On February 12, 1947, before Burma won its independence, General Aung San of Burma  made an agreement with the Kachin, Chin, and Shan minorities that promised them a plebiscite to determine if they wanted to remain part of Burma, as well as a promise of greater local autonomy for other minorities in general (including the Karen, who also demanded the right of secession, but were never given it, a major cause of their epic rebellion against Burma starting in 1949 and still ongoing ).
Now, from the biography  of Aung San written by his daughter, we learn that Aung San was committed to Burmese nationalism for his entire life. He was, however, a pragmatist, and he was aware that no lasting or secure Burmese state could endure without the support of its minority peoples. Unfortunately, the Panglong Agreement, made 65 years ago today, has never been put into force, and a list of military leaders has acted as if the demand of minorities for justice and local autonomy is a new thing. On the contrary, it was the foundation of the widespread agreement for Burmese independence throughout Burma’s regions .
For more than sixty years Burma has been a basketcase of a nation. It has been ruled since 1962 by a succession of corrupt and dictatorial military leaders, its current government is heavily slanted and rigged to have a military supramajority (and a permanent presence of military figures within Congress to show who is really in charge), and ethnic states are ruled harshly from the center with basically no social services and no freedom for the people within it, for the benefit of the corrupt military elite. There has been lip service given to reform, but the substantial meat on the bones of providing greater freedom and autonomy for minorities, the sine qua non of a peaceful Burma, has not been done, and there is little appearance that it is going to be done by the current government.
The reason why the Burma’s military has sought to oppress and micromanage its minority populations for the last fifty years, at least, is because they are weak and insecure, and feel that if they allowed the minority peoples freedom that they would not want anything to do with the Burmese and the valuable resources of that land would completely be lost to Burma. Because of their fear of losing control, they oppress and provoke rebellion, whereas a gentle and lighter hand, once there was trust established on both sides, would lead to a better result, as the minority peoples would be better served in a free and virtuous Burma than they would as tiny landlocked states isolated. But they are better tiny and isolated than they are oppressed by Burma. The real problem is therefore Burma’s–does Burma value progress and wealth and happiness the most or do they value control? So far the answer seems clear, the Burmese government only cares about control, and has neither its own long-term interests nor any interests of its people in mind.
There can be no trust in Burma between its restive minorities and its oppressive central government until Burma shows good faith and makes good on the terms of the Panglong Agreement not only for the Kachin, Chin, and Shan peoples, but also for the Wa, Karen, Mon, Naga, and other minorities. Burma may lose a little in the short term, as the minority peoples are not likely to view any sort of union with Burma in a positive fashion thanks to years of abuse and tyranny. That said, if Burma can start showing a consistent and gentle and mild approach, without a coup or without renewed offenses, they will be able to win back at least some sort of genuine federation with local self-governance with its people where Burma and the local people could all benefit. But with Burma’s leadership entrenched for so many decades in lose-lose thinking, win-win thinking and the change it requires seems like too big a step.
Let the example of Burma serve as a cautionary tale for others. Where there is a focus on control and oppression and where there is no thought for the well-being or interests of others, there can be no genuine peace unless the oppressors of the earth are slain in righteous judgment or until they cease their oppression and surrender. Where there is no justice there can also be no fellow feeling between oppressors and oppressed, nor any ability for people to genuinely cooperate for mutual benefit. Then again, the Burmese military seems to have no conception of mutual benefit, and so it is unaware of how much it is the loser for its own consistent acts of betrayal in the search of power and control based out of fears and insecurity.