National Unity

   Although Aung San recognized ethnic minority aspirations for administrative and cultural autonomy at the Panglong Conference of February 1947, in principle promoting "unity through diversity" and limited federalism, the government of General Ne Win (1962-1988), dominated by ethnic majority Burmans, imposed a concept of national unity based on linguistic and cultural "Burmanization," top-down Tatmadaw control of politics and the economy, and a worldview that stressed that differences between the various ethnic groups are trivial and were used as a "divide and rule" tactic by the British during the colonial period. Thus, successive military regimes have asserted the essential homogeneity of the Burmese people, an idea that can be traced back at least to the wartime "totalitarian" government of Dr. Ba Maw.
   Both during the Revolutionary Council period (1962-1973) and after the Constitution of 1974 was implemented, the ethnic minority states lost their special status, as defined in the Constitution of 1947. Legal expressions of ethnic minority identity were largely confined to national costumes and dance and the rituals of Union Day, February 12, which celebrates the Panglong accord. The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has committed itself to upholding the Tatmadaw's historical role of safeguarding national unity, which constitutes its principal claim to legitimacy. It sees foreign countries, especially in the West, as determined to reimpose colonial subjugation by dividing the peoples of Burma, and has attacked Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as an accomplice in this scheme because of her marriage to a British academic and the moral support she has received from Europe and North America. SPDC officials and their foreign supporters claim that if controls on the democratic opposition and the minorities are loosened, the country will "break apart," like Yugoslavia. However, cease-fires with certain minority armed groups have given some of them de facto autonomy.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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