- Khin Maung Myint
Our country had been independent for nearly seven decades, but we haven’t developed as much as we should, in comparison to our neighbours. So, what is hindering us? In my humble opinion, the lack of national reconciliation and peace is at the root of this. Since our Independence we had been faced with rebellions or in other words, insurgencies. Some insurgencies stemmed from differences in political concepts, but most are racially motivated. There is no absolute or total peace until today. The main reason is the inability to achieve national reconciliation. Ever since before our Independence there was no unity among some of the national races and between some political groups. After the Independence that disunity turned into all out armed conflicts. In the early stages it’s acceptable to blame the divide and rule policy of the colonialists. However, after over three quarters of a century that excuse is no more acceptable.
Successive governments and ethnic national leaders had endeavoured to unite the country during all these past decades without much success. Now, at long last, there are some rays of hope that those goals could be achieved. So what are the factors that had been causing the hindrances and how can they be overcome?
Lack of Trust. The national races do not trust one another. So, the most important task is to build trust among our national races. To trust one another, everyone needs to abandon the grievances they harboured based on the past histories, dating back centuries. Some national races are still dwelling in the past. Here, I would like to bring up the case of the Vietnamese peoples. They had been colonized by the French and later they had to fight between themselves as well as the Americans. Once the fightings were over, they shed all the differences and grievances between themselves. Also, they bear no grudge nor animosity against the French as imperialists or the American as intruders, but forgave and forgot and moved on. Today those attitudes paid off. Just look where Vietnam is today. So let’s forgive and forgot our past and move on.
Some say that hate breeds hate and terror breeds terror. I would like to make a slight change to those concepts. My concept is: hate breeds hatred and hatred leads to terrorism. If we can eradicate hate, there wouldn’t be hatred among the national races and so aslo there wouldn’t be terrorism, which are in the forms of armed conflicts or wars. We should avoid hate speeches directed at any race or religion. These hate speeches can lead to hate crimes. Actions should be taken against those who instigate disunity by making hate speeches or hate comments on the social media.
Nationalist spirit or nationalism played an important role in our strive for Independence. It was the best tool to rally the people to unite and stood up against the imperialists. All the countries, which strive for Independence from the colonialist rulers, promote nationalism to the highest levels and achieved their goals. However, once they gained Independence they toned down the nationalist spirit. Those countries that can change their nationalism in the right directions prospered more than the hardliners who cling on to the old dogma of nationalism or ultra-nationalism
The ultra-nationalism leads to racism, which is undesirable. Racist mentality leads to religionism, which can be very dangerous when it turns into extreme religionism that could lead to terrorism. We should not forget the fact that extreme racism or the white supremacist ideology of the Nazis had led to the two World Wars.
It may benefit the party, that is the political party, for its members to foster partisan spirits, but they tend to be reluctant to compromise with others. They have the tendencies to support or endorse everything and anything their party did, whether right or wrong.
The Right Attitudes
Patriotism. It’s one’s love for one’s country. It’s the right attitude or spirit that should be nurtured. It’s a noble and most desirable spirit. Patriotic persons or patriots are ever ready to sacrifice for the good causes of their country. They are always ready to sacrifice even their lives for the country, if needed. This is the right spirit that every citizen irrespective of race or nationality should foster.
The Union Spirit or the Panglong Spirit is the most desirable attitude that will contribute greatly to the national reconciliation and peace. Instead of placing the individual’s national identity first, we should identify ourselves as the citizens of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar first and our ethnicity second. For instance: As I’m a Myanmar of Bamar origin, I identify my self as Myanmar first and Bamar second. If our nationals who migrated to other countries take much pride in identifying themselves as Americans, Australians or Canadians, etc, why can’t the national races living in Myanmar identify themselves as Myanmar.
These attitudes will unite all the nationalities and achieve our goal of national reconciliation and peace will prevail. Here, I would like to mention how I came up with the expression Myanmar first and Bamar second. About a decade ago I read in the Bangkok Post, an interview with an ethnic minority race of Thailand concerning their National Day celebrations. At one point during the interview, one of the ethnic leaders said: they considered themselves as Thais first and their ethnicity second. That attitude was very correct. I liked that attitude and the expression so much so that I borrowed that and used it here.
My sincere hope and belief is, once all our citizens irrespective of their ethnicity or religion, could accept the fact that we are Myanmars first and our ethnicity second, there is no reason that national reconciliation and peace can’t be achieved. So, let us trust one another, discard our grudges and grievances, forget and forgive what had happened in the past, and embrace the Panglong Spirit as good patriots, Above all, avoid the differences, extreme nationalism, narrow-minded racism and blind religionism, make necessary compromises and join hands to set our country on the right track to peace and prosperity.