The Limits Of Non-Violence In Burma

A reader with first-hand experience in the country writes:

I deliver medicine and medical supplies inside Karen State, Burma, to refugees hiding from the junta. I have walked, talked, slept, and eaten with the Karen, while trekking from village to village making medical drops and observing backpacking medics provide primary health care services to internally displaced people.

If freedom is to be gained in the near-term, the Burmese junta need to be dealt a death blow that can only be administered through military defeat. Satyagraha merely provides the reason for an SPDC soldier to pull a gun out and blow someone's head off for defying an order to provide labor, food, possessions, sex slaves, or whatever is demanded by the junta. Perhaps over the longer term the strategy of non-violent resistance could work, but this presumes that the Burmese junta and its allies such as China will come to value and honor the will of the people, which seems unlikely.

The only reason the Karen, Shan and other ethnic peoples still exist is because they have the arms necessary to continue their seemingly endless struggle.

What is called a "civil war" really consists of ethnic militias slowing the approach of SPDC troops so villagers have time to gather their belongings and flee, before anything of value is confiscated and their bamboo huts are burnt to the ground. They have been forced to live as terrorized nomads, in unfamiliar terrain with very high infection rates of malaria and water-borne diseases. They would have been destroyed years ago by brute force if it were possible, but guns in the hands of loosely organized democratic militias has ensured their survival. The junta has made no secret of its desire to exterminate the ethnic minorities who support Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD through it's "Four Cuts" policy, depriving them of food, money, manpower and intelligence. Starvation, disease, and land mines will finish the job that bullets and shells have not.  Satyagraha or laying down of arms is an invitation to massacre, plain and simple.

Speaking of land mines, they are the progenitor of IED's and the strategy of random passive attacks. There are untold numbers of land mines in Burma that are unaccounted for. When one side lays them, the other digs them up and moves them. This continues back and forth, and now, nobody is quite sure where they all are. Both sides are reaping the grim rewards of such folly.

An effective, internal, democratic military strategy, organized by the ethnic militias is what is needed to free all Burmese people, but first they need to counter Four Cuts so they can communicate effectively and organize a healthy population. There is no negotiating with SPDC thugs, only submission is tolerated. They are cunning, vicious, and too comfortable in their luxury and power to ever give it up willingly. The democracy movement within Burma cannot count on other nations to overtly come to their aid, and China's appetite for resources is too sated by the junta for any alteration of diplomatic course.