By: Project 2049 Institue |
The Myanmar [Burma] governmentâ€™s recent crackdown on ethnic separatist groups in the highlands has been interpreted by many critics as a mark ofÂ Chinaâ€™s declining abilityÂ to pacify the region. If that is true, thenÂ the Sept. 9 decisionÂ by the Kachin Independence Organization to participate in the governmentâ€™s 2010 election was the first sign of acceptance that no one is coming to the dissentersâ€™ rescue.
The KIO, one of Myanmarâ€™s largest ceasefire groups, has greatly benefitted from 15 years of peace after many decades of insurgency. But theyÂ had threatened to fightÂ rather than lend legitimacy to the governmentâ€™s new constitution, which would institute a parliament but also give the military 25% of the seats and a veto over any parliament action.
WithÂ little supportÂ from ethnically Burmese pro-democracy groups like Aung San Suu Kyiâ€™s National League for Democracy, the government has, in the last few months, increased its military pressure on minority ethnic groups.
Emboldened byÂ Sri Lankaâ€™s successes against the Tamil Tigers, they have pushed forward to solidify their reach into the upland jungle regions of Myanmar.Â Â Recent offensivesÂ against the Karen National Liberation Army and the Kokang Region Provisional Leading Committee forces demonstrated both the groupsâ€™ disturbing lack of unity â€“ the Democratic Kayin Buddhist Army were the governmentâ€™s shock troops and the United Wa State Army folded in its support of both groups â€“ and Chinaâ€™s lack of willingness to intervene.
The KIOâ€™s decision to participate in the election, while perfectly understandable following the crackdown on their Kokang neighbors to the south, is a landmark victory for the government. The dominos have already started to fall as other groups similarly give in. Just two days later,Â the Kokang CommitteeÂ also announced that they would follow in stride and accept the governmentâ€™s package. These decisions only put more pressure on the other ceasefire groups and bolster the constitutionâ€™s domestic legitimacy.
Whether or not the governmentâ€™s new constitution improves relations with Western powers, the KIOâ€™s decision means that the document has become the future of Myanmarâ€™s domestic politics. If the ethnic or pro-democracy groups are to achieve political reform, independence, or revolution, they will have to do so within the context of the constitution and the 2010 election. Myanmarâ€™s dissenters will have to stop thinking like Tamil Tigers and start thinking like Iranâ€™s Green Party.