‘It takes two hands to clap’ | ANC leader discusses what’s needed to unite Arakanese armed groups

‘It takes two hands to clap’ | ANC leader discusses what’s needed to unite Arakanese armed groups

By DMG 16 Aug 2022

DMG Newsroom
16 August 2022, Sittwe 

There are three revolutionary armed organisations in Arakan State — the United League of Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA), the Arakan Liberation Party/Arakan Liberation Army (ALP/ALA), and the Arakan National Council/Arakan Army (ANC/AA). At a press conference on August 11, ULA/AA spokesman Khaing Thukha caused controversy when he said Arakan State needs no other armed group than the ULA/AA. 

The remarks came as tensions have been running high between the ALP/ALA and the ULA/AA, with the two sides abducting each other’s personnel, and exchanging public criticisms and increasingly heated rhetoric. 

Colonel Min Tun, commander-in-chief of the ANC/AA, recently spoke to DMG about the AA spokesman’s statement and tensions between the ULA/AA and ALP/ALA. 

DMG: What is your view on the AA spokesman’s assertion that Arakan State does not need any armed groups other than the AA, which he said is supported by the entire Arakanese people? 

Colonel Min Tun: They spoke that from their heart. It is the principle of all the Arakanese revolutionary organisations that there should be only one national party and only one national army in Arakan State and in the Arakan revolution. However, the mentality that ‘Only my party or organisation should exist and other parties and organisations must not exist’ is not acceptable. 

DMG: The AA said it had made fruitless efforts until December 31, 2015, to unify the revolutionary forces in Arakan State. What is your opinion of that? 

MT: The ULA/AA said it tried to engage in dialogue through 2015, but it failed. I don’t know how it negotiated with the ALP. But as far as I know, they didn’t hold extensive discussions with the ALP; they didn’t form working groups to adopt principles and policies for the merger. I heard the two sides expressed their wishes to merge [but there were no substantive talks on the matter]. 

The ULA/AA did not hold talks with us for a merger either. As far as we know, when ethnic leaders of the United Nationalities Federal Council urged the two groups to merge, the ANC proposed three steps — negotiating policies, then merging politically before merging militarily.  But the stance of the ULA/AA does not support a merger. Their stance is that one group must be dissolved if there is to be only a single entity in Arakan State. They did not officially tell us their stance. We heard it from their allies. 

That stance is not correct in politics and revolution. Revolution is basically about changing mindsets and ideologies, with the ultimate aim of changing the system. A merger between parties is not like a small company being incorporated into a bigger one; not like a small gang being swallowed up by a bigger one. It is concerned with the entire Arakanese people.  

It is not only the history of the ULA/AA but also the history of the ANC/AA. It is also the history of the entire Arakanese people. So, we want all stakeholders to work with a high standard of political maturity and broad vision. We had expected an ideological merger for the dignity of both sides and the entire Arakanese people. But today, what the AA said has further revealed their stance. I am saddened by it. 

DMG: What is your view on tensions between the ULA/AA and the ALP/ALA as the two sides have been seizing each other’s personnel lately? 

MT: We are also sad about what is happening between the ALP and the ULA. No matter which side fails or suffers, it is the Arakanese people’s loss, and will make the enemy happy. I wish they could exercise restraint with rationality, and refrain from escalating any further. 

DMG: What is the stance of the ANC/AA on the merger of Arakanese revolutionary groups? 

MT: We have tried, and we are still trying. It takes two hands to clap. So, if one side is not willing, a merger is not possible. Our line of thinking is that we must have ideological uniformity for us to work in unison. So, we have to negotiate to achieve ideological consensus between us. This is our stance. All of us want unification, but it is important that the approach is correct; [the attitude that] ‘There must be only us and not others’ is not a constructive approach. 

DMG: What makes it difficult for Arakanese revolutionary groups to merge? 

MT: The ULA talks about confederation. The ALP has said independence is the only answer. And our demand is national equality and self-determination. Despite different terminologies, our positions are fundamentally the same. And I also believe our goals are more or less the same. While we share common ground, there are some differences between us. So, our thinking is we will work separately for things where we have different views, and work together in areas of common interest. If we want to have unity, we must talk about unity and do the things that contribute to unity. 

DMG: What should be done to foster unity and unification among all the Arakanese revolutionary groups? 

MT: We have tried a lot to communicate with each other. We tried to hold a national-level dialogue in which every stakeholder could participate. The ULA/AA has barely participated, and the ALP has only partially participated. So, we wonder why they didn’t join it. If the ULA/AA or ALP/ALA create such a platform, we are ready to join it. We have directly urged them to create such a platform. 

Our organisations apparently lack self-confidence in fostering unity. It is not the approach that we should take in fostering unity. There must be constructive and friendly discussions between us. There must be constructive and objective criticisms, and we must be able to accept such criticisms. Only then will we be able to walk the path toward unity.