Counselor, who is also the chairperson of the NRPC
·         EAOs, both signatories and non; former government leaders including President Thein Sein, and witnesses, both domestic and international, will be invited
·         The ceremony on 15 October will be held between 09:00-12:00. The government will meet the non-signatory Delegation for Political Negotiations (DPN) in the afternoon.
·         The venue will be Myanmar International Convention Center I (MICC ), and not at MICC , as there will be only about 400 invitees

So far so good. But, as meetings go, there are some glitches too. Notably on the question of the approval of the Terms of Reference (ToR) for National level Political Dialogue (NPD) to be completed by the tripartite Union Peace and Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) before the end of the month.

The PPST meeting on 7 October (3 days earlier) in Chiangmai thought that any agreement reached on the ToR should only be provisional until further approval by PPST (and later the Joint Implementation Coordination Meeting).

This message by EAO representatives at once draws a stream of protest by some government representatives:
·         Does it mean the PPST is above the UPDJC? (No, it’s only above the EAOs’ UPDJC bloc)
·         Both the government and the military have already granted mandate to their UPDJC representatives to decide on the NPD on their own judgment. Why can’t the EAOs do the same? (For one thing, while the government and the military have only two bosses the State Counselor and the Commander in Chief, EAOs have 9 — their own and the PPST. Knowing its own sluggishness, it is still looking for a speedier mechanism.)
·         It seems the signatories are dragging their heels like their non signatory counterparts (No, but EAOs need a little extra time to see to it that their negotiators and policymakers share same understanding)

The meeting, all in all, is a success, after a fashion (the new word I’ve just learned. I guess the resultant peace may also turn out that way.) 

I have a pleasant get-together with some old friends in the evening. Naturally our conversation touches upon the current peace process. But nothing serious is discussed. At least I can’t remember anything of substance to write in my diary when I get back to the hotel. 

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Myanmar: The Dilemma of Ceasefires but No Peace

With such agreement, it was hoped that the independence generation of national leaders would resolve the deep political and ethnic challenges facing the new union without armed struggles breaking out. But, looking back at the continuing state of conflict in our country, it needs to be asked whether there was really a sincere opportunity for political solutions by peaceful means at that time? And if so, what does it warn of now when military operations are expanding again under a new incarnation of central government when peace hopes have recently been so high?

To understand our sense of concern, the Kachin experience is sadly poignant. Kachin leaders have always been in the forefront of initiatives to give peace and reconciliation a chance in our country. It was Kachin representatives who encouraged other nationality leaders at Panglong to reject a British offer of Home Rule and rally behind the national independence movement led by Aung San. The Panglong Agreement, however, was never honoured and, in the rush to independence, armed struggle rapidly spread across the country.

Since this time, the Kachin people have never wavered in their search for peace. At every change of government in the post-independence era, Kachin organisations – armed and unarmed together with faith-based and community groups – have never failed to support peace negotiations in the hope that they will lead to political solutions. Such desire has continued through every political era, whether military, quasi-civilian or elected government.

Hopes were especially high in 1994 when a bilateral ceasefire agreement was reached with the military government of the State Law and Order Restoration Council. Many Kachins for the first time felt that there was political light at the end of the tunnel, and the Kachin Independence Organisation subsequently participated in the National Convention to draw up the country’s new constitution.

Expectations, however, of national peace and inclusion were ultimately dashed. So it is important to stress that the failure of the 17 years of ceasefire was not for a want of local efforts.* Within the confines of military rule, Kachin organisations sought every avenue to address the dire needs of the conflict-affected after decades of civil war. Community-based activities multiplied and the KIO, along with other peace groups, promoted regional development while advocating constitutional reform and a new general election to institute peace and a representative system of government in the country.

In pursuit of these aims, the KIO – together with 12 other peace groups – submitted a joint vision to the National Convention for a federal system of government to guarantee the equality and autonomy promised by Aung San and the Union’s founders at Panglong in 1947. Their proposals, however, were ignored, with only a promise that they would be put on file.  Meanwhile new forms of exploitation and corruption emerged, including environmental destruction, land-grabbing and other human rights abuses. Equally concerning, the efforts by Kachin people to form representative parties to stand in the 2010 general election were blocked. In consequence, few citizens saw improvement in the security or quality of their lives, causing many Kachins to ask: “War or Peace: what’s the difference?”

The 17-year ceasefire was broken immediately after President U Thein Sein took the helm of a quasi-civilian government under the aegis of the 2008 constitution. The unprecedented use of sophisticated weaponry, including fighter jets, helicopter gunships and heavy artillery, has since caused over 100,000 Kachins to flee from government troops. Most continue to languish in internally-displaced persons camps until this very day. At the same time, despite President Thein Sein’s suspension of the Myitsone Dam, the exploitation of natural resources such as jade and timber has only increased. Such ill-treatment and oppression have only furthered a new generation of grievances, and many Kachins are now firmly entrenched in the opinion that they should not abandon armed struggle unless there is a real political solution in sight.

Kachin leaders have nevertheless continued to engage in peace negotiations at every opportunity. From the time of renewed hostilities in 2011, they entered into new peace talks with the government of President Thein Sein, and a breakthrough of sorts appeared to be reached during meetings in October 2013. A new agreement offered the KIO opportunity to get together with other ethnic armed organisations to collectively negotiate with the central government for a political settlement.

Divisive trends, however, in national politics quickly began to emerge; first, the political reform process was separated between parliament and ethnic peace talks; and second, a division developed between the eight ethnic armed organisations that signed a “Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement” with the Thein Sein government last October and a majority of nationality forces, including the KIO, that want to wait until the national peace process is truly inclusive.

Despite these differences, hopes really grew that a new era of peace and reconciliation could be at hand when Daw Aung Suu San Kyi and the National League for Democracy came into government office last March. Optimism developed in spite of the fact that the form of national government remains a centralised, unitary system and the 2008 constitution is still in place. The reality is that, since 1962, there has been only one party in power, the national armed forces or Tatmadaw, and its presence in government is pervasive and indomitable. Nevertheless hopes of peaceful change further increased at the recent “21st Century Panglong Conference” which the KIO also attended. For a brief moment, it appeared that the parliamentary and ethnic peace processes would finally be brought together on the same track in the interest of all peoples.

The potential for peace, however, presently appears short-lived. Tatmadaw operations have once again increased around the holding of peace talks, with offensives escalating from mid-September – including air strikes and artillery shelling – during attacks on KIO positions. On 14 October, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, expressed concern that humanitarian aid was being blocked by the authorities in some areas. “I spoke with people who fled violence more than five years ago and who are simply waiting for the guns to go silent before they can go home,” said Mr O’Brien.

This only serves to highlight the long-standing conundrum for the Kachin people: they know only too well that, if the government and Tatmadaw truly wanted, a halt to military offensives would have been achieved a long time ago. This was amply demonstrated during the 17 years of ceasefire and previous times of peace talks. But for over five years now, every peace announcement or initiative has seen no let-up in Tatmadaw operations and build-up. It is almost as if peace talks and ceasefires are being used as a stratagem of war.

Worries, too, are now being felt over the apparent silence and ambivalent position towards the Tatmadaw’s operations by the new NLD government. Fears over the NLD’s lack of understanding or ability to confront these issues increased this week at the first anniversary of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement signing at Nay Pyi Taw when State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi seemed to suggest that, as long as the NCA is signed, the ethnic conflicts will be over. But if this is the government’s belief, it disregards the fact that neither is the NCA open to all groups nor does the Tatmadaw appear to be bound by it. Recent Tatmadaw operations in the Karen state, an area supposedly covered by the NCA, as well as attacks on the Restoration Council of Shan State, an NCA signatory, further underline this point.

Of course, political transition in Myanmar was always likely to be a formidable task after decades of conflict and military government. It is also recognised that all countries in the world face difficult challenges in achieving democratic political systems that represent the people. Such institutions as the European Union, for example, have problems with centralism and disparity between member states. But while the context might be different, the challenge of such inequalities reflects the experiences in our country where the Tatmadaw has become an inherently authoritarian political and economic structure and successive governments, whether military or elected, support this by positioning themselves close to the status quo.

For the Kachins, who are co-founders of the Union, it is a challenge to overcome this unrepresentative system on their own. But no matter how their actions are viewed by others, the Kachins will continue to defend their rights and repel military aggression wherever it occurs. As experience since independence has long shown, it is a matter of survival. And such sufferings, which afflict many nationalities in our country, cause real harm to inter-community relations. As a new government, once again led by ethnic Bamars, now seeks to resolve the country’s challenges, it is sad to say that a prevalent view among many Kachins about the Bamar elites is: “When there is discord within their ranks they will try to sow division amongst us and exploit the situation; and when they are united, they will direct their energies to annihilating us.”

Myanmar’s future could still be bright. But as military offensives continue, it is vital to recognise that the recourse to armed tactics is not just a Kachin issue but a national issue as well. If there is a reversion to military rule, it might not make much difference for the Kachins who have been living under this reality for many decades, but it must give real cause for concern to everyone who supports democracy. Political solutions will never be achieved on the battlefield. Under such a scenario, there will be no winners but just losers. Military-first tactics will never end, and the present political landscape will not mark a step in transition towards peace and democratic change. Rather, the country will remain enmeshed in the unending cycles of conflict, ceasefires and broken promises that underpin state failure and national under-achievement.

The task of finding peaceful solutions thus falls to us all: political parties, ethnic armed organisations, community and civil society groups, media, faith-based groups, individual activists for peace, and coalitions of interest groups. It is time to say that “enough is enough” to military offensives. At a time of critical national change, the attitude of waiting until armed conflict is over to settle things will not work.

Popular momentum is building. What is now needed is to forge a national movement in the same way as the “Save the Irrawaddy” campaign that halted the construction of the Myitsone Dam under the Thein Sein government. People of all ethnic, political, religious and geographical backgrounds need to come together in one voice to stop the war before it is too late.

In the meantime, tens of thousands of Kachin civilians have come out in protest against the war in recent days. Their protests were echoed in an appeal letter sent to State Councillor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi by the NLD’s Ethnic Affairs Committee Chairperson for the Kachin state, Sheila Nang Tawng, and signed by her fellow MPs. Protests against the Kachin war are also being carried out in Hakha, Yangon and Mandalay by other ethnic brethren, including the Bamar.

Thus this is a call for all civilians, political parties, faith-based and civil society organisations across the country, as well as those abroad in their adopted nations, to come together in solidarity with the Kachin and other nationality peoples in their suffering and demand:
•    an immediate stop to military offensives in the ethnic regions
•    initiation of a comprehensive peace process
•    provision of unhindered access to humanitarian aid
•    a halt to large-scale mega development projects until a political solution is achieved.

It would be a tragedy if our silence brought only suffering for our children, and posterity came to see us as the tacit enablers of military aggression in our lands.

Lahpai Seng Raw is a 2013 Ramon Magsaysay Award winner and co-founder of the Metta Development Foundation and Airavati. She was also a delegate at the recent 21st Century Panglong Conference.

* For an analysis of the ceasefire years published this week, see, Mandy Sadan (ed.), War and Peace in the Borderlands of Myanmar: The Kachin Ceasefire, 1994-2011 (Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2016).

This commentary is part of a TNI project funded by Sweden.

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Shan armies mourn death of Thai king

The Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) and the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) have both released independent statements expressing their condolences after the death of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand.

The RCSS/SSA statement, released on October 14, said that the Burmese ethnic the group is deeply saddened by the passing of the king.

“We offer our condolences to the Thai royal family and the people of Thailand,” the statement read.

The Shan army declared that it would fly flags at their bases at half-mast for the next 15 days.

“The RCSS/SSA regularly holds the king’s birthday celebration at our headquarters in Loi Tai Leng and along the border,” said Lt-Col Sai Seng Murng, the spokesperson of the RCSS/SSA.

On October 17, the SSPP/SSA also published a statement.

“On behalf of the Shan people, we express deep condolences to the royal family and Thai people,” it read. “The death of His Majesty the King was a great loss, not only for Thai people but also for Shan people.”

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest reigning monarch, passed away at Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital on October 13 at 3:52pm at the age of 88.

Having been on the throne for seven decades, the Thai king was widely respected, both at home and around the world.

Among scenes of grief, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who has led the country since a 2014 coup, declared that the king’s son, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, would succeed the throne.

The government also announced that flags would be flown at half-mast for the next 30 days, and that a year-long official mourning period would be observed.

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Investment protection treaties endanger democratic reform and peace initiatives in Myanmar

In the volatile and fragile context of Myanmar's nascent democratic reform, investment protection treaties must not be allowed to negatively affect processes that would make Myanmar more peaceful and democratic.

People handing out flyers on the street to protest investment protection agreements
Following a reform process initiated by the previous military-backed government of President Thein Sein, there has been great interest among international governments and the business sector to promote foreign investment and trade with Myanmar. This momentum has been furthered by the subsequent endorsement by the country’s democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi for the West to drop most of its economic sanctions. In order to facilitate this relationship, Western and Asian governments have pushed Myanmar to sign so-called “investment protection treaties”. While the Myanmar military government had signed investment protection treaties with China and India, since 2013 new treaties were signed with Japan and South Korea. Currently, now led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, the Myanmar government is negotiating an investment protection agreement (IPA) with the European Union (EU). There is also an investment protection clause in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). This is a proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the ASEAN member states and Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
While the benefits of signing investment protection agreements are highly overstated, the risks are seriously underestimated, and they could have major negative impacts on democratic development and sustainable peace in Myanmar. When signing these treaties, governments give away their sovereign right to regulate in the interest of the people and the environment, and they expose themselves to expensive lawsuits. The incentives offered to foreign investors come at a high price, depriving countries like Myanmar of the necessary policy space to harness investment to serve sustainable development and peace. Under the provisions of the investment protection agreements, foreign investors can challenge almost any government intervention if they consider that it will affect its current or future profits.
These interventions by foreign interests could, for example, include challenging new policies or laws introduced by the Myanmar government around more sustainable health or environmental approaches and priorities. They could also undermine agreements that come out of the country’s peace process: for instance, around natural resource management and sharing – or better regulations to make natural resource extraction more sustainable. If it signs up to these investment protection treaties, the Myanmar government may have to pay a heavy price to foreign companies or abandon policies and principles that it would like to promote in these vital situations of such importance to the country.
The investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses, which form a standard part of investment agreements, enable foreign investors to circumvent national courts and take a complaint straight to an ad hoc international tribunal consisting of three commercial investment lawyers, who will decide on whether government measures are legitimate or proportionate to their objective. These for-profitlawyers can, and do, award compensation that may run into many hundreds of millions, in some cases even billions, of dollars. These awards are enforceable and must be paid out of public budgets, reducing the funds that are available for public policies. Equally detrimental, the independence of lawyers is not guaranteed as they are paid commercial fees on a case-by-case basis in a one-sided system where only foreign investors can bring legal challenges and where there is thus an incentive to rule in their favour.
For these reasons, this week Myanmar civil society organisations (CSOs) are rallying all over the country against the RCEP and the proposed European Union-Myanmar IPA. The campaign by Myanmar CSOs is part of a campaign in most of the 16 RCEP countries. Neither details of the EU-Myanmar IPA negotiation dates, nor the negotiation text, are made public. As a result, Myanmar civil society groups have consistently raised serious concerns about the EU-Myanmar IPA and many of them refused to participate in the external EU Sustainability Impact Assessment on the basis that they can not say anything sensible as long as the negotiation texts have not been made public.

In a joint statement, the Myanmar CSOs point out:
"Myanmar is still in its very early stages of a democratization and peace building process, which will involve negotiations over ownership and revenue sharing of natural resources in the different ethnic areas. Many laws and policies still need to be revised. Signing an investment treaty like the one proposed by the EU would lock-in future policy space in Myanmar and severely endanger the prospects for democracy and sustainable peace. For Myanmar to take this course at this stage in its development appears not only inadvisable, it is also unnecessary.’’
There is a long history in such international investment law that Myanmar now has to face up to. Signing international investment treaties (IIAs), in the hope of attracting foreign investment, has been a central strategy for governments looking to improve economic development. IIAs have been around since 1959, when the first Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) between Germany and Pakistan was signed. By the end of 2015, there were 3,286 investment agreements (2,928 BITs and 358 “other IIAs”) globally. “Other IIAs” refer to economic agreements other than BITs that include investment-related provisions, such as investment chapters in EU Free Trade Agreements. The bulk of these investment protection treaties were signed during the 1990s and early 2000s when most governments believed that economic liberalism would bring development. The idea was that signing investment agreements would help countries attract foreign investment. At the time, there was no awareness of the risks involved and what governments were giving up in terms of sovereignty.
Today, more than 20 years later, the evidence that international investment agreements actually deliver on their stated purpose is at best inconclusive. Most research studies carried out by the academic community have failed to find a direct correlation between IIAs and attraction for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The experience of countries like South Africa, Ecuador, Hungary and Brazil show that increased foreign investment is not based on having IIAs. Even the European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström recently admitted that most studies show no "direct and exclusive causal relationship" between international investment agreements and foreign direct investment.
Foreign investors, however, have already used the investment dispute settlement system to challenge environmental protections, energy policies, financial regulation, public health, land use and taxation measures.
The threat of claims can cause governments to reconsider or shelve public interest regulation. International Investment Agreements also have the effect of severely limiting a host government’s ability to design a national investment strategy that involves a tighter and dynamic regulatory framework for foreign investors. In particular, many IIAs prohibit or restrict the introduction of performance requirements for companies. The government cannot impose obligations for technology transfer or demand a percentage of domestic content. This means that the host government is unable to ensure that the supply of goods or services is provided by nationals or that the company employs a certain percentage of local employees in order to promote job creation. The government is also inhibited from introducing tax measures or demanding a minimum investment in research and development (R&D) activities. Such rules combine to severely limit government sovereignty to direct investment flows towards sectors that support national or state level development objectives.
The consequences of such IIAs could be especially damaging for Myanmar. At present, the country relies heavily on the exploitation and export of natural resources as a driver of economic development. Investors in the mining and extractives industry are among the most frequent users of the investor-state-dispute settlement (ISDS) system. Any future endeavours by Myanmar to reregulate its natural resources more effectively and equitably for its peoples could be challenged by foreign investors through the ISDS system. Such challenges could halt initiatives to ensure that the management of its extraction contributes to a sustainable peace or that Myanmar’s mineral commodities are not exported in raw form but that value is added domestically.
There is much international precedent in such warnings. Several mining companies, for example, lodged ISDS claims against Indonesia when it adopted a new mining law which required among other things mining companies to put in place downstream production: in other words, to refine and process minerals (for example by establishing a smelter) in the country prior to export in order to generate jobs and profits for Indonesia. The mining company Newmont used the Netherlands–Indonesia Investment Treaty to file a claim against the Indonesian government. Newmont only withdrew its case against Indonesia after it had reached an agreement with the Indonesian government, giving the mining company special exemptions from the new mining law.
This is a clear case of a regulatory chill, which is more and more used by investors to challenge proposed regulations. The impact can be immediate because of the risks to public budgets that may come under enormous financial pressures. The mere threat of a multi-million dollar international arbitration lawsuit can make governments reluctant to implement social or environmental protection measures that could affect the interests of foreign investors. For example, the government of New Zealand decided to postpone their plans to introduce stricter rules on cigarette packaging until they know the results of the investment arbitration lawsuit initiated by Philip Morris against the governments of Uruguay and Australia for their decision to change regulation on warnings in cigarette packaging.
The potential risks to governments do not end here. Often investors claim compensation not only for the actual investment made but for loss of future profits as well. In Myanmar’s case, this means that a definite cancellation of the Myitsone Dam could potentially cost the Myanmar government hundreds of millions to billions of dollars, which would have to be paid from the public budget. For the moment, the Chinese investor has not threatened to bring a case and has tried to solve the issue through diplomatic means, but this could well change in the case of a final cancellation. Germany, for example, faces a 4.6 billion Euros ISDS claim from the Swedish energy company Vattenfall after the parliament decided to phase out nuclear energy in response to the Fukoshima disaster. This by far extends the actual investments made by Vattenfall.
As concerns have risen over such practices, the argument that unregulated foreign direct investment will improve a country’s economic development has been widely discredited in recent years. Rather, it is recognised among communities in many countries dependent on natural resource production that the regulation of foreign investment in general, and the extractive industry in particular, is crucial in order to restrict the industry’s negative social and environmental impacts and to guarantee some positive contribution to economic development. Greater government influence in the extractive industries is the current trend among resource-rich countries. For example, African countries have developed a regulatory framework for mining, the “Africa Mining Vision” aimed at enhancing development by supporting the industrialisation of natural resources.
A growing number of countries are beginning to understand the financial, social and environmental costs of the system of investors’ protection — with countries as diverse as Australia, Bolivia, India, Indonesia and South Africa revising their investment treaty policies. They are dissatisfied with transnational investors challenging the legitimacy of their policy decisions and the threat to public budgets. Thus, since Myanmar is only opening up its economy recently, it can learn from experiences elsewhere in the world.
As Myanmar is opening up for business, the country is currently developing a very liberal investment law protecting the rights and property of foreign investors in the country, as well as giving very generous tax incentives. On top of this come the RCEP and the EU–Myanmar Investment Agreement, with EU actors interested in such diverse fields as Energy, Logistics, Infrastructure, Construction, Health and Agri-Food Sector. These will extend investors’ rights with even more countries, and they are a dangerous step that will prevent effective regulation of foreign investments in the interests of a durable peace. Worse still, unlike the existing Bilateral Investment Treaties that Myanmar has with for example China, India and Japan, it will be much harder for Myanmar to revise its investment policies in the future since regional trade agreements such as the RCEP have no expiry date.
Myanmar is a country in transition. For the first time in decades, a democratically elected government is in place. However, the national armed forces still play a significant role in the country’s political arena, and democratic reform has only just begun. The country has many outdated laws and policies that need to be reformed. At the same time, a peace process has started to finally seek a solution at the negotiating table to solve ethnic conflict in the country and end the 65-year old civil war. In this context, many new policies and laws need to be introduced. But in such a volatile and fragile landscape, it is essential that investment protection treaties do not have negative impacts on processes to make Myanmar more peaceful and democratic.

These commentaries are part of a TNI project funded by Sweden.

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Oxford-Myanmar Policy Brief Series

Myanmar’s new government faces a variety of challenges on its path to securing democracy, federalism, security, and equality for all of its people. The Oxford-Myanmar Policy Brief Series was created as an effort to contribute to domestic policy-makers’ work addressing these many challenges.
This initiative began with a workshop on 15 February, 2016, entitled “Towards Democracy and Reconciliation: Challenges Facing Myanmar’s Incoming Government.” Co-organised by Dr Ma Khin Mar Mar Kyi and Dr Matthew J Walton, and co-sponsored by the Programme on Modern Burmese Studies at St Antony’s College and the International Gender Studies Centre at Lady Margaret Hall, the workshop brought together over a dozen UK experts on Myanmar, drawn from academic, advocacy, and activist communities. Presenters focused on the challenges facing the new NLD-led government, identifying key stakeholders, persistent and emerging impediments, and potential policy responses. Subjects considered included military legacies, governance concerns, social issues, land and resource management, and conflict and displacement.
With the success of the event, the co-organisers saw an opportunity to effectively channel the insights of the participants into policy-making conversations in Myanmar’s government, civil society, and other political institutions. They also sought to contribute to the developing public discourse on political reform in the country. Participants were asked to transform their presentations into short policy briefs that could be of use to ministries, parliament, and other decision-making bodies in Myanmar, and others who could not attend the workshop were invited to contribute briefs. The collected briefs were edited by the co-organisers and translated into Burmese. They are available to download free here and will be distributed in hard copy to lawmakers, policy-makers, and others in Myanmar’s government.
With the additional support of the Irrawaddy Policy Exchange, the co-organisers plan to hold events at Oxford focused on different policy areas approximately every 6-8 months, with policy briefs to follow, along with other follow-up events in Myanmar. The second iteration was held at Oxford on 13 October, 2016 and focused on environmental issues. In addition to including several presenters from Myanmar, the workshop organisers were pleased to be able to welcome several representatives from Myanmar’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation as well as representatives from Myanmar’s Parliament. Reports on the discussions at the event will appear in the next week on Tea Circle, the Programme on Modern Burmese Studies’ Myanmar blog.

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Mentality of the “Tatmadaw” Through the Living History

Kanbawza Win is a survivor of the 7th July Incident when the Junta took power.
(1) Bias Interpretation of the Union of Burma History

The ancient history of Burma is a history of war between the rival petty kingdoms. Sometimes the Myanmar monarch won and sometimes the other ethnic nationalities like Shan, Mon and Arakanese won. The warrior kings either Myanmar or non-Myanmar often endeavour to subdue their neighbouring kingdoms, but the peoples of Burma always lived in the same country and no ethnic group Myanmar or non-Myanmar, can solely claim that the country has been under their rule throughout all the time. But Chauvinistic (Mahar) Myanmar who are myopically nationalist and hegemonic claiming that they have ruled the country except in the colonial period believe in the linear progression of Myanmar, and imagine themselves to be a historically cohesive nation, whose organizational integration with the ethnic nationalities in the peripheries only need to be completed either democratically or by force. General Than Shwe’s Armed Forces Day speech in Naypyidaw in 2009 said, “Our Tatmadaw should be a worthy heir to the traditions of the capable Tatmadaw established by noble kings Anawratha, Bayinnaung and Alaungpaya,” that is why the Tatmadaw set up the three mammoth statues of the warrior kings under whose shadow they marched past every annual Resistance Day (there is no such thing as Army Day in Burma). The name “Naypyidaw” in Burmese means royal capital city of kings.

Hence, the history of post-colonial Burma centers on a pathological process of neo-colonization of the non-dominant members of the Union by the dominant Myanmar elite, where the urban elites and males, and soldiers, are more equal than the other ethnic communities, classes and females. They Tatmadaw have resumed this old expansionist mission in the name of post-colonial nation-state building.

(2)  Tatmadaw is an occupational Army

The current Myanmar Tatmadaw have originated from BIA, hence it is only the Myanmar ethnic group and not a Union army. As said the Union army was originated in 1937 when the country was separated from India composed of the ethnic nationalities, known as the Burma Rifles, a sort of a federal army, under the British command. When the Allies retook Burma from Japan, the British Burma Rifles played an important and crucial part, acting as scouts and gathering intelligence and harassing the enemy from behind the line, while the BIA was still aligned to with the Imperial Japanese army.  Only when the BIA saw that the allies and the British Burmese army were winning and that Mandalay had fallen to the allies did the BIA decide to join the winning side. When the two groups were amalgamated the two Karen commanders became chief of the armed forces (General Smith Dun) and chief of the air force (Saw Shi Sho); the chief of operations was the Sandhurst-trained Karen, Brigadier Saw Kya Doe. The Quartermaster General, who controlled three-quarters of the military budget, was a Karen, Saw Donny. Brigadier Bo Let Ya, army chief of staff.

The Myanmar had considered the ethnic nationalities especially the Karen and Anglo Burman as mercenaries. Within a twelve weeks after Britain give independence on Jan 4th 1948, the Burma Communist Party revolted. This was the first Myanmar ethnic insurrection against the Union of Burma, the Myanmar Communists Parties were the only group among the insurrectionists that did not recognize the Union of Burma, while the ethnic nationalities insurrectionists recognized the Union of Burma and wanted only autonomy within the union, a sort of a Federal Republic. The second rebellion was by the PVO (part of Tatmadaw) and the third was the Red flags communist (Thakin Soe) Hence among the insurrections only the Myanmar ethnics that did not recognize the Union of Burma.

The Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO) was forced to rebel in 1949, after the Karen quarters in Rangoon city (Kenmendine) and Insein town came under attack by Myanmar troops. So, unlike in Pakistan, where a professional military force became politicized, in Burma the military was politicized from the outset because of its role in the independence struggle. It may or may not accept civilian control up to this day, but at times out of conviction as well as expediency it may accept.

But up to this date the people still look at the Tatmadaw as the people’s army. However Ne Win and his lieutenants were more ambitious, as they had tasted power in the form of caretaker regime and launched a military coup on March 2nd 1962 and their ugly visage on 7th July by massacring hundreds of, Rangoon University students. Since then Tatmadaw despised both nationally and internationally and came to be much feared by the people and could not rely on the popular vote to stay in power.

(3)  Attitudes towards non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities

Tatmadaw believes that the ethnic nationalities are inherently inferior (culturally/socially) and would split from the country if given a chance.  They also believe that the ethnic nationalities are distrustful and have the fear of Myanmar domination, however, they provide lip-service respect for ethnic nationalities’ culture through ritualized holidays and propaganda efforts. They believe that if the Myanmar do not oppress other ethnic nationalities then they would find themselves oppressed. For them, national reconciliation means assimilation and preventing disintegration. All the ethnic nationalities and their languages, traditions, culture and values are to be assimilated into those of the Myanmar race hence, if the Tatmadaw falls everything falls. They believe that their mission is to protect the country and that the country would fall apart without them. Essentially, their power is rooted in the deep racism that has permeated Myanmar society since the beginning, the racial supremacy over the non-Myanmar, and the Divide and Rule Policy. Hence, the 3 As method of Annihilation, Absorption and Assimilation were adopted on the ethnic nationalities.

The Tatmadaw believes that the country is surrounded by enemies – real and imagined.  These    threats no longer take the form of territorial aggrandizement, but economic domination and the possibility of encouraging ethnic nationalities for separatism.  This fear is based on a reality once extant, but now completely outmoded.  These past instances of such foreign support are the American assistance to KMT forces in Burma, Pakistani-Bangladeshis’ support for Muslim insurgents, the Thai’s tolerance to a variety of insurgent groups (both ethnic and Myanmar), Indian backing of anti-Junta groups, some British humanitarian support for the Karen, Chinese aid to the Burma Communist Party and a general perception that Christian minorities have closer support and contact with foreigners than do the Myanmar Buddhists.

(4) Tatmadaw’s Philosophy

The Tatmadaw, has no real ideology and no constituency within the society under its rule, but for a time it was successful by entrenching fear and hopelessness in the minds of the people. Even its junior and mid-level officers work mainly only for purposes of their own power or wealth. Employment in Tatmadaw is one of the few viable careers in today’s Burma. As for the rank and file soldiers, many are conscripted by forced, while others are coerced or misled into believing that the Tatmadaw provides an escape from personal trouble or protection for their families.  The current generals of the Tatmadaw lack experience of independence struggle and Cold War politics, and are unable to stand on a nationalistic platform and non-alliance ideology. They are not skilful in playing political theory games. The only lessons they have learnt are some effective ways to hold on to their power.  The training and lectures given eventually instill in all soldiers a Tatmadaw mindset, which is comprised of the following features:

- We work harder than others for the sake of the country.

- We sacrifice our lives to work for the sake of the country.

- Our comrades are injured or killed by our enemies.

- The enemies, who injure or kill us are supported by a part of the population.

-We must follow orders, live under the discipline of the army at all the time.

-We are soldiers serving the country 24-hours a day.

Hence from the soldier’s view, ordinary people and civil servants live more easy-going lives, indiscipline and have many leisure hours and do business just to enrich themselves. The end result is that soldiers believe they have the sole right to hold state power due to their hard work and sacrifices. These basic opinions hinder the relationship between the people and the Tatmadaw.

When the Tatmadaw cracks down on peaceful demonstrators, they viewed them as lazy opportunists, who are asking for rights without working hard and sacrificing like they do. The Tatmadaw, in a way, blames the people for failing to develop the country. They appeared to believe that the Tatmadaw as a whole works hard, the people and civil servants do not work hard. Foreigners work and think smarter than do the lazy people of Burma, and these are the reasons why developed countries are ahead of Burma is their rationale. However, when ordinary people go abroad to seek job opportunity, they see them as betraying the country by opting for a foreign one. The soldiers work industriously, because they receive advantages from their work. They are disciplined, because they are simply reaping the advantages from performing well. Clearly, the Generals followed the dictum of Mao Ze Dong: “Crack down on the extreme minority, leave the educated to live in illusion, and label the majority of ordinary people as supporters.”

(5)Tatmadaw’s Perspectives on Economics

The Tatmadaw view economic progress, reform, or liberalization as secondary to maintenance of political control. They believe that the primary function of an improved economy is greater military power, general political acquiescence of the population to Tatmadaw control through military delivery of greater economic rewards for loyalty, which improves their political legitimacy, but not the betterment of the human condition.  To this end, the Tatmadaw leaders believe they must control the economy and thus they have set up direct and many indirect mechanisms for control e.g. such as UMEHL (Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings) and MEC (Myanmar Economic Corporation), in short they deliberately set up a crony capitalism. The Tatmadaw view any form of pluralism, within the administration at any level, in the dissemination of information and within non-governmental organizations as a threat to the state and their control.

(6) Is Myanmar Tatmadaw, the Guardian of the country?

“ If the hypothesis that the Tatmadaw should take temporary control, when a civilian government strays from its ‘national ideal’ or obligation, is correct,” then it should have already solved the country’s problem long ago as any genuine guardian might do. For example, when there was a dilemma in civilian rule in the years from 1950 to 1958 when the ruling party AFPFL split, the pro-West faction wanted to take aid from the West and Japan, but the neutral faction wanted to remain non-aligned, Tatmadaw, joined the winning side of the pro-West faction to wipe out the ethnics and the communist. This is the first proof that Tatmadaw is not a genuine guardian and has no basic loyalty to the country as it claims.

The second proof is when Ne Win and Sein Lwin were forced to resign in 1988 the Tatmadaw move against their own civilian government of Dr. Maung Maung.  The third is when Tatmadaw’s pet party NUP won only 10 seats compared to the pro-democracy party of the NLD 392 the Tatmadaw broke its own promise to hand over power to the winner and changed the rules of the game. The fourth is current 2008 Nargis Constitution of occupying 25 % of seats in all the elected bodies, is the authentic proof that the military was determined to hold on to power, at any cost through its sham democratic-trappings.

The fifth was as lately as August 2015 Shwe Mann was ousted from the pro-Tatmadaw party, the USDP, by force, not only because he was too close to the NLD party of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, but also he had angered the military by supporting an attempt to amend the 2008 Nargis Constitution.

Tatmadaw’s continuing presence provides one of the greatest obstacles to the aspirations of those committed to democratization and federalism in Burma.

(7) Targeting Education

After the 2nd World War, during the Cold War period, democracy, in the newly emerging nations of Afro-Asian and Latin American countries were not strong and naturally there were military coups e.g. Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram, came to power in Thailand, General Ayub Khan in Pakistan, General Suharto in Indonesia and in Burma, General Ne Win. But looking back at these military coups in these neighbouring countries, we find that they always bounced back to democracy within a decade or two, except in Burma. Why? One of the answers is because the Tatmadaw targeted the higher education system, where the young brains are hatched to think, as number one enemy. Starting from 7th July 1962 waves after waves of students were killed and persecuted. The Tatmadaw believes that students and educated class went into politics because of their misconceptions and that universities were, and are the birth place of dissent against autocratic rule, hence the Burmese generals have sought to subvert education  for their own purpose, - to keep them in power in perpetuity. The Tatmadaw has kept bonded the rights to education hostage, to be kept in permanent captivity. If the university were not closed, they were isolated and separated from one another and so that they would not be able contact one another. Iron fences were built around universities campuses. The universities were sent to remote places and were closed down at the slightest sign of any trouble. This prolonged closure of schools and universities has affected the future of almost all the young people of Burma and except for those with political influence, such as the children of the generals and those rich enough to send their children abroad, continue to enjoy uninterrupted and quality education. The Tatmadaw controlled education system has resulted in sub-standard education and critical lack of teaching facilities, stymied by unskilled teachers, and lack of job opportunities after graduation, corruption and bribery.

(8) Tatmadaw’s New Weapon (The Rapist Army)

Sexual violence as a weapon of war in ethnic cleansing was implemented, as girls and women have been singled out for rape because women are viewed as repositories of a community's cultural and spiritual values. Due to the well-known impunity for rape, survivors and families are extremely reluctant to complain about rape. In the rare cases where victims do complain, the military often responds with violence. The UNHCR found that refugee families frequently cite rape as a key factor in their decisions to seek refuge. Tatmadaw is overtly targeting civilians; says Benjamin Zawacki, Southeast Asia, researcher for Amnesty International “The violations are widespread and systematic.’’ A well-documented phenomenon for at least a decade, “License to Rape” report inspired a level of interest and outrage on the part of the international community.  A well-documented rape and murder of the two Kachin missionaries Tangbau Hkawn Nan Zing (21) and Maran Lu Ra, (20), in the Church compound, of Kwang Hka village, Nam Tao Township, by the soldiers of the 503rd Light Infantry Regiment, under Northeast Regional Command, was never admitted nor its DNA results made known. Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has said he also wants the truth to be known, but the case was shut up to this day. This explicitly means that the Generals themselves were involved in this ethnic cleansing policies, which the Tatmadaw has been doing all these years since 1962.

Several NGOs and independent organizations have examined the structures, policies, and practices of the Tatmadaw, and concluded that it was designed to target the non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities.

Before 1988, a secret order was issued that any Myanmar soldier, who is able to marry an ethnic woman would be rewarded a handsome amount of monetary prize, but this happened to be difficult and slow. Therefore, when the Tatmadaw took over the administration, it encouraged raping the women of the ethnic nationalities. This message was received by the lieutenants, and captains, and hence it was these ranks, who committed most of the rape cases. It was hoped that in the long run if there were only one race ‘Myanmar’, one religion ‘Theravada Buddhism’ and one country, ‘Burma’, they would be able to govern and stand tall in the international community. This was basic idea of Tatmadaw’s rape.

 (9) Child Soldiers

Even animals do not kill their young or bully them instead they shield them up and help them to grow but Tatmadaw, not only torture and kill but also send the children to the front lines. The worst thing is that it has forced the children to become child soldiers. In March 2007 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on Burma, for “the continuing recruitment and use of child soldiers”. The report: “My Gun Was as tall as me”, estimated that 70,000 or more of the Burma army’s estimated 350,000 soldiers are children.”  Human Rights Watch research has shown that boys, as young as 10, continue to be forcibly enlisted into Tatmadaw by a network of predatory recruiters, often soldiers themselves, who lurk at train stations and outside cinemas and tea shops looking for vulnerable young males to coerce into the Tatmadaw. Once forced into the Tatmadaw they were not permitted to contact their families, their ages were fabricated on enlistment material, and receive harsh training before being deployed to bleak and dangerous outposts throughout Burma’s hinterland. Boys are used to fight ethnic insurgents, mete out punishment to civilians, and as porters to support frontline troops.  It is hard to imagine the psychological trauma and damage these experiences are inflicting on children. The problem of child soldiers is hidden from the eyes of many international observers and Burmese citizens in towns and cities. Once impressed into the army, child soldiers often eke out a desperate existence fishing and hunting for food and stealing from villagers, surrounded by malarial forests, landmines and ethnic insurgents.  Their plight is so desperate that many of their victims of crimes committed by these boys have pity for them. The victims know that these young boys are being brain washed by their commanders.

Despite official regulations within the Tatmadaw prohibiting the use of child soldiers and frequent promises to the UN to erase the practice, it did not appear to be at all serious about curbing the practice. It is almost impossible to place a figure on how many children under 18 were in the Tatmadaw, but there are certainly thousands. As the Tatmadaw expanded rapidly; desertions increased and volunteers decrease. A system of incentives and punishments was in place to encourage recruiters to fill their quotas. Some local authorities were reportedly pressured by the Tatmadaw to produce a certain number of recruits per village, some of them children. Nowhere is there a more disturbing, if not horrifying example of the relationship between a culture of cruelty and the politics of irresponsibility than in the resounding silence that surrounds the torture of children under Myanmar Tatmadaw. There is an undeniable pathological outcome when the issue of Tatmadaw becomes more important than the survival of morality itself, resulting in the deaths of thousands of children  A 29-page report, “Under the Radar” on ongoing recruitment and use of children by the Tatmadaw, by the UK-based NGO Child Soldiers International, shows that military officers and civilian ‘brokers’ continue to use deliberate misrepresentation to entice new recruits, including children. Poor and uneducated boys continue to be frequently intimidated and coerced and lured them to the nearest recruitment centre or battalion.   Until safeguards within recruitment procedures are implemented in practice across the country at all levels and until effective age verification mechanisms are put in place and properly enforced, the situation will not significantly improve.


In short, there is no Union of Burma Army (Federal Army) in Burma the current Tatmadaw is held together not by patriotism but by a mixture of patron-client ties, personal power, economic privileges, fear of  severe punishment complete and total obedience” of the subordinates in the chain of command. It is a cruel occupationaly army with the highest records of human rights violations, which has never fought an external enemy but used all its resources to surpress the pro democratic and ethnic nationalities. It is the roots of all evil in Burma and need to be replaced by a Federal Army.

Democracy is seen as a threat to the existing order because it would deprive the ruling elite of power. The Tatmadaw and their families are “second state” of approximately two million out of a total population of 50 million plus.  It will be a great mistake for any country to have military to military relations with Myanmar Tatmadaw because Burma will never be peaceful, democratic or federal if there is an occupational Myanmar Tatmadaw.

This paper was read at the 12th International Burma Studies Conference at Northern University of Illinois Dekalb on Oct.8, 2016 attended by several experts (both Burmese and international). Meticulously answering every question and criticism proves its authenticity beyond doubt.

By Kanbawza Win

Anybody is free to republish this paper    prof.unclewin80@gmail,com   sd. Dr. Ba Thann Win

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