Montenegro's Secession through Burma's Ethnic looking glass
It seems the containment is not working and ethnic upsurge is on the rise again that Montenegro, which means Black Mountain, is the smallest of Yugoslavia's republics with 650,000 people, decided to secede from the so-called Rest Yugoslavia...
No.17 - 05/2006
23 May 2006
Montenegro's Secession through Burma's Ethnic looking glass
Veteran Shan activist says Sunday's referendum results in former Yugoslavia's Montenegro carry a sobering thinking cap for Shans - Editor
It seems the containment is not working and ethnic upsurge is on the rise again that Montenegro, which means Black Mountain, is the smallest of Yugoslavia's republics with 650,000 people, decided to secede from the so-called Rest Yugoslavia officially made up of Montenegro and Serbia. Meanwhile, Kosovo, which is supposed to be part of the Rest Yugoslavia is administered by UN, pending official status is pondering on whether it suppose to be an independent country according to the majority Kosovo Albanian's aspiration or still be part of the Rest Yugoslavia.
Map courtesy: ndi.org
Official, as of 22 May 2006, more than 55 percent of Montenegrins voted for independence on Sunday, achieving the majority set by the European Union for recognition of their referendum result, an official preliminary count showed. The referendum commission president, Frantisek Lipka, told a news conference on Monday that 55.4 percent of votes cast were in favour of ending the union with Serbia. Turnout was 86.3 percent, he said. ( Reuters - Mon May 22, 2006)
EU has been posturing to favour the maintenance of Rest Yugoslavia all along and thus is quite ironic, in a sense, that this civilized separation or better, secession to form a new state is actually made possible by the treaty endorsed by the EU andsigned by Montenegrins and the Serbs.
On March 14, 2002, the leaders of Montenegro, Serbia and Yugoslavia sat down with the European legate Javier Solana and created a union of "Serbia and Montenegro".
Accordingly, both Serbia and Montenegro will have their own Presidents, their own currencies, customs and financial systems. Theoretically, the defence and foreign affairs should be under joint jurisdiction. But military service would be served only in the conscripts' home states, effectively creating separate Serbian and Montenegrin armed forces. Ambassadors to, say, the UN would rotate between Serbia and Montenegro, creating de facto separate foreign policies. So the joint legislature and the joint President it chooses would have nothing to do. Finally, the agreement is only valid for three years, whereupon any member of the "union" that secedes is guaranteed recognition by the EU. The way it was framed, secession is pretty much automatic unless both partners decide otherwise. (Pravda - Once Upon A Country Yugoslavia, RIP - 2002-03-21)
Whatever the case, this civil and humane secession of Montenegro from Rest Yugoslavia would undoubtedly encourage the discussionsof the status of Kosovo with intensity, a senior member of the lower chamber of Russia's parliament said Monday.
But the people of Kosovo's enthusiastic push for greater self-determination or independence call would spread out far and wide, especially for hundreds of non-state nations, which are oppressed or left out of political process until now.
Parallel to this, Burma is also a forced-union like former Yugoslavia. In normal circumstances, itmight seem thatthe domino effect could be in the making. But the political reality on the ground, with big countries like China and India, including the ASEAN bloc, adhering to the status quo or regional stability, the non-Burman ethnic nationality groups would still have to wait for a legal bargaining status like the Montenegrins.
So what are the options forthe non-Burmans ethnic nationalities or what lesson could we learn from this episode?
Firstly, agreeing to the formation of Montenegro and Serbia in 2003, a loose union that replaced rump Yugoslavia, but either side was allowed to get out of it after a three-year period, is a brilliant move, which spare the Montenegrins the human sufferings and blood shed, which Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia had to endure.
Secondly, the Montenegrins were able to pull it through with the help of the minorities within their country. The 55 percent ceiling, set by the EU, is quite high, given Montenegrins’ population is just 267,669 (43.16%), and it was only possible to achieve this with the help of minorities like Bosniaks: 48,184 (7.77%), Albanians: 31,163 (5.03%), Muslims: 24,625 (3.97%), Croats: 6,811 (1.1%), Romas and Egyptians: 2,826 (0.46%). The Serbs population in Montenegro is 198,414 (31.99%). (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Finally, Serbia’s failure to hand over fugitive former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic to the UN war crimes tribunal by April 30, 2006led to Brussels suspending EU membership talks, is used as a campaign strategy to secede. The pro-independence premier of Montenegro argues the republic would be able to speed up its European Union entry bid without Serbia.
For the Shans of Burma, who are frustrated with the Burmese military oppression and gross human rights violations, it would be natural to opt for total independence to get rid of the aggressors, once and for all. But the regional and international configuration cautioned us to be more sophisticated and heed the example of the Montenegrins. Furthermore, achievable and pragmatic steps need to be implemented and most importantly, all-inclusiveness in political participation should be the cornerstonefor all resistance groups.
We should bear in mindthat the British 1931 census stated 47% of the population of Shan State are Shans. However, the Shan State Government (1948-1962) maintained there were 68% Shans. Burma's current rulers meanwhile have a different figure. State-run Working Peoples Daily, the predecessor to today's New Light of Myanmar, placed the population of Shans at a mere 38.6%. In the face of these conflicting statements, most dispassionate Burma watchers have recourse to the 1931 figures. ( SHAN - 2005-06-16 )