“We want to solve political problems by means of politics, therefore, we entered into a ceasefire and we will demand a political dialogue,” former New Mon State Party’s (NMSP) President Nai Shwe Kyin once said. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2003, and never saw a peaceful political dialogue within either Burma or Mon State; the situation has been worsening since the current military regime, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) forcibly confirmed a military-dominated constitution in May 2008 through a people’s referendum, without international monitoring or thorough debates among Burma’s political parties or the nation’s people.
The Mon people lost the right to self-determination and self-rule after the fall of the Hongsawatoi kingdom in 1757, when it was annexed by the Burmese King Alungphaya. Since then, the Mon people have struggled to retain their rights through both armed struggle and legitimate political movements. The NMSP, which formed in 1958, waged war against the successions of Burmese military regimes based in Rangoon, until agreed to a ceasefire in 1995.
Just recently, after the SPDC declared that it was holding elections in 2010, and announced electoral laws, a political party formation law and a party registration law, the regime began pressuring ceasefire groups to abandon their arms and participate in the elections. Some non-politically motivated ceasefire groups agreed to participate in the elections, despite the fact that the Burmese military’s political representatives have special opportunities, in that they do not need to run in the elections, but will, under the 2008 constitution, automatically win 25% of the seats in both central level and local level parliaments.
Burma’s politically-motivated ceasefire groups do not want to enter into the elections without political warrantees for their people and their armed forces. But the regime has said that they must change their armed forces into “Border Guard Forces” (BGF) or “village militia forces”, and transform their political wings into political parties to run in the elections.
The NMSP has consistently stated that it refuses to participate in the 2010 elections prior to major changes to the 2008 constitution, as it favors the Burmese military’s possession of political power within the country. The NMSP has also argued that it did not want to transform its armed force, the New Mon Liberation Army (NMLA), into a Burmese government-controlled Border Guard Force (BFG) or paramilitary group, without a political dialogue that granted the right of self-determination to the Mon people.
The time of the ceasefire’s existence grows shorter and shorter, as the date of the elections comes closer and closer. The regime is not offering any alternative means of preserving the ceasefire. War could break out at any time during the regime-set 60 day period for political party registration. If registering groups are declared to be illegal political groups, a new war will begin.
Both the Burmese military and various ethnic minority armies have been involved in a decades-long civil war. No one group can win in this war, but the nation’s people continue to suffer. Mon refugees who returned to Burma from Thailand’s refugee camps in 1995, after the ceasefire, will have to flee into Thailand again. Thousands of Mon people will become internally displaced persons (IDPs). Many rural Mon people will lose their livelihoods and their lands after rebuilding their lives during the 15 year ceasefire period.
The UN Assembly, western governments, and ASEAN leaders have demanded that the regime solve political problems through a peaceful dialogue. But the regime has ignored these demands. It planted the seed for a new war with its 2008 constitution, and now the war will break out soon.
Now, Burma’s problem are becoming international problems, as the international community will have to take care of Burmese refugees, help Burmese people with socio-economic programs, etc. Therefore, the international community still has a role to play in stopping this new war within Burma.