Recent blatant and outrageous killings of Kachin people in Kachin and Shan states aggravated the Kachins, as well as other ethnic and Burmese civilians, deepening their prolong distrust of the Burmese government dominated by military generals. These killings were instantaneously followed and shared through social media reaching out many parts of the world almost as events transpired. The attack on the Kachin Independence Army’s military training school that killed 19 cadets from different ethnic groups during mutually agree-upon truce on the November 19th of 2014 has intensified arm clashes between the Burmese military and Kachin Independence Army.
The gruesome rape and murder of the two Kachin volunteer teachers on the 19th of January 2015 inflicted pain and anger of the Kachin people. Consequently, the arrest and killing of four Kachin villagers on January 25th incited the people with profound sadness and deepen outrage against the Burmese military. Such atrocities were carried out blatantly in the midst of ongoing peace talk and media scrutiny on the Kachin affairs. Thus, anyone with a sensible mind can see that these outrageous brutalities were systematically executed and politically motivated in order to instigate the Kachin’s irrational and immoral reactions.
The Kachins, and other ethnic minorities in Burma, gravely suffer from what is called a betrayal trauma particularly in a form of “institutional betrayal trauma” (Freyd, 2008). Institutional betrayal occurs when an institution causes harm to an individual who trusts or depends upon that institution. Betrayal trauma is a response to extreme anger caused by discrimination, bullying or other serious mistreatment by a state institution or powerful figure within the state.
Freyd argues that Betrayal trauma occurs when the people or institutions on which a person depends for survival significantly violate that person’s trust or well-being. Thus, in a larger context of our society, “Institutional Betrayal” refers to wrongdoings perpetrated by an institution upon individuals dependent on that institution, including failure to prevent or respond supportively to wrongdoings by individuals committed within the context of the institution. When we look at the recent postcolonial history of Burma, since the onset of the founding of the Union (pyi-htaung-tsu) to present day, the trust that ethnic minorities placed on the ethnic Bama’s dominated Burmese government has been repeatedly violated, and their well-being as been continually destroyed by the Burmese military.
Recent rape, murder and burning of the innocent Kachin civilian aggravated the Kachin betrayal trauma to the edge of madness. While the Kachin and people around the world hope and demand for justice on behalf the two raped and murdered school teachers, the military-run Myawaddy newspaper published a Defense Ministry statement on January 28 indicating that anyone could face legal action for alleging that soldiers were involved in the rape and murder.
The official probing of brutal killings of two schools teachers at their own home, and four villagers on their way to workplace shows that the Kachin civilians find danger in a place where one instead expected to find safety. It shows insufficient and/or lacking official responses to the traumas related to rape and murder. It highlights systemic difficulties placed in process reporting crime against military. And it underscores insufficient legal protection and services to respond such mindless violence. These outright cover-ups, lies, and intimidations intensified underlining distrust, and thus, thus public outrage against the military government.
Scholars and practitioners have pointed out that betrayal trauma, in addition to its association with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), dissociation, anxiety, and depression, “overwhelms coping capacities and define the relationship as a source of danger.” (Freyd & Birrell, 2013) Recent successive planned assault on the Kachin civilians not only exacerbated ongoing betrayal trauma of the Kachin people, but also substantially undid of progress and reform in Burma politics witnessed by the entire world. The situation puts the Kachin leadership in impossible position to further peace process in light of such public outrage, and the Kachin public in irreconcilable stage of mind to trust the military government. Such mindless acts are grave setbacks to build trust and forge peace in Burma.
There are two barriers that prevent us from the recovery of Betrayal trauma. First, it is a lack of language around the issues that continually arise in the process toward building a better future in Burma. The crime committed by the military often bears no name and appears as if it transpires for the first time. Thus, crimes against ethnic minorities such as rape, murder, ethnic cleansing, and forced labor must be defined and treated as the institutional bullying and mistreatment. Second, it is ignorance, intentionally and unintentionally, maintains unawareness of injustices around, creating a barrier to recognition of institutional and systematic factors. People often foster a barrier of ignorance especially if this knowledge would be threatening to our well-being. Until and unless people of Burma woke up and stood up against the systematic betrayal of Burmese military government that promotes division, instigates rebellion, incentizes riches and privileges for some, and imposes compliance to many, a positive progress from such chronic betrayal trauma is unattainable remedy.
Salman Rushdie once lamented over the history of India. He said that “there are two things in Indian history – one is the incredible optimism and potential of the place, and the other is the betrayal of that potential. “ In Burma, the betrayal of peaceful and hopeful future is none other than the Burmese military, particularly its corrupted and perverted military culture. How can we have lasting peace if those who are responsible to forge it blatantly sabotage possibility of trust and justice, the most essential components of peace?