An Arab Spring in Burma Requires Alliance Between Armed and Nonviolent Resistance

Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi

In the Ten-Year Review of Dictator Watch, his invaluable site dedicated to rolling back the repression of Burma’s military regime, Roland Watson presents a tactful, nuanced appraisal of the Nobel laureate who is the leader of Burma’s pro-democracy movement.

“Daw [Mrs.] Suu is the moral leader of Burma, and here through her sacrifice and courage she has set a shining example. … Daw Suu has said that Burma requires a Spiritual Revolution [and] that there should be no fighting — she has never offered any positive reinforcement to the armed struggle of the ethnic nationalities, even though acknowledging specific and widely publicized Burma Army atrocities against them. [But] she should understand that her silence has the effect of de-legitimizing their struggle. … This puts the people of Burma in a difficult situation. Should the ethnic groups fight or not? Their people are being attacked, so they have to fight, but Daw Suu apparently does not agree.

… It is not good enough to tell the people to wait. There is a terrible cost to this. More ethnic villagers will be killed or lose their livelihoods; more ethnic resistance — and Tatmadaw [Burma's army] — soldiers will lose their lives. … Even with a position of non-violence, Daw Suu should confer with representatives of the ethnic nationalities. … By talking together now, not only can they unearth opportunities to push for freedom, they will be building a pattern of cooperation for when Burma is democratic.

The view of Watson and Dictator Watch is

… that strategy for the Burma pro-democracy movement is relatively simple, albeit complex to implement. The movement has two arms, non-violent protestors and ethnic rebels. But, rather than opposing each other, they can instead complement and work together.

Watson concludes:

If the people start protesting, and the ethnic groups launch offensive operations wherever and whenever possible, the regime will not be able to handle it.