Rethinking the Burmese military government’s self-proclaimed role as a “father”

In recent “peace talk” between KIA and Burmese Military Government (BMG) that took place on the 30th of July, 2011, the BMG’s representative Col. Than Aung repeatedly used the image of a father and his children to explain the relationship between the BMG and KIA. Of course, the image of a father represents the BMG and the children as the KIA, or other ethnic minorities. Than Aung implied the Kachins as a runaway and a demanding child in his statements.

The people of Burma are well familiar with such image that the BMG has promoted for over two decades. In early 90s, the movie, the father and sons, was aired regularly on the national television. The star of the movie is Nyo Win who won multiple academy awards. A famous singer Chit Kaung also contributes the catchy theme song of the movie. The movie narrates about the five siblings, orphaned by the unfortunate death of their parents, and their uncle (Nyunt Win) who is the military officer. It is mainly about the return and intervention of the uncle to save the orphans as they are acting badly and are out of control, leading toward a domestic catastrophe. Since then, the movie is frequently used in the BMG’s propaganda to portray its role as the “father” of nation.

The movie exploits the traditional belief and practice of familial hierarchy. Thus, it has been an effective and powerful tool for the BMG. The invention of such grand narrative that invokes the prevailing cultural practices is to naturalize and thus to rationalize the actions of the “father,” the BMG. The purpose of the father and sons is clearly to naturalize and enforce the hierarchical relationship between the BMG and the ethnic minorities. The role of BMG as a “father,” moreover, justifies its coercive and violent actions against the sons (contending ethnic minorities or citizens) as parts of familial obligation.

Such an insincere motive of the BMG was questioned during the “peace talk.” Col. Than Aung insisted that a “father” needs to know what kind of “snack” a child wants. What kind of a father does not know the demand of a child that has been making over 50 years! Basically, it is the same old tactical approach to divert the real need and want of the Kachin people. In return, Maj. Gen. Gun Maw asked what kind of “snack” is available for the KIA. The answer was gibberish. There is no “snack” prepared or available for a child. Now, the “peace talk” is in deadlock again.

The self-proclaimed fatherhood of the BMG must be reexamined if they want any positive outcome. In current scenario, BMG acts more like an unwanted stepfather. Its intention to the ethnic minorities is unclear, full of cover-ups and concealed agendas. They are acting like an illegitimate father who has no willingness, concern, or gut to take brave actions. After all, being a father requires an audacity to make difficult decisions for the well being of the family. Sometimes, it is a part of fatherly duty to compromise or even to let a child go. Would a good father give a snake to a child who wants a snack? At least, or for once, BMG must try to act like a real father with whom they wish to identify themselves.


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect kachinlandnews’s policy.


Jakes, it is well said. Col. Than Aung promoted themselves as father figure when they can’t even pretend or act like a gather. If so, what kind of father could not figure out what his children’s been asking for the last 50 years. It is purely just to down-grade all the ethnic people. Just look at what he called Major General Gun Maw “Ko Gun Maw”! He did not use Gun Maw’s rank; which he does not recognize his rank. I suggest Dukaba Gun Naw, next time you see Colonel Than Aung, call him “Nyi-lay Than Aung”. So that he would how to respect.

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