Thursday, December 13, 2007

Don't call us terrorists

This is Part III (see Part I, II) of Jotman's exclusive interview with Muang, a Burmese rebel leader.

Maung has pledged to renew the struggle against Burma's military regime should it refuse to negotiate seriously.

"If that day arrives, don’t say “terrorists” to us! You know we are all innocent."

“Nobody outside the SPDC (Burmese junta) is calling you terrorists,” I replied.

Obviously Maung had a good reason to make this statement. He sounded pained, and wounded, as though some Westerners had actually used the term in reference to his activities. Maung, as you will recall, was formerly on the Central Committee of the ABSDF (All Burma Students Defense Forces)

"If you say terrorists to us, then you must also say the SPDC is terrorists as well. Officially."

Someone must have fired this accusation at his former group, I thought. But who? Maung continued:
There are terrorists running our country. You see it. You saw it. Many many times. If you let them go ahead, then it means you support terrorism in our own land. This is not fair. Who protects us? We have to protect ourselves.

So we will try our best. The situation forces us to do this.

I only say to people not to look at us as terrorists.
Here we go again, I thought.

“I don’t think anybody’s calling you that.” I said, emphatically.

“Because it’s happened before – to a lot of people -- like me."

My ears perked up. This was the explanation, the story I had been seeking.

"I was a part of ABSDF before. I was dealing with the international . . . And some people were trying to change our organizational. . . maneuver, and tactics. They even forced us to put down our weapons. And do only politics. In the border area, doing only politics is . . . a little funny for us. Survival. How to protect ourselves. Who will protect ourselves? So then, that’s the situation. They even interfered – "

“Who is they?”

"Some NGOs, let me say this. I don’t want to mention the names. But they know themselves. And then the world .. . there is only some things that NGO says Afghanistan and Iraq. They used their forces to attack after September 11. So they asked us – a lot of NGOs – not to hold a gun, even to protect ourselves. We asked them, well, who will protect us in the jungle? They had no answer.

I had heard that the so-called PATRIOT Act passed by the US Congress in the wake of 9/11, mistakenly designated the Karen Resistance Army (KRA) a "terrorist organization." The KRA has been fighting a decades-long war with the Myanmar junta.

“Tell me about the connection between 9/11 and the situation here.”

Before 9/11 the organizations like ABSDF in the border were asked by one NGO – I know the specifics here because I was involved with ABSDF at the time – asked the organization to give up arms. So that if we don’t then this NGO won’t continue supporting the humanitarian aid. And then we refused and then they stopped providing humanitarian support for the family member of ABSDF.

You know when we look at the situation after September 11, America didn’t sort out everything in a peaceful way. They used their own forces. . . To invade the other country. And other countries went along with that sending forces to support the Americans as well --

"I don’t know that’s your best argument for your case, really." I interjected. "The Iraq war has made many people around the world very angry at America. "

Maung continued: "When we are attacked, when we are in danger: we can protect ourselves. When the people are under attack – that’s a life and death situation – they must protect themselves. Even a dog will protect himself by trying to fight. I think we have the right to do this.

I imagine if Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were looking down upon the world from some high cloud, they would scarcely recognize the United States government. But they would understand Maung.

Note: The "War on Terror" has rewarded Burma's junta in other ways. According to AidWatch, the Australian government actually funded the training of Myanmar intelligence officers: "In 2004-2005 AUSAID funded training 'for senior officials in the theory of counter terrorism recognition and collaboration for combating terrorism'. The project funded counter-terrorism workshops, later delivered to 600 government personnel in Burma."

"A pool hall in Burma" by Jotman.

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