Rebellion occurs because of unjust leadership and if there is no opportunity for political dialogue. It occurs to rebel against the injustice. So long as there is no justice in ruling that is acceptable by the people, there will always be rebellions.
The Union of Burma has come into being because of the Panglong Agreement. Had there been no Panglong Agreement (1947), there would not have been the Union of Burma. After the signing of Panglong Agreement on (12. 02. 1947) there have not been proper observance of the agreements and the political situations deteriorated and rebellion occurred. General Aung San was shot dead on (19. 07. 1947) and a Shan ‘Sao Hpa’ (prince) was also wounded in the incident of power struggle between the ethnic Burman.
Incidentally, the ethnic Burman were the first to stage a rebellion before the other ethnic nationalities in the Union of Burma. The CPB (Communist Party of Burma) was already there when General Aung San rebelled (against the British.)
After independence (1948), the ethnic Burman were already politically prepared and had different groups and gangs with different ideas, such as communist (CPB), democratic and socialist. There were power struggles among them since after independence and the government under Sao Shwe Thike had no power to properly govern the country. The majority ethnic Burman had the military power and interfered in all state affairs, making the government had no power.
Other ethnic nationalities tried to control the situations. In order to be able to live together based on the principle of equality, although they submitted a federal democratic system to the government, it had not become as they expected. Later, on 02. 03. 1962. General Ne Win staged a military coup and seized power and destroyed the Panglong Agreement, making rebellions by other ethnic nationalities to occur all over the country.
Among the other ethnic nationalities, the Karen was the first to rebel, led by Saw Ba U Gyi, and attacked the capital Rangoon (Yan Gon). However, the CPB, seeing that the ethnic Burman could lose power, betrayed the Karen and help Ne Win defeated them, and Saw Ba U Gyi had to retreat. This can be seen as a big lesson for the other ethnic nationalities to learn.
It can be clearly seen that, the ethnic Burman, however they fight among themselves because of power struggles, if there is a chance that power could fall into the hands of other ethnic nationalities, they would immediately unite to protect it. After the Ne Win and CPB combined forces defeated the Karen, the CPB returned into the jungle.
After Mao Zedong seized power from the KMT in 1949, the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) led by Ba Thein Tin immediately approach Mao Zedong and set up their headquarters at the Shan State border with China in 1950. Ba Thein Tin received support from the Chinese and recruited ethnic populations along the border and in Shan State, giving them military training and seriously fought with Ne Win troops. However, those who lost their lives in those battles were mainly members of ethnic nationalities of Shan State.
Over time, the ethnic nationalities who were with Ba Thein Tin began to realize that they were being cheated and used as tools by the ethnic Burman, in 1989, ethnic nationalities including Wa, Ko Kang, Kachin and Shan mutinied and seized power from Ba Thein Tin and established their own separate groups and become United Wa State Army (UWSA), National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) up until now.
Rebellion, or Resistance Movement, in Karen State started in 1949. In Karenni State started in 1957. In Shan State and Mon State started in 1958. In Kachin State started in 1960, and in Arakan State started in 1968. Rebellions or Resistance movements have been taking place because of unjust leadership, unequal treatment. The ethnic Burman were rather chauvinistic and did not want to solve any problems through negotiations, and when they had to talk, they always put themselves in a higher position than the others, making political and military problems become increasingly worse.
The current problem which Min Aung Hlaing seized power (01. 02. 2021) is also a power struggle between the ethnic Burman themselves. All the chaotic situations which people have to face have not caused by other ethnic nationalities, but by the power struggle between the ethnic Burman. Some other ethnic nationalities, not knowing the history of the union and political situation, with only the aim to gain federal democracy, honestly take side and participate and only become tools of the ethnic Burman.
With regard to political systems such as democracy, socialist and communist, the ethnic Burman already had all of them even before independence. Because students of other ethnic nationalities trusted and supported Aung San and worked against the Shan Sao Hpa, it had led to the signing of the Panglong Agreement. When the ethnic Burman did not follow the Agreement, the university students who had supported Aung San, like members of Shan State People’s Freedom League (SSPFL), could do nothing rather than wrote historical commentaries such as “whither Shan State”.
After seizing power, Ne Win changed the political system from democracy to socialism and tried to govern the country, but could not change the desire of the people. In 1988, a general democracy uprising, known as (8. 8. 88) and participated by the people including the Sangha and the students, took place and Ne Win had to step down. Later, Than Shwe became the leader and planned to write a new constitution to change the governing system. The new constitution was for the ethnic Burman to be able to hold on to power in the long run and all the ethnic nationalities were made to participate in writhing it, which took 14 years to complete. Under this new constitution, known as ‘2008 Constitution’, the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) and political parties have again become tools of Than Shwe and could do nothing much except to complain and endure it up to now.
Min Aung Hlaing also follows Ne Win’s step. The fact that he frequently visits Russia after seizing power indicates that he wants to reuse socialism, and the way to federal democracy is blocked. Therefore, the people, political parties and resistance armed organizations should think deeply and be very careful to avoid becoming other people’s tools again.
(wait for part 3 “How to solve the problems of the Union of Burma”)
By Sur Khan Fa