February 12, 2010 marked the 63rdnd anniversary of Union Day in Burma. Unlike any of the previous commemorations, there was no mention of the Panglong Agreement or General Aung San in the Union Day speech given by Than Shwe. It comes as no surprise since the military junta has never really honored the terms and conditions of the Agreement ever it came into power in 1962. Yet to celebrate an event centered around the Panglong Agreement and to make no mention or acknowledgment of it seems not only ridiculous but it also shows that the Burmese military governments has zero interests in equal rights and representation for all ethnic groups in Burma.
Just three days earlier, the military junta gave the ethnic cease-fire groups an extended deadline to join the Border Guard Forces (BGF) by the end of February. Many cease-fire groups refuse to join the BGF because they have nothing to gain from it. The BGF is merely a means by which the military government uses to extend their iron grip onto all ethnic areas across Burma and to undermine the autonomy of local leaderships.
In his Union Day speech, Than Shwe urged “all of Burma’s ethnic groups to renew their ‘sense of Union Spirit’”. At the same time, his military government continues to kill ethnic civilians, destroy their homes, schools, and clinics, and rape thousands of ethnic women as a weapon of war. Not to mention putting key ethnic figures in notorious prisons, such as Sao Hso Ten, the president of the Shan State Peace Council and Hkun Htun oo and Sai Nyunt Lwin, the chairman and secretary of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy. These ethnic leaders are serving lengthy prison terms of 75 to 106 years.
The Burmese military junta sees the BGF as one of the centerpieces for its farcical roadmap to democracy (to be exact, disciplined democracy). If more ethnic cease-fire groups refuse to join the BGF, which means that they refuse to be a part of the Union of Burma under the leadership of Than Shwe and his cronies, it could detrimentally undermine the legitimacy of the 2010 elections that the military junta has been so hyped about.
There’s an expression in Burmese that goes “Phat nat ma taw, phat nyaunt hlee”. It means cutting off the foot to fit the shoe. The February deadline will come and go and many ethnic cease-fire groups will not heed the call for BGF. Then what will the Burmese junta do? They will do what they do best: kill, destroy, and repress innocent civilian lives. It has already been speculated that the closer we get to the 2010 election time, the higher influx of refugees pouring into neighboring countries as they flee from persecution and repression by the military government.