In three years, the Myanmar people’s revolution has made big strides, to the point of waves of military victories with greater collaboration and advancement in establishing local governance structures with service provision for the people. Meanwhile, certain actors within the international community are undermining the Myanmar people’s resistance movement, trying to impose a trade-off solution through dialogue and negotiation with the military junta, the very root cause of the crisis. The international community must not make the same mistakes it did in the past by falling for the junta’s guise of peacemaking. Every proclamation of peace and gesture of cooperation made by the junta is fraudulent and lacks sincerity. Instead, the unprecedented sacrifices, unwavering determination and efforts, demands, and aspirations of the Myanmar people must be centered in addressing the political, human rights, and humanitarian crisis in Myanmar.
At the beginning of the new year, on 10 January, the newly appointed ASEAN Special Envoy, Alounkeo Kittikhoun, visited the illegal murderous junta leader Min Aung Hlaing and met with 39 political parties that had registered under the political party registration law – the law which the illegal military junta illegitimately enacted. Junta-controlled media reported that the ASEAN Special Envoy discussed three issues: the implementation of the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus, humanitarian aid, and the election. This troublesome approach of ASEAN has been rooted in the belief that engagement and dialogue with the military junta — the creator of the crisis — is the most effective means to end Myanmar’s junta-caused and -exacerbated crisis, rather than leveraging its position to align with the people’s will to dismantle the illegal junta and build sustainable peace in Myanmar.
The same troublesome approach was taken by China as, two days after the visit of the ASEAN Special Envoy, China brokered a ceasefire agreement between the Myanmar military and the Three Brotherhood Alliance (3BHA) after multiple rounds of talks. However, the ceasefire didn’t last long. The day after the ceasefire agreement, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) reported that the junta had broken the ceasefire by launching artillery strikes in northern Shan State. It is the same old story of the Myanmar military’s lack of any dignity to honor its words, violating its own promises as it always has during the past decade of series of ceasefire agreements. This includes the infamous “Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement,” which international peace donors funded in large sums and which has utterly failed as the Myanmar military’s one-sided “peace” agenda.
Negotiations and political dialogue in the Myanmar context have a long track record of huge trust deficits due to the history of broken promises where the Myanmar military has never upheld its agreements. It only engages in negotiations when it reaches its lowest points and realizes that it is losing. Likewise, the military junta’s breach of this most recent ceasefire agreement with the 3BHA also exemplifies and reaffirms that the Myanmar military can never be trusted, and their promises are never genuine. Placing the problem maker at the center of solving the Myanmar crisis will never lead to sustainable peace; rather, it will only exacerbate and prolong the crisis.
The ultimate goal of the Myanmar people’s revolution is to dismantle this deeply corrupt and repressive military institution and build a new federal democratic Myanmar. Taking concrete steps towards that goal, people across Myanmar are establishing local governance systems through a bottom-up, grassroots approach to replace the military tyranny. ASEAN and the wider international community must find a coherent approach towards Myanmar, in accordance with the will of the people of Myanmar, and refrain from pushing for any dialogue with the military junta. Instead, the international community must direct its support towards the people of Myanmar, in alignment with their vision and aspirations for change: to foster sustainable peace and build an inclusive political path forward. The aspirations of the Myanmar people must not be undermined or overlooked by imposing so-called “inclusive dialogue” with the crisis causer. Instead, the three-year journey of the people’s resistance movement – built by tireless efforts that they have taken almost entirely by themselves – must be respected, valued, and supported.
The people’s revolution has gained unprecedented momentum and forged better cooperation among resistance forces with the common goal of dismantling the Myanmar military. Even more cohesiveness and strategic coordination between the armed resistance forces and political actors will undoubtedly bring the revolution to the next level and closer to victory. Such increased cooperation is the essential step to move towards a new federal democratic Myanmar that recognizes and respects its diverse peoples and communities, and guarantees justice and equality.
The right step for ASEAN and the wider international community is to support the people of Myanmar as they develop concrete solutions to build a federal democracy from the ground up. ASEAN and the broader international community must engage and collaborate with the legitimate representatives of Myanmar’s peoples – including the National Unity Government, ethnic councils, and Ethnic Resistance Organizations – while also supporting activists, independent media, civil society, and community-based organizations in their human rights and democracy work, as well as their provision of emergency humanitarian aid through cross-border channels.
 One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.
By Karenni Human Rights Group
By National Unity Government of Myanmar
By National Unity Government of Myanmar
By Refugees International
National Unity Government (Ministry of Human Rights)
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”