Both were brilliant soldiers. Field Marshal Montgomery was of course known as the general who licked Rommel, the Germans’ prima donna, at Al Alamein. But at the same time, he was also criticized as the guy who only fought “set piece” battles, meaning he went to battle, only when he’s ready, when everything was to his liking.
Patton, the American general, on the other hand, trained his men to be ready for the unexpected and plunged ahead with available troops when an opportunity arose.
Both of course were successful soldiers.
What is said little about them was the fact that they had SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces) as their center of gravity and “Ike” Eisenhower who knew how to handle his prima donnas.
No, this is not a movie review, although “Patton” is one of the films I love to watch at least once a year, not least to deflate my own ego, however small it is.
It’s because the movie reminds me of our own prima donnas among the non-Burman armed and unarmed opposition.
They used to have the Working Group for Ethnic Coordination (WGEC) that served as a clearing house, where they could meet and sort out their differences until last June. Then all of a sudden that center of gravity was no more. And each is blaming the other for going its own way.
There was some hope of reviving it in another name at the Laiza conference, 30 October-2 November. However the meeting only resulted in forming a Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), whose tenure expires when the nationwide ceasefire is signed. It went short of setting up a political supervisory team.
And until we have one, the peace process will be rudderless at least on the non-Burmans’ side.
The solution is obvious: We all need a big deflation of our egos or we’d better find an Eisenhower fast and furious, or we may all find ourselves shouting “Heil Hitler” to a new Fuhrer in our country.
A drug refinery raided and seized by government authorities on 20
November was actually owned and operated by a Burma Army run People’s
Militia Force (PMF) of Mong Zi, according to local sources.
Official media says 11 men were taken alive together with 22 assorted weapons and drugs worth K 277.1 million ($ 277,100). Another co-owner was said to be an ethnic Chinese identified as Wu Sang.
“The existence of factory was likely tipped off by Chinese authorities,” said one informed source.
Ah Liang, interrogated by the police, had reportedly testified that the drugs belonged to U Ohn Khaing and that he (Ah Liang) and Wu Sang had invested K 5 million ($ 5,000) each in the joint venture.
The PMFs’ involvement in drugs have been reported at length by SHAN in its Shan Drug Watch 2011 report. The Burma Army, meanwhile, has demanded that the Shan State Army (SSA) leaves the PMFs along, after its fighters staged raids against the PMF refineries.
Last month, SHAN was up on the border talking to students about Sun
Tzu (also written Sun Zi) and his all-time classic The Art of War.
The Chinese warrior-philosopher, who flourished between BC 551-467, was opposed to war, according to commentators, as proven by this cardinal advice: To win without fighting.
That doesn’t mean leaders of a country could afford to be ignorant of military matters, as “Military action is important to the nation – it is the ground of death and life, the path of survival and destruction.” (Chapter One) Moreover, in times of crisis, it is imperative to move the people “to have the same aim as the leadership, so that they will share death and share life, without fear of danger.” (Chapter One)
Chapter Three also warns:
So there are three ways in which a civil leadership causes the military trouble. When a civil leadership unaware of the facts tells its armies to advance when it should not, or tells its armies to retreat when it should not, this is called tying up the armies. When the civil leadership is ignorant of military affairs but shares equally in the government of the armies, the soldiers get confused. When the civil leadership is ignorant of military maneuvers but shares equally in the command of the armies, the soldiers hesitate. Once the armies are confused and hesitant, trouble comes from competitors. This is called taking away victory by deranging the military.
All these sayings appear to go hand in hand with the military-drawn2008 constitution’s Article 59 (d): (The President and the Vice-Presidents) shall be well acquainted with the affairs of the Union such as political, administrative, economic and military.”
But, before you get angry, please take a breather. The charter doesn’t say a wannabe is required to be a former serviceman (or servicewoman) in the armed forces, only to be “well acquainted.”
One may say that’s a reasonable requirement for anyone who is expected to become the country’s supreme leader.
However, Sun Tzu didn’t seem to be satisfied with that. He went on to say, in Chapter Ten:
Therefore, when the laws of war indicate certain victory it is surely appropriate to do battle, even if the government says there is to be no battle. If the laws of war do not indicate victory, it is appropriate not to do battle, even if the government orders war. Thus one advances without seeking glory, retreats without avoiding blame, only protecting people, to the benefit of the government as well, thus rendering valuable service to the nation.
Which of course will bring one into mind the Burmese military’s refusal last year to obey the order from the President to call off the fighting in Kachin State. But one should not forget that, unlike Sun Tzu’s civilian ruler, the Burmese military is separate from him and his government. He doesn’t have the power either to appoint or fire the Commander-in-Chief.
One may also recall an episode in Burma’s history where a Burmese general who was punished for accepting a truce with the Chinese forces when the latter was actually getting the worst of it, because he knew like every non-Chinese commander in history, no neighboring nations had the enormous resources that the Chinese enjoyed and thus would be unable to successfully wage a war with it in the long run.
All these doesn’t mean SHAN is against The Lady becoming our President in 2016. But everyone reaching for the star should bear in mind all the odds against him/her and try to find ways to overcome them.
Not to forget, that’s one of the things Sun Tzu taught too:
To be beaten or not is in oneself
To be victorious or not is in the opponent
SHAN therefore hopes both the Lady and her advisers pay special heed to his counsel, because SHAN will be one of the saddest if the star just slips away while within her reach.
A briefing paper that came out late October has recommended that
political guarantees are necessary "before permanent ceasefire and a
nationwide peace can truly be declared."
The 20 page paper, jointly published by Transnational Institute (TNI) and Burma Centrum Nederland (BCN), was distributed at a quiet seminar in Bangkok held last month.
The suggestion coincided with the 11 point common position by the ethnic armed organizations at the 30 October-2 November Laiza conference, that had called for, among others:
- Adherence to the Panglong Agreement signed in 1947 that had united the then lowland Burma with the then Frontier Areas
- Convening a national conference based on the spirit and principles of Panglong
- Ratification and implementation of the accord reached (at the national conference)
The two sides are due to meet in Karen State's Pa-an this month.
Five key elements outlined by the paper are:
- Nationwide peace and an end to the practice of Separate arrangements
- Extra parliamentary as well as parliamentary processes to ensure national inclusion
- A political agreement — or, at the very least, political guarantees — before permanent ceasefires and nationwide peace can truly be declared
- Transparent and inclusive political talks to make the agreements binding
- International observation at key stages to ensure that agreements are adhered to by different sides
The pictures of Pi Mai Tai or Shan New Year in UK, organized by Shan
Cultural Association - UK (SCA-UK), held on 24 November 2013.
A Personal View
Nel Adams alias Sao Noan Oo, B.Sc. Hons. MSc (Biology. 1949-1959, University of Rangoon, author of My Vanished World, 2000)
The history of ethnic TAI has been widely studied and argued over during the past century. It is well known that the TAI underwent many migrations before they finally settled in their homelands, but no one has been able to put a finger on the exact manner how this really happened (Sao Saimong, 1956).
Where do the Proto-Tai come from we ask again and again? According to the Philologist, Max Muller, the Tai came from Central Mongolia and arrived in China by crossing over the Altai Mountain ranges. Professor Terrein de Lacouperie suggested that the cradle of the Tai could be in the Kun-lun Shan valley.
I looked for Kun-lun on the map, and found its position. Knowing that most Tai in the Shan States live along the river valleys of Nam Khong and its many tributaries, I traced its course on the same map and found that it has its source in the Province of Qinghai, where the Kun-lun valley is also situated. To my surprise the other three rivers the Lan Caing (Mei Kawng), Yangtse and the Hawngho also begin here.
My late American friend used to tell me: It’s hard to ‘learn’ old dogs new tricks.
What he said is still true today. But it doesn’t mean old people like us should give up learning. We may be slow but the fact is that nothing can get in the way of persistence.
I found that out during the 3-days I was with young people attending a workshop on federalism last week.
Asked what my expectations were, I told the workshop I was looking for an answer to my ever recurring bee in the bonnet:
In a federal country, I’ve been informed that a person has at least two identities: his/her born ethnicity and being part of the whole union. For example, a friend I know who’s born of Chinese parents in the United States feels, looks and acts Chinese in several ways but at the same time his general outlook and spirit are American, as he himself unabashedly admits. Moreover, he feels comfortable living a twin existence.
On the contrary, we in Burma don’t have that kind of dual identity. If one is Shan, he/she is just that, no less no more. The same goes for Karen, Mon, Chin and others.
Burmans (Bamars or Burmese) may think they have it. However, instilled with the notion that this country is a Union of the Burmans, whoever feels differently, to them, is disloyal to both the Burmans and the Union.
So how do we do to become more than being Shans, Karens, Burmans etc? Tireless indoctrinations that our common identity is Myanmar obviously doesn’t work. Because to all non-Burmans, Bamar and Myanmar are synonymous, like calling an Indian “Babuji” and a Chinese “Paukhpaw”.
What I found out at the workshop was like light from a lighthouse during a dark and stormy night. It grabbed at what had been in the back of my mind by the collars and put it on the table for all to see.
Of course, the resource persons used fancy words like “accommodating” non-Burmans’ aspirations but also “celebrating” them. But the well-phrased dictum “Self rule, Shared rule” was enough for me.
To live a twin existence in Burma, non-Burmans should not be satisfied with “self rule”. They must also call for and work for “shared rule”.
The Burmans must also be ready to allow the non-Burmans to take a share in the rule of the country. As long as there are only Burmans in the driving seat, they cannot expect their Three Main National Causes to become more than just slogans.
What is more, the principle of “self rule” and “shared rule” should be taught in schools, both primary and higher learning. It goes without saying that the present education system that enshrines Burman supremacy should be overhauled, that is, if they really want the Three Main Causes to come into life.
I take this opportunity to thank the resource persons and the facilitators who say they are happy to just remain out of the limelight for the time being. Rest assured we’ll remember you when we reach the shore.
A press conference on the Chin National Conference, convened in
Hakha, 12-15 November, will be held in Rangoon on 5 December, according
to a principal participant.
The venue however has yet to be announced.
• To call for the dissolution of religious ministry with an independent Commission for Religious Freedom (The ministry was said to have spent 6.234 billion kyat, 1988-2008, mostly on constructing Buddhist pagodas”)
• For all Chins, officially designated as 53 “national races”, to be registered simply as “Chin in the upcoming March-April census (According to official count, there are 135 “national races” in Burma)
Altogether, 10 papers on 10 topics, based on the Working Group for Ethnic Coordination (WGEC)’s 19 dialogue topics, were read out on the 1st day of the conference.
On the second day, the participants were divided into 10 groups, each to discuss its chosen topic.
“The third day was the summing up, drafting resolutions and reporting to the conference,” said Mr Biaklian. “The final day ended with the adoption of the resolutions and the formation of a 45 member commission to work out Terms of References (TOR).”
The 10 topics discussed by the conference were:
• Framework for Political Dialogue
• Constitutional reform
• Religious Freedom
• Livelihood and economy
• 53 Chin “national races”
• Natural resources management
“I think state-based conferences like this should be encouraged to speed up the peace process,” he concluded.