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HERO WORSHIP VERSUS COLLECTIVE LEADERSHIP: Controversial Thai FM meeting with detained NLD leader revealed anti-junta soft spot

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The controversial meeting between the jailed National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the Thai FM Don Pramudwinai is planned to coincide with the ASEAN meeting in Jakarta which almost derail the scheduled condemnation of Myanmar military junta for its war crime against the civilian. It seems to be designed to portray the junta in a reconciliation light so that less pressure will be meted out and even enjoy undeserved legitimacy. But fortunately, a semblance of pressure still remains in ASEAN joint communique, if not the concrete coercive move for the junta to comply with ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus (5PC).

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On July 13, after two days of deliberation a joint communique of ASEAN foreign ministers finally was made public with the end of the ministerial meeting. While the Myanmar issue fractured the ASEAN on how to handle it among its members, in a watered down joint communique it managed to condemn the violence in Myanmar and repeated the support of the 5PC or five-point peace plan.

It also squeezed in some positive remarks on the Thai FM go it alone shuttle diplomacy by meeting with the jailed Aung San Suu Kyi and carrying her message to the ASEAN meeting that she is for dialogue with the junta to resolve conflict without pre-condition. This was besides the Thai FM initiated meeting with the junta appointed Myanmar FM, together with a few ASEAN foreign ministers under the so-called 1.5 track meeting not long ago, which actually breached the ASEAN agreement not to meet the junta’s high-ranking officials until the five-point consensus are met. Understandably, many were furious with the Thai FM solo undertakings without ASEAN consent.

The ASEAN Foreign Ministers holding hands as ASEANs style at the 56th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting AMM in Jakarta
The ASEAN Foreign Ministers holding hands as ASEAN’s style at the 56th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting (AMM) in Jakarta.

ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Joint Communique

Part of the joint communique of the 56th foreign ministers’ meeting from the 11 to 12 July in Jakarta, under the heading of “Developments in Myanmar” writes:

“We discussed the developments in Myanmar and reaffirmed our united position that the Five-Point Consensus (5PC) remains our main reference to address the political crisis in Myanmar. We strongly condemned the continued acts of violence, including air strikes, artillery shelling, and destruction of public facilities and urged all parties involved to take concrete action to immediately halt indiscriminate violence, denounce any escalation, and create a conducive environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and inclusive national dialogue.”

“In line with paragraph 14 of the ASEAN Leaders’ Review and Decision on the Implementation of Five-Point Consensus, we were briefed by Thailand on its recent activities on Myanmar, which a number of ASEAN Member States viewed as a positive development. We reaffirmed ASEAN unity and reiterated that any effort should support, in line with 5PC and in coordination with the
Chair of ASEAN.”

Anti-junta groups soft spot

However, the episode has revealed an unspoken soft spot of the parallel National Unity Government (NUG) in particular and its affiliation organizations in general.

The soft spot is none other than “What if ASSK opt for negotiation with the junta and reject the Spring Revolution altogether?”

Thai FM Don Pramudwinai attended the 56th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting AMM in Jakarta
Thai FM Don Pramudwinai attended the 56th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) in Jakarta.

To be fair, the NUG has been toying with such a scenario ever since the peaceful demonstration turned into armed resistance struggle a few months after the February military coup in 2021. But it has never been pushed to tackle the issue head-on like it is now, following the Thai FM statement that ASSK is for dialogue without pre-condition, contrary to what the NUG has been saying all along. The NUG position has been for uprooting the military junta and its system at all cost and no negotiation whatsoever, until victory is achieved.

In the same vein, the junta has also embarked on total annihilation of its opposition groups, particularly the NUG and its armed wing the People’s Defence Force (PDF), including ethnic revolutionary organizations (EROs) allied to the NUG/PDF.

Responses to situation

While there is no question on the popularity of the jailed Aung San Suu Kyi, her contrary stance to the Spring Revolution actors and drivers, if what the Thai FM said is true, the overwhelming responses are to go on with the armed struggle, until victory is achieved.

The NUG FM Zin Mar Aung, Chin, Kachin, Karenni and Karen revolutionary armies are said to be for the continuation of the Spring Revolution until the military dictatorship system is uprooted and there would be no negotiation with the junta whatsoever.

In this regards the statement of GSCB largely reflects this sentiment.

GSCB Statement

The General Strike Coordination Body (GSCB) released its “Opinion in Response to the News of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s Message upon Meeting with Thailand’s Foreign Minister” on July 13, 2023.

Part of the statement writes:

“Regardless of the veracity or accuracy of this news, we consider it to be an instance of political abuse perpetrated by the terrorist military group and its allies. It reflects their disdain for the people of Myanmar and the international community, including ASEAN.”

The 56th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting AMM in Jakarta
The 56th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) in Jakarta.

“The Spring Revolution encompasses diverse forces, including various social classes, distinct ethnic groups, and the entirety of diverse society. We firmly believe that its outcome does not rely on the decision of any single individual, group, or faction.”

“Our General Strike Coordinating Committee comprises over 40 strike committees spanning all states and territories across the nation. We are dedicated to upholding four key policies: “eradication of the military dictatorship,” establishment of a Federal Democratic Union,” “Unconditional abolition of the 2008 Constitution,” and “Absolute liberation of detained political leaders and student activists.” Consequently, our objective is not simply to alter the regime but to transform the entire political system. We will persist in our revolution until this goal is achieved, adopting the unwavering position that “No Compromises on the Blood Debt!” until justice is reinstated.”

In the same vein, General Strike Collaboration Committee (GSCC) also issues a five-point statement on July 17, 2023. One of the point writes:

“The Spring Revolution of Myanmar is a people’s revolution having firm roots in principles, in accordance with the Federal Democracy Charter. It is not centered around a person.”

Outlook and perspectives

Given such postures of the two main political adversaries, peace negotiation and conflict transformation may not be feasible at the moment.

The junta seems to have no other way out than to crush the opposition groups by using all available arsenal such as heavy artillery, fighter jets and combat aircraft against the anti-junta groups and as well the civilian population in their controlled or operational areas, without distinction. It’s hit-and-run combat troops often practice scorched earth strategy leaving the devastated landscape in Dry Zone, where the most Bamar population live and the resistance is strong, fierce and unrelenting.

In short, the junta’s reign of terror and the tendency to frighten, intimidate the population to submission is the sole strategy that it knows and determined to carry on, if the more than two years of junta’s military scorched earth campaigns are of any indication.

This has bred more hatred and animosity against the military junta and the whole Bamar population is now convinced that the military dictatorship system has to be uprooted, in order to be able to breathe again and restore democracy, ethnic equality and rights of self-determination within the mould of federal democratic union.

The slogan of “blood debt is non-negotiable or repayable,” hasn’t come into existence for nothing, among the youth of Burma.

Thus the all-inclusive peace negotiation with the junta is out of question at this moment in time, although not impossible in the future.

The anti-junta camps won’t entertain the proposition that the junta should still have a say in politics. In short, the only possible negotiation that it may entertain is the withdrawal of military from political arena, once and for all. Because after such horrendous war crimes committed against the people, the military junta simply has no right to be part of the political decision-making process, so far as the opposition groups are concerned.

Regarding the Aung San Suu Kyi’s tendency for dialogue with the junta, if what the Thai FM said is true, the junta’s opposition camps overwhelmingly opted for rejection. Instead, they emphasized on collective leadership and vowed not to yield to one individual or one party influence and directive in their fight to uproot the military junta and its dictatorship system.

In sum, it is fair to conclude that the anti-junta groups will not be moved by the sabotage act of Thai FM and his counterparts in Naypyitaw, to derail the Spring Revolution.

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