Ethnics face a broad range of inequities that together put them at a massive overall disadvantage with Burman elites in power. This requires corrective over-compensation, otherwise ethnics will remain at an unfair and underserved disadvantage in comparison to the Burman majority. This can promote future instability and conflict.
- Main stream media generally characterizes ethnics as “rebels”, “insurgents”, “minorities”, “human rights poster children”, “refugees” and other terms that mentally relegate ethnics to a position of perceived inferiority or lesser significance. Ethnics, because of decades of brutal oppression and impoverishment have limited capacity to correct a broad range of misperceptions that come from a combination international ignorance and Burmese malice. This makes it almost impossible to overcome the Information Power advantage of Burmans in power, who have billions of dollars, modern resources and advanced capacities to shape international perceptions that work to ethnics disadvantage.
- The Burmese has used the appearance of “peace negotiations” and “cease fires” to portray themselves as the inventors or initiators of good will to curry favor with the international community. Their billions of dollars and sophisticated information systems allow them to sustain this appearance regardless of the facts. In truth, the Burmans in power have used these two terms and their newfound status of being favorably engaged by the international community, to coerce ethnics in the shadows to submit to their will. Ethnics are made to feel that they dare not appear recalcitrant in the eyes of the international community in terms of preventing reform. One of the realities of ceasefires is that the Burmese Army takes advantage of these to reinforce and strengthen its sometimes beleaguered outposts and bases on ethnic lands. It also uses these periods for aggressive low-level intelligence operations to pinpoint ethnic leaders, bases and logistics channels.
- Ethnic capacities are diminished after over six decades of oppression by which Burman elites in power, who have both directly and indirectly profited “on the backs” of ethnics. The systematic impoverishment of ethnics by Burmans in power past and present now constitutes a deep chasm of inequality. This is a kind of Double Jeopardy; Ethnics have been brutalized, oppressed and diminished, because their lands are rich in natural resources, while Burmans have used profits from these stolen lands to empower themselves with money, resources and capacities that ethnics cannot begin to approximate. International investors unfortunately have flocked to Rangoon and May Pyi Taw dealing heavily with already powerful Burmans. Burmans enjoy the advantage in banking institutions essential to economic development, while ethnics, who have been fighting for survival for six decades, have no such capacity. This puts them in a potentially enduring “Have Not” position.
- Foreign Business Development and International Aid and Development now constitute a potentially dangerous threat to ethnics. Given that much of the negotiations to date have been with Burmans in Burman-run forums, and given certain inabilities that ethnics have in being able to participate in all such forums, there is ample room here for ethnics to become institutionally and systemically marginalized. On top of this, given the extraordinary disadvantages that ethnics must overcome after being systematically targeted for over six decades by totalitarian oppression, there is risk that international developers will treat ethnics without compensating for this massive disadvantage that may not be equal with the disadvantage of other unfortunate Burmans. Disadvantage is not equal for all population groups.
- Impoverished ethnics are at an enormous disadvantage in countering propaganda, misinformation and disinformation that appears in open media, while wealthy Burmans in power enjoy decisive advantage in shaping international, regional and local perceptions. This means that it will take an extraordinary measure of international support to help ethnics overcome this disadvantage that can disrupt the delicate balance of power that must be attained and sustained for enduring stability and peace in Burma.
- Professionalization of Armed Forces in Burma is a complex topic to be addressed within the larger imperative for “Security Sector Reform”. This reform goes hand-in-hand with Land Reform, because armed forces on all sides has been primarily focused on securing terrain that has economic, as well as its security value. This points to the need for Economic Reform to also be a part of both Security Sector and Land reform. Simplistic notions of “Defense Reform” by foreign governments can be dangerous for ethnics unless there is full understanding of this three-way linkage. There is also a very real danger in the unbalanced Western-backed professionalization and empowerment of Burman forces over ethnic forces, because Burman generals may well intend to use this to eventually defeat ethnics in detail.