Ex-Lawmaker: Ethnic Armed Groups ‘Can’t be Negotiated With’

By The Irrawaddy 19 December 2016

RANGOON — Ethnic armed groups currently fighting the Burma Army can’t be negotiated with for peace and “will keep rebelling against whatever government is in power,” claimed  former lawmaker U Hla Swe at a rally in Rangoon on Sunday to support the Burma Army.

The ex-MP, a member of the former ruling party the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), asked thousands of people gathered in support of the Tatmadaw “who they were fighting against,” a reference to ethnic armed groups in conflict with government forces in northern Burma.

“Are [ethnic armed groups] fighting against U Nu, U Ne Win, U Than Shwe, U Thein Sein or Daw Aung San Suu Kyi? They will keep fighting whoever is in power—they can’t be negotiated with for peace,” he said.

Sunday afternoon’s march from the Shwedagon Pagoda to Maha Bandoola Park comprised several thousand people including USDP members, Buddhist monks and others labeling themselves “supporters of the army’s ‘just war.’” Government forces have recently clashed with ethnic armed groups in Kachin and Shan states.

The demonstrators waved Burma flags and sang along to strident military songs blaring from a public address system. It was not clear who organized the demonstration as those involved only identified themselves as “supporters of the Burma Army’s actions.”

Photographs of marchers claiming to be members of Burma’s ethnic minorities went viral on social media after netizens noted irregularities in their traditional dress.

“The guy in Kachin dress didn’t wear the turban right and he wears the traditional sword on wrong shoulder,” said one Facebook user with the ethnic Kachin name Kareng Bawm Awn.

The demonstrators were also criticized for using Burma’s Independent hero and Burma Army founder Gen. Aung San picture alongside the current military chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing.

“Gen. Aung San only fought against the British [for independence], not the ethnic people of Burma,” said one user.

U Nay Phone Latt, a lawmaker from Rangoon divisional parliament, wrote on his Facebook page that he was very disappointed to see monks attend the demonstration.

“As a Buddhist, I feel really ashamed to see Buddhist monks taking part in a demonstration that supports war.”