Thursday, February 19, 2015

To the defense chief: Be brave to make peace

Wednesday, February 18, 2015 Posted by YL 

On 5 January 1968, Peng Jiasheng, “with all out Chinese support”, as Bertil Lintner wrote in his Burma in Revolt, entered Kokang and seized it. (The Burma Army was then receiving arms from the United States.)

Since then until August 2009, it had been under his sway except for a brief period in late 1992, when he was ousted by the Yang clan.

The problem with Peng is that he wants to come back to Kokang but not like a prodigal son by surrendering to Naypyitaw, as conditioned by it. The only option left for him, right or wrong, is to return by force. And that’s what he has done. And look what has happened.

And now, since 9 February, almost 6 years after he was dislodged by the Burma Army, he is back in his old stamping ground. And the army chief Senior Gen Min Aung Hlaing has been talking about “defending national sovereignty” since his visit to northern Shan State on Sunday, 15 February.

The question therefore arises: Is Burma’s sovereignty under threat from China again as in the 1968-89 period? Which naturally begs another question: Is he expecting US aid against “aggression” from China?

No doubt many across the border sympathize with their ethnic cousin on this side in his crusade to reclaim his homeland, especially after his interview given to the Global Times a few months back, as confirmed by SHAN sources. But that doesn’t mean Beijing is ready to pull all its stakes out from Burma to aid a handful of its cousins there. If it were, then Kokang would now be firmly under Peng’s sway again.

Of course, as SHAN has already reported, Beijing is still waiting to see if Naypyitaw still regards it as “a friend in need” as between 1988-2011, when without China coming to the rescue, the country would have fallen apart.

Now Naypyitaw has more friends who used to be its longtime and most outspoken critics. Naturally, it wouldn’t be advisable for Beijing (indeed too early for it) to be too harsh on the armed rebels on its borders as it was before. Saying that the army’s counter offensive is in “defense of national sovereignty” therefore is clearly an overstatement.

What Naypyitaw needs to do it to call for a ceasefire talk, reach a ceasefire agreement, and explore how Peng could be relocated in the Kokang area. Of course, a reconciliation program between himself and his erstwhile deputy Bai Xuoqian, who is now Naypyitaw’s point man there, would be in order.

What SHAN suggests may be admittedly a bitter pill for the defense chief. But if he is also a follower of Sun Zi (BC 623-543), he will remember that “A government does not mobilize an army out of anger, and military leaders do not make war out of wrath.”

SHAN hopes its poor counsel is taken into serious consideration, as the war option will for sure mark the beginning of the end of the ongoing peace process.