(5-9 April 2017)
Linda K.Burton (1952-)
Two invitations came last March which enabled me to make another trip back to the country I have come to call Hopeland:
China and Drugs have for long been subjects close to my heart, for I have always believed that unless the two are properly treated, the country will still be a long, long way from being one fit to live, let alone becoming a Switzerland in the east.
This journal tries to inform the reader what I had learned there.
Participants at the China-Myanmar Scholars Dialogue, 6 April 2017. (Photo: Aung Myo Htwe)
Day One, Wednesday, 5 April 2017
Life is really simple.
But we insist on making it complicated
Confucius (551-479 BC)
Nothing much to say for today except that I meet friends to review on the by-elections that were held 4 days earlier.
From them, I learn at least one thing: In the Burman dominated lowlands, it is not about the peace process like in the highlands, but about the economy that will more than likely determine which party and candidate the voter will choose in 2020.
Day Two. Thursday, 6 April 2017
Each nation feels superior to other nations.
That breeds patriotism—and wars.
Dale Carnegie (1888-1955)
The China-Myanmar Scholars’ Dialogue is held at the meeting hall of the MISIS, also known as Myanmar ISIS.
As to be expected, the first question I ask is: “Why of all the acronyms in this world, Myanmar ISIS?” To which one of our host is ready with an answer, accompanied by a laugh. “Because we’re out to destroy the other ISIS.”
The institute was set up in 1992 by Gen Khin Nyunt, as Office of Strategic Studies (OSS), he informs me. He doesn’t say when the name change took place, however. But I guess that won’t be hard to guess.
Burmese commanders have sent tens of thousands of troops into the mountainous region, supported by aircraft and artillery. (Photo:FP)
Understandably, about half of the 30 or so participants are members of the MISIS. Among the non-MISIS are members of HD, 4 Chinese scholars, and others. Which include myself. The following are excerpts from the first presenters:
Chinese scholar#1 Armed conflicts that began in 2009 have disturbed peace and stability along
the 2,192 km border:
8 August 2009 – with MNDAA
June 2011 – with KIA
February 2015 – with MNDAA
November 2016- with NAB
March 2017 – with MNDAA
5 Chinese citizens were killed and 8 injured. Economic projects suspended. Local governments bearing big burden for refugees.
Reading between the lines, the presentations by the two scholars seem to have summed up the whole lot of discussions that followed today: No trust exists between the two who need each other so much.
Presentations by others, including mine, are just appendices to the two’s. That’s how they look to me, anyway. Let’s see what they are:
Kachin Independence Army leader General Gun Maw, left, walks with Chinese Special Envoy Sun Guoxiang as leaders and representatives of various ethnic armed groups arrive for the opening of a four-day conference in Mai Ja Yang. (AFP)
because we don’t have stakes in them. Correspondingly, armed conflicts in Myanmar impact China/Myanmar relations, but nothing to the West. So why should we want to involve them? (Note: He names US, UK, Japan, EU and others, but not India) As for UN, we have no objection.
The 2 plus 2 arrangement has limitations, because it is too formal. Each side sticks to its own policies and go home. They have never got to the point of resolving the issues.
Toward the end of the day, Dr Kong Jianxun, who happens to be from the Hani ethnic group, known in Myanmar as Akha, proposes that a joint border fact finding team be formed, as a first step, to ascertain facts from myths, which is seconded by several Myanmar scholars, who add that HD should fund the project. The latter promises to consider the request.
The day ends with a dinner party at a restaurant called Hong Bao, but also strangely known as Water Library, which I have yet to find out how it came to be named as such.
The one thing I remember from the party is a remark from a former rebel friend, who still have contacts along the Chinese border and across. “The Wa has become another North Korea for the Chinese,” he says. “They are Chinese protégés, but they don’t always listen to China’s advice.”
At 21:00, I’m back in my hotel room.
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