Several months ago in the Karen State, soliders of the
Democratic Kayan Buddhist Army (DKBA) under the control of the
SLORC, entered a small village and called all of the people
together. They demanded that everyone join their organization or
the local church would be burned to the ground. Few people,
Christian or Buddhist, heeded their orders. The leader of the
DKBA troops then went to the Buddhist monastery which has a small
generator, to get fuel to burn the Christian church. According to
a peasant present at the event, the Buddhist monk told the DKBA,
"I will give you the fuel. Then when you have burned the
church, come and burn down my monastery. If you do not, I will do
it myself. The Christians and Buddhists have lived together in
peace for many years. When they have a celebration, we help them.
When we have a celebration, they help us. We all drink from the
same river." The DKBA hung their heads in disappointment and
While it all may seem a bit hopeless, it is not. There are
many signs of hope and there is much that canbe done to support
that hope. The people of Burma, especially those living in the
deep interior areas, have been creatively fighting for peace and
justice for many decades now. We need not so much teach them as
we need to support them. This could be done in many ways
1. New political and economic structures for Burma should be
built from the grassroots (most fringe of the society) up, based
on their traditional forms of economy, leadership, and decision
making. These are the only kinds of structures which these
grassroots people can effectively and fully participate in.
All opposition groups and NGOs must take seriously the village
level structure which already exist and use the wisdom of the
villagers to build the new Burma. If this does not happen,
conflict will continue.
2. New forms of non-violent resistance need to be developed to
confront the global economic warfare which is now at the center
of international conflicts and whihc so victimize the grassroots.
These new forms of non-violent resistance may already exist at
the grassroots level. They should be identified and shared with
the internaitonal movements for justice.
3. Peace-making activities in Burma must focus on the root
causes of oppression in order to promote peace which is a true
and lasting peace with justice. Care must be taken to not overly
emphasize the writing of new constitutions, or designing new
federal systems for Burma. These systems, while perhaps very
democratic and well organized, will not bring peace to Burma if
the root causes of conflict have not been identified and dealt
with in a straightforward and effective manner.
4. The UN, especially the UNHCR, needs to reorganize so that
it can respond to the oppressed rather than the oppressors.
It is important to remeber that the only hope for true and
lasting peace in Burma is for full and free participation by the)
village people. They must have a very strong role in designing
the economic and political structures which will rule Burma in
the future. NGOs who wish to work in and for Burma should always
make certain that they do not present an obstacle to such a
Posted on 2001-11-09