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Burma Developments React: Dr. Zarni of Burma Strategy Group - Free Burma Coalition - 2003-12-20


Dr. Zarni, founder of the U.S.-based grassroots network organization the Free Burma Coalition (FBC), hailed the recent Burma-related developments.

The developments include the Thai-sponsored 11-nation Burma Forum in Bangkok on December 15 and the recently concluded three-day talks between representatives of the Thai-based largest Burmese ethnic group – the Karen National Union (KNU) – and the Burmese military government (SPDC), also in Bangkok.

Defending his group’s statement early December that it endorses the National Convention to be initiated by the ruling military, Dr. Zarni expounded a political philosophy.

In an interview with VOA Burmese Service, he said that in politics, it is wrong to be dogmatic and blindly cling to the same old strategy and tactics longer than necessary, if an individual or a party wishes to make a difference in keeping with the changing developments.

He cited the strategy of the late General Aung San, father of Burmese democracy movement leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, in his effort to strive for Burma’s independence in the ‘40s.

Dr. Zarni said General Aung San first brought in the Japanese Imperial Army to fight off the British colonial government. Then he turned around to drive out the Japanese fascists with the help of the western allies headed by the British.

General Aung San is widely regarded as the architect of Burma’s independence and the father of Burma’s Armed Forces – Tatmadaw.

Dr. Zarni dismissed the recent statement by the Fort Wayne Road Map for Democracy in Burma Conference Coordinating Committee that his group has been expelled from the affiliation for welcoming the military government’s move for a national convention.

He said the Committee’s action was a farce because, in his words, it is technically not a political grouping and, therefore, has no practical effect whatsoever on the standing of his group – Free Burma Coalition.

Last September, this Committee organized a meeting in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where representatives from various exile Burmese activist groups approved a Fort Wayne Declaration – an alternative political road map for Burma endorsing the leadership of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament and the viability of the 1990 election results.

There are, however, some groups and individuals who do not see eye to eye with Dr. Zarni and the 30-plus top leaders of the Free Burma Coalition, even within his group, in connection with their stand on the forthcoming National Convention in Rangoon. The FBC leader said this difference of opinion is nothing extraordinary in a democratic environment.

He further reiterated that the FBC’s endorsement of the National Convention is just that and does not at all mean a blanket endorsement of the entire seven-point political road map of Burmese prime minister General Khin Nyunt.

Besides, he said, FBC will end its endorsement if Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy are not allowed to participate freely in the National Convention.

Dr. Zarni called on the political groups inside and outside of Burma to work steadfastly to bring about a national dialogue in the military-proposed National Convention by embracing understanding and acceptance in a democratic discourse as a way of life.

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