Written By Zaw Htun (Mrauk-U) 

The Mughal emperors thought they were the largest empire ever built, and the British even described their territory as an empire upon which the sun never set. But empires come and go. On the world map, the borders of countries change one by one, and the flags sometimes change from one colour to another. We can easily say that in the 21st century, new flags and new maps have and will appear. There are people who have established new nations and there are still many who are trying to establish nations. 

I would like to compare some of the countries that have succeeded and also look at how they have failed, and why they remain relevant in the 21st century. 

Czech Republic 

The Czech Republic was formed in 1993. On January 1 of that year, it raised its own flag on the world map, as an independent nation. It was located in what was known as Czechoslovakia before the Czech Republic was established. When I look at the main reasons for the breakup of Czechoslovakia and the emergence of a new Czech Republic, I notice four main features that distinguish the dissolution/independence processes as being both successful and bloodless: 

(1)    A nationalist spirit of wanting to establish one’s own nation;
(2)    Populations and boundaries that can build a nation;
(3)   Having the infrastructure and human resources to run a country;
(4)   Slovakia could not be ignored; with no bloodshed, a split vote was held in the Federal Parliament, with former Czechoslovakia emerging as the new Czech Republic and Slovakia as separate nations.
 

Another point is that their people are on average well educated and have a generally peaceful outlook, allowing for the civil consideration of differences as a means of settling disputes. 

East Timor 

East Timor (aka Timor-Leste) is a small island nation in Southeast Asia that became independent on May 20, 2002. East Timor was not only colonised by the Portuguese for many years, but also was subsequently colonised by Indonesia. It’s very interesting to see how East Timor, with just over a million people, defeated Indonesia, many times more powerful, and how it was able to establish itself as an independent nation. Here, too, I will present my point of view in a very simple way. I am aware of the three main points that Timor-Leste’s desire for liberation from slavery was furthered among the international community and at the United Nations by the ability to form an alliance with someone stronger than the enemy, in order to confront the local superpower. 

With an ally like Australia, which has a wide range of political, economic and social interests, not just territorial waters, East Timor has been aided greatly. At the height of the rivalry between communism and democracy, access to the help of the more powerful pro-democracy Australia made it easier and faster to obtain assistance from Western Europe as well as the United Nations. That is why, despite Timor-Leste’s many sacrifices, it eventually won a peaceful referendum, and gained a lot of UN assistance in rebuilding the country after independence. 

South Sudan 

If you look at South Sudan, it is a small, landlocked country in Africa. It seceded from Sudan on July 9, 2011. An analysis of the reasons for gaining independence reveals that the South Sudanese people have been able to identify with the world the distinctive characteristics of segregation, sectarianism, sectarian strife, and ethnic conflict in almost half of Sudan’s borders. 

The world came to realise that these nations would not be at peace without independence after the end of fierce conflict. That is why South Sudan succeeded in becoming an independent nation.  

Somaliland 

Somaliland declared independence from Somalia on May 18, 1991. However, it has not yet become an official country on the world map, as it is not recognised by the African Union, which is made up of countries in Africa including Somalia. Somaliland has its own army, its own police, its own laws, its own courts, its own government, but it is not yet a legal nation.  

The lesson is that the two main components of independence for Somaliland are the lack of consensus of the mainland and the lack of recognition by regional countries, no matter how strong the military struggle for independence as a nation may be. 

Where Is Arakan’s Revolution Moving Toward? 

When I’ve been asked if Arakan State could become a country, I’ll reply: “It will be difficult. But it is possible.”  

Arakan State has a long history of being a de facto nation and has a strong geographical location. It also has a strong literary and artistic heritage, as well as a wealth of resources and infrastructure to provide good food and services to its people. There are people in Arakan State who will be satisfied under an Arakan government and administration that can lead the people to security and development.  

But for Arakan State, the question of how to achieve independence has become a difficult one. Fighting and territorial integrity have been achieved, and the administrative and judicial machinery is functioning well and the Arakan Army/United League of Arakan (AA/ULA) is a de facto government. This revolutionary de facto government has able to balance the Muslim crisis, which no successive de jure government has been able to deal with. If the Arakan Army occupies Arakan State and declares independence, it will have to work hard to get more votes in the UN General Assembly if the five members of the UN Security Council and the 15 permanent members of the Security Council do not object. But the process is not as easy as it sounds. 

  • If intense battles, such as those in Syria, were fought on the pathway to independence, would an alliance like that between East Timor and Australia be sought, and relied upon if secured, with a world/regional power? 
  • We must try to persuade the United Nations to differentiate between two literary cultures and two religions that have almost identical religious backgrounds.
  • If the two territories, which are closely intertwined in economics, education, religion and culture, are suddenly separated by hostility, we must do our best not to be left in the same predicament as South Sudan. 

It is possible that the chief of the Arakan Army said that the first step was to rule Arakan State with a confederate state no less than the “Wa” Self-Administered Division. That is why I have to consider the independence of Arakan State as a difficult but possible proposition. 

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