By Salai Za Uk Ling & Salai Za Ceu Lian[*]

January 24, 2005

In the summer of 2004, a select group of Burmese gathered in Ottawa under the banner of Burma Forum-Canada with the express objective of “establishing a stronger and more inclusive consultative process among Burmese Activist Communities in Canada in order to effectively advocate for the issues facing Burma with the Canadian Government, Public and Civil Society Organizations.” Attended by 22 individuals mostly living in Ottawa and Toronto area the meeting concluded with recommendations calling for policy revision for Canada’s policy towards Burma. Many of the recommendations expressed valid concerns with the way Canada, the world’s leading champion of democracy and human rights, handles the issues of Burma with regards to democratic and human rights reforms in that country.

In the fall of 2004, the Burma Forum-Canada came up with a 47-page report containing analysis on specific areas of concern about Canadian foreign policy on Burma. This includes, among others, Canadian policy on humanitarian assistance and economic sanctions towards Burma. While many of the arguments made in the Burma Forum report are laudable and does contain crucial policy recommendations specifically with regards to calls for increased political and economic pressures on Burma, the report is one-sided, un-inclusive of the views of major stakeholders of the “Burmese” community in Canada and miserably fails to present crucial supporting evidence when criticizing the effectiveness of Canadian humanitarian assistance for Burma. Under the title of “Humanitarian Assistance,” the report contains a section on “Capacity Building for Burma,” which is particularly critical of how Canadian assistance funds for Burmese are managed and the extent to which they have been effectual in meeting the objectives of Canada’s contribution for the project.

This critique is devoted to countering that particular section of the report since it is passionately felt that such sweeping criticisms are based on prejudice and misgivings rather than on factual evidence on the ground. In light of the shockingly bold claims of the report and the potentially negative consequence it entails, it is necessary to seriously look into how the report came about in the first place and why the Burma Forum and particularly the report’s author arrived at such conclusion.

The report, authored by Tin Muang Htoo, a leading member of the Burma Forum, alleges that despite the noble intention of Canada to contribute to making“tangible, strategic investment in peaceful long-term development in the region of Burma,” Canada’s monetary contribution towards that process have been misspent, misallocated and mismanaged, resulting in the further weakening and division of Burmese civil society and disenfranchisement of certain sections of the Burmese populations. This, argues the Burma Forum, makes Canada an unknowing accomplice to the “divide and rule” policy practiced by the Burmese military regime.

This is surprising as well as highly irresponsible given that none of the Burma Forum members, especially the author of the report, has not personally visited the Thai-Burma or India-Burma border areas where the projects are being implemented to assess realities on the ground. In fact, there is no evidence that any of the Burma Forum participants has been to that area at all since they first came to Canada many years ago. Many of them have lived in Canada for a decade. In the absence of actual and firsthand assessment of situations on the ground, it appears that conclusions drawn in the report heavily rely on misguided opinions of key individuals. This in itself reflects an insincere motive of the Burma Forum in initiating the report in the first place. It must also be mentioned that during the preparation of the report, it was learnt, some original participants of the Burma Forum meeting were deliberately or otherwise left out of the consultation process to comment and make input into the draft document. Unfortunately, some participants we spoke with are even unaware of their names appearing on the report as endorsing its contents.

The report alleges that capacity building projects such as the ones supervised by Interpares and Burma Relief Center have worked to erode the solidarity of diverse Burmese groups who have “historically been used to working cooperatively together.” It claims the criteria for assistance distribution are based on misunderstood ethnic differences, thereby contributing to and even encouraging ethnic displays and competition. The report, however, fails to come up with any instance or evidence that suggests that that has been the case. On the contrary, people who have been closely working with such projects on the ground in Thailad-Burma and India-Burma border for the past several years have seen the benefit of Canadian assistance in strengthening civil society organizations, bridging cooperation across ethnic lines and in providing vital resource for medical and humanitarian relief works inside Burma and among refugees on the border areas. Among those benefited from the capacity building project, and the report acknowledges, are Dr. Cynthia Maung’s health clinic which provides valuable and accessible medical help to refugees in Thailand as well as Internally Displaced Persons inside Burma, and the Shan Women Action Network, which produced a widely publicized report exposing the institutionalized use of rape by Burma’s military regime as a weapon of war against ethnic Shan women.

For all its worth, the success of Canada’s assistance should not be measured by these two alone as the report tries to do, although they do represent perhaps the greatest achievement any projects can accomplish. There are numerous other programs supported by Canadian assistance funds, which over the past several years have produced significant results. The creation of National Reconciliation Program (NRP), a project partially supported by these funds, has been widely seen as providing the greatest hope for the long-term and peaceful resolution of inter or intra-ethnic differences, which have been a regular feature in Burma’s political history. A program such as NRP has worked to strengthen and nurture the spirit of cooperation unprecedented in the relations between and among different ethnic groups in Burma. Ignoring such positive outcomes on the part of the Burma Forum makes one wonder the real motive behind the publication of the report.

In summary, the primary allegations made in the report centers around the issue of fair distribution of Canadian assistance funds for “Burmese Democracy Movement.” Implied in the report is that the provision of Canadian assistance funds to organizations such as the Shan Women Action Network and other ethnic-based organizations or what it characterizes as “sub-movement” is counter-productive to the realization of democracy and civil society in Burma. If this is the true reflection of how the report’s author and members of the Burma Forum view the “Burmese Democracy Movement,” then several questions must be raised. If civil society groups and other ethnic organizations operating in the border areas are not considered to be part of the “Movement,” then who constitute the movement?

It must be kept in mind that the vast majority of internally displaced persons IDPs and refugees along the border of Thailand and India are from ethnic nationality groups who have been worst hit by decades of civil war, Rangoon’s military campaigns and human rights abuses. These people unquestionably are the most in need of help and attention, and this is precisely where most assistance funds have been directed and allocated. If the position of Burma Forum is to argue that Canadian funds have been misallocated as the report clearly suggests, then they are opening themselves out to questions about their ethnic affiliations, motive and credibility. It must be stated on record that the majority of key individuals who participated in the preparation of the Burma Forum’s report do not represent ethnic groups whose populations have experienced the worst form of human rights violations and whose civil society has been completely trampled on for the past half a century by the Burmese military regime. Any efforts to rebuild and strengthen Burmese civil society therefore needs to begin with the ethnic nationalities, and this is precisely where capacity building programs such as the one funded by Canadian International Development Agency can contribute to tangible results and sustainable development.

In the report, the Burma Forum makes an interesting point and that concerns the need for funding made available for advocacy activities within Canada in recognition that Canadian public awareness and support for Burma constitutes an important part of the movement for democracy and human rights. We agree with this assessment.

But the validity of the claims of Burma Forum report needs to be assessed in the context of reality on the ground. And this means whether those preparing the report conducted such evaluation by personally visiting to the areas where capacity building projects are being implemented. This unfortunately has not been the case. Allegations about Canadian assistance funds being used to divide and disenfranchise Burmese civil society appears to derive from personal opinions of individuals preparing the report. In an email message on December 5, 2004, the report’s author Tin Maung Htoo reassured Burma Forum members “We already have supports from groups and people on the border, being so eager to expose their grievances in dealing with those NGOs on the border.” While it is unclear who these ‘groups’ he was referring to, contacts with these groups appear to have occurred after the fact, that is after the Burma Forum report was made public. There is considerable doubt these ‘groups’ are the ones making assessment on the ground for the Burma Forum. Essentially, the report calls for inclusion of “Burmese Canadians” in the decision-making of how Canadians assistance would be allocated on the border. This seems quite appealing since there is a general sense that inclusion of the Burmese themselves in the management of a multi-million dollar Canadian project would ensure greater efficiency, accountability and allocation of funds to where they are most needed. The problem with this, first of all, is who will represent the interest of millions of Burmese in such a process given the diversity of Burmese society—the Burma Forum itself? Secondly, no decision can be considered “reasonable and impartial” in the determination of “who gets what?” since we all have a degree of bias and partiality. No disrespect to those who prepared the report, but such suggestions seem to have been driven by a sense of self-importance.

During the last several years, there has been increasing recognition by international donor countries, including Canada and NGOs directly working with Burmese groups on the border about the need to put special focus on capacity building for Burma’s ethnic groups who have been systematically disenfranchised and marginalized by the central government in Rangoon for the last half a century. Either inadvertently or wittingly, the report is attempting to take that attention away from the ethnic people by suggesting that such efforts are ineffectual and self-defeating. This seems to explain the reason why the report lacked any substance regarding the question of ethnic nationalities and even tactfully avoided using terminology like “federalism” and “tripartite dialogue” as the means to achieving peace in Burma. Not surprisingly, the report made no recommendations that encourage Canada to support the emergence of “Tripartite Dialogue” as an essential step towards the process of democratic and human rights reform in Burma. This indifference towards the ethnic issues seems to explain the reluctance to either support, or positively view programs that would help to empower and benefit the ethnic nationalities.

We consider many of the recommendations made in the Burma Forum report to be both cogent and plausible, but we are of the view that the criticism with regards to “capacity building for Burma” is highly unconvincing and irresponsible.

[*] Salai Za Uk Ling is studying Political Science at Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario. Since 2000, he has been working with Chin Human Rights Organization as an Associate Editor of Rhododendron News, as well as Associate Editor for Chinland Guardian News Agency. Salai Za Uk Ling addressed the 21st session of United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations in Geneva in 2003.

* Salai Za Ceu Lian, a student at the University of Winnipeg, Manitoba, is currently Secretary of Burmese Community Organization of Manitoba. He is also in-charge of Alliance Affairs for the Chin National League for Democracy (Exile), a political party which won 3 Parliamentary seats in Chin State during the 1990 general elections in Burma. He was a former Chin Youth representative at the United Nationalities Youth League (UNYL), multi-ethnic youth alliance based in Thailand, and was a former Assistant General Secretary of the Committee for Non-violent Action for Burma (CNAB) based in India. He also works as Associate Editor for Chinland Guardian and Rhododendron News, a bi-monthly human rights newsletter published by Chin Human Rights Organization.

By Salai Za Ceu Lian

Chinland Guardian

Noticeably, the recent declaration of Shan’ independence is shaking the whole pro-democracy movement of the day in the conflict-ridden Union of Burma. The Union of Burma or its conventional name “Burma” has been plagued by the internal conflicts especially since its independence from the British in 1948. While dealing with the conflict of Burma, it is so important to have a clear understanding of how the Union of Burma was founded.

Therefore, the founding of the Union of Burma needs to be recalled in brief. We recall and study history not just to blame ourselves for the mistakes we might have made in the past, but in order to avoid and not to repeat those past mistakes in the future.

Based on the historical facts, the Union of Burma came into existence through the Panglong agreement, the historic accord that was signed on February 12, 1947, in Panglong, Shan State by those legitimate representatives from the pre-colonial independent countries: the Shan, the Kachin, the Chin and that of the Ministerial Burma also known as the Burma Proper. To better put it, the independent Chin, the Shan, and the Kachin nationals co-founded the Union on an equal footing with a vision of founding the stable Union.

Today, the Panglong accord, which was signed on the equal footing, stands as the fundamental foundation and the legal cornerstone of the Union itself, and as a result, the signing date of Panglong accord is observed as the national holiday, the Union Day. We must stress the fact that the term “equality” or “equal footing” fully signified and recognized the equal status of those founding members of the Union. Meaning, regardless of the size of the population of each region joining the Union, no single signatory nation of the agreement is superior or inferior to the rest of the other co-founding members of the Union.

As a matter of fact, in the pre-colonial period, these nations were historically independent, living side by side with the political administrative system of their own under their respective legitimate leaders. The historical fact should be noted once again that no King of Burma had ever rule or conquered these nations. Only the British expansionist conquered them separately from Burma – Burma Proper.

A clear interpretation and essence of the Panglong Agreement was made very clear by a native Chin scholar and the leading politician, Dr. Lian Hmung Sakhong in the follwoing. He eloquently put it, “The essence of the Panglong agreement- the Panglong Spirit- was that the Chin, Kachin, and the Shan did not surrender their rights of self-determination and sovereignty to the Burman. The Chin, Kachin, and the Shan signed the Panglong agreement as a means to speed up their own search for freedom together with the Burman and other nationalities in what became the Union of Burma [1*]. The preamble of Panglong agreement also declares; “Believing that freedom will be more speedily achieved by the Shans, the Kachins, and the Chins by their immediate co-operation with the interim Burmese government”.

On a similar question, a native Shan scholar, a political scientist, Late Dr. Choa Tzang explained, “The meaning of Panglong is clear, made clear by U Aung San (formerly Bogyoke) and leaders of the ruling AFPFL (Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League) party. The meaning is none other than that the Shan, Kachin, Chin and other nationalities agreed — jointly and unitedly. Here again, the implication is that the Pyidaungzu (the Union) that came into being in 1948 is made up of co-independent and equal states ” [2*]. To have a clear picture of the creation and joining of the Union by the non-Burman ethnic groups, we have to understand that the non-Burman national ethnic groups did not relinquish their national sovereignty.

Rather, strict interpretation of the terms of the agreement, the true essence of the Panglong accords emphatically expressed the mutual recognitions of national sovereignty, their national right of self-determination, and equal status among those founding members of the Union. Therefore, the essence and true spirit of Panglong is to be interpreted as the treaty that fully recognized the equal status and distinct national identity among the Kachin, Karrenni, Karen, Chin, Mon, Burman, and Arakans. Given the fact that Burma is a multi-ethnic country, in order to bring the deeply rooted crisis of Burma to an end, it is necessary that each region’s leaders mutually accept the principles of national equality, and the sovereignty of each region. This would enable the Union of Burma to achieve a prosperous, peaceful and democratic country under the proposed system of federalism if we choose to establish a stable Union.

The Shan’s declaration of Independence: : Whenever we make an arguments about the political issues of Burma, we repeatedly stress the crucial importance of the Panglong agreement and the necessity of respecting the true spirit of the birth of Panglong Agreement because this historic accord between the founding fathers of the Union of Burma only is the legal entity/contract that binds the nation together. What we need to note here also was that the signing of Panglong agreement was totally voluntary, which means any region joining the Union can secede from the Union and be a sovereign nation.

It is totally up to the people of the joining region to have an ultimate say for their own destination. No other member of Union has any authority to determine the future of the seceded State from the Union. That is the very reason, in our modern time, political thinkers and advocates of the model of democracy are putting their full emphasis on the question of self-determination and the need to understand what the term ” legitimacy and mandate” means. With regards to the recent declaration of Shan independence, the ultimate decision is and has to be made by the Shan themselves alone and nobody else. No foreigners should have a say in this matter.

During the revolutionary period and pro-democracy movement like today, it is understandable that there are diverse ideological confrontations over the very question of Shan declaring independence. Not only among the pro-democratic forces of Burma, but even within the inner circle of the intra-ethnic Shans themselves, there could be an ideological differences and diverse political standpoints. It is totally acceptable. We can see a clear example like the un-identical political viewpoints and ideological split-up between the Burma Communist Party and Anti-fascist People’s Freedom League over the question of how to attain independence from British during the struggle for Burma’s independence. The point is that we should not be surprised even if there are different opinions over the current example of the Shan.

In fact, there are crucial political realities that associate with the Shan’s declaration of being free nation at this point for which we have to full understand and respect the wills. In doing so, any critic of the Shan’s movement should refrain from being too judgmental and intrusive for the internal matters exclusively related to the Shan. Likewise, one should also be very careful to avoid using the phrase like “the Shan demands Independence”.

They declare independence by means of exercising their inherent national rights – Right of Self-Determination and no need to demand for it.

Why should the Shan have to demand?

From whom?

From NLD or SPDC? Under what conditions and circumstances, the Shan has to do so?

Whether the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Daw Suu or State Peace and Development Coucil (SPDC) has no right or authority to judge the destiny of the Shan peoples.

In real sense, they are foreigners. Quite shockingly, the recent statement of NLD in opposing the Shan’s movement was a bizarre example, which indeed was totally unacceptable. So was the SPDC’s condemnation on the Shan initiatives.

A foreigner should stay away from the internal affairs of the sovereign nation- who has every legitimate reasons, supreme power, and full mandate to determine their own future- for particular questions like such as the Shan.

Let us be very clear about that. The Shan peoples have absolute rights to materialize any policy they see fit and take whatever actions they deem relevant and necessary with regards to the political fate of their own future.

To simplify it, they can do whatever they like, but cannot make man a woman. We must fully acknowledge and respect their divine rights of national sovereignty and their self-determination.

Wishfully speaking, if there could be a plebiscite or national referendum for all the Shan peoples to assemble and vote over the question of such kind – declaring the Independence for the Shan or joining the Union of Burma under the proposed system of federalism – that would be so desirable. Unfortunately, such arrangement seems unlikely to take place under the current military regime.

– Chinland Guardian –

[1][1*] Lian Hmung Sakhong. Democracy movement towards federal union: the role of UNLD in the struggle for democracy and federalism in Burma. Thailand: UNLD Press, May, 2001

[2][2*]Yawnghwe, Chao-Tzang. “Federalism: Putting Burma Back Together Again,” Legal Issues on Burma Journal No. 10 (Burma Lawyers’ Council), May 1999.

Salai Za Ceu Lian -A student at the University of Winnipeg, Manitoba, is currently Secretary of Burmese Community Organization of Manitoba. He is also an assistant General Secretary for the Chin National League for Democracy (Exile), a political party that won 3 Parliamentary seats in Chin State during the 1990 general elections in Burma. He was a former Chin Youth representative at the United Nationalities Youth League (UNYL), multi-ethnic youth alliance based in Thailand, a former General Secretary of Chin Students’ Union, and was a former Assistant General Secretary of the Committee for Non-violent Action for Burma (CNAB) based in India. He also works as Associate Editor for Chinland Guardian and Rhododendron News, a bi-monthly human rights newsletter published by Chin Human Rights Organization.

Harn Yawnghwe

“Burman” or “Burmese”?

“Burman” and “Burmese” are often used interchangeably in the English language. I will use “Burman” to refer to the majority ethcin population, and “Burmese” refers to all the citizens of Burma.

“Burma” or “Myanmar”?- It has been argued by the military that “Burma” refers only to the majority Burman population, whereas “Myanmar” is more inclusive and therefore, more appropriate because it refers to all the peoples of Myanmar. Ironically, Burmese nationalist fighting British colonialism in 1936, argued the reverse. Therefore, as far as the non-Burmans are concerned, the real question is not what the country is called but what political system will include the non-Burmans.
“135 Races”

The military likes to say that there are 135 races or tribes in Burma implying that it is impossible to cater to everyone and therefore, it is necessary to have a strong military to hold the country together. In fact 65 of the so called 135 races are all from the Chin State, which makes up about 3% of the population and they live in an area that makes up about 5%of the whole nation. In other words, the military is exaggerating the problem.

According to the SPDC, people who speak different dialects are classified as being of a different race. It would be like saying that somebody from Oslo is of a different race from somebody from Bergen. We all have differences but both are of the same race.

In actual fact, all Burmese are from the same racial grouping and they can be roughly sub-divided into 3 major subgroups: Tibeto-Burman, Sino-Thai and Mon-Khmer.

In political terms Burma has only 8 constituent states, not 135: Arakan, Chin, Kachin, Shan, Kayah, Karen, Mon and “Burma Proper or Ministerial Burma” in the center. At this point it should be pointed out that the Burmans are also one of the ethnic groups of Burma. So we cannot really talk about the ethnic people and the Burmans.

Ethnic Nationalities

In the past, the non-Burmans were referred to as the “Nationalities” as in Chamber of Nationalities or the Upper House of Parliament. Burm the word the “ethnic minorities” became used more frequently in international circles. So now, we use the term “ethnic nationalities” or the non-Burman ethnic nationalities to denote the non-


We do not like to use the term “Minorities”. This is because it gives the impression to outsiders that they are talking about only 1-2% of the population.

It is estimated that Burma today has a population of approximately 50 million people. Burmans are supposed to make up 60% of the population. Therefore, when we talk about the “minority” problem in Burma, we are in fact talking about a problem that affects the lives of at least 20 million people. I think this is more than the population of Norway.

In terms of geography, the non-Burmans occupy 55% of the land area or 371,000 sq kms-slightly larger than Germany (357,000 sq km). The non-Burman problem is Burma is definitely not a “minority” problem.

“Tribes” and “Hill Tribes”

Another favourite of the military is to describe the non-Burmans as “Tribe” or “Hill Tribes”. This implies that the Burmans are the only civilized people and that it is their burden to guide the “Tribes” to a better Burman way of life.

This is actually a gross abuse of historical facts. Arakan and Mon kingdoms prededed Burman kingdoms by at lease 500 years. The first Burman kongdom was not recorded before the 11th century. Then Shan kings ruled most of Burma from the 13th century until the 16th century when Burman kings ruled again. It is also well documented that the Burmans took their civilization and culture from the Arakanese and Mon peoples. Therefore, the non-burmans are not uncivilized tribes that need to be civilized by the Burmans.

Of course, the non-Burmans today are less developed than their neighbours but is this because they ae uncivilized or because they have been systematically deprived of their rights for the last 50 years? For example, a UNICEF study showed literacy in the non-Burman areas to be lower than the Burman areas. Why is this so? One reason is that literacy in Burma is measured in terms of knowledge of the Burman language. In the last 50 years to non-Burmans have not been allowed to teach their own languages. Another factor of course is the 50 year-old civil war in the non-Burman areas.

Burma-a Kingdom or a Union States?

Another major difference in perspective between the Burman nationalist and the non-Burmans is history.

At the time the British came into contact with Burma in 1824, the Burman king ruled over the Arakan, Mon and Karen areas and claimed the allegiance of the rulers of the Kayah and Shan states as well as Assam and Manipur in India. Aftet the Britiseh conquest in 1886, the Burman kingdom(including Arakan, Mon and Karen) was make a part of British India. It later became known as “Ministerial Burma” or “Burma Proper”. Karenni or Kayah State was recognized as a sovereign state. The Shan States which later became the Federated Shan States like the Malay states, became a British Protectorate. The Kachin and Chins wre administered separately as the Frontier Area.

Burman nationalist, therefore, claim that they are the heirs of the pre-British Burman kingdom and that rightfully all of Burma belongs to them. They claim that the British deliberated carved up the country to divide and rule. So to the nationalists, the claims of the non-Burmans for self-determination are nothing buty a product of British imperialism. The non-Burmans, however, claim that by 1886 the Burman empire was crumbling and that the British only took the practical way ort by recognizing their de-facto independence from the Burman king. In any case, after 62 years, the Burmans who lo longer had a king could have no practical claims on them.

The Burmese situation is, therefore, different from Indonesia where most of the inslnds were one colony under the Dutch. The colony then became Indonesia. In Burma a formal agreement was entered into by different entities to become the Union of Burma.

1947 Panglong Agreement

To the Chins, Kachins and Shans, the Panglong Conference and Agreement formed the basis of their current union with the Burmans, not any historical claims of a now defunct empire. At that Conference, General Aung San, leader of the Burman independence struggle from “Ministerial Burma”, and leaders of the Shan, Kachin and Chin peoples agreed to merge their homelands on the basis of equality to form the “Republic of the Union of Burma” in order to accelerate the process of seeking independence from Britain.
1974 Constitution

Based on Panglong Agreement, a Union Constitution was drawn up. The non-Burmans believed they were getting a federal system but in reality, while the Shan, Kachin, and Kayah States and the Chin Special Division were recognized, power was not devolved to the states. At this time, the Kayah or Karenni people felt that they had been forced into a union without adequate consultation and took up arms against the central government. Separate negotiations with the Karens also broke down and they also took up arms. The Mon also joined the rebellion as did the Arakanese although the Arakan, Karen and Mon states were recognized at a later date.

From this you can see that, the non-Burman proplem in Burma stems from a failure of the government of Burma to properly address the basic nostitutional arrangement between the different states that make up the union.

To make matters worse, Prime Minister U Nu requested General Ne Win to form a “Caretaker Government” to prevent the Shan and Karenni states from exercising their constitutional rights to secede from the Union after 10 years if they were not satisfied. This started the Shan struggle for independence. To understand the problem you need to be aware that the Shan State makes up 23 % of the land area of Burma and about 20% of the population.

Following the Caretaker Government, the Shan leaders recognized the need to amend the constitution if the nation was be saved and initiated the Federal Movement. But General Ne Win instead seized power and said he was saving the nation from disintegration. General Ne Win also suspended the 1947 constitution .

As far as the Shan, Kachin and Chin were concerned, the suspension of the 1947 constitution nullified the Panglong Agreement which ound them legally to “Ministerial Burma” and as such, Ne Win had at one stroke set them free and illegally occupied their homelands. This plunged the country into civil war in earnest.

From all this, it is very clear that tho non Burman problem in Burma is not a “minority” problem, it  is not a tribal problem and it is not an ethnic problem. I want to emphasos this because when we say ethnic problem, most people think of the fomer Yugoslavia where different ethnic people were killing each other. We do not have that kind of problem in Burma. Our problem is not a horizontal ethnic problem, but vertical one. It is basically a constitutional problem and it can be resolved by negotiations.

It is clear that we do not need a strong army to keep the country together. In fact in Burma, the army has made the problem worse by preventing dialogue and refusing the 8 states to engage in constitutional talks. I trust I have been able to clarify some souses for you.

To protect and promote human rights and democratic principles