Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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Burmese – Yon kyi hmu te hsauk chin

May 25th, 2011 · No Comments · Burmese, Confidence

Yon kyi hmu te hsauk chīn

Relates to confidence-building

A security strategy, confidence building is used to describe efforts to build consensus between the SPDC, the NLD, and armed ethnic groups (See peace group). However, the rhetoric of confidence building is often misleading.  Although mistrust is clearly a factor complicating the resolution of Burma’s political problems, the military government appears to evince little interest in engaging in substantive political discussions. From the perspective of the opposition, the government often appears to act deviously, cloaking its true intentions in the rhetoric of yon kyi hmu while working steadfastly to consolidate its monopoly on power.  One observer noted, “How can trust be built when you have criminals on one side and would be prosecutors on the other; it could only be ‘plea-bargaining’.”

Yon kyi hmu te hsauk chīn can be translated as ‘confidence building’ or ‘trust building’.  Yon kyi hmu, is variously translated as trust or confidence (see the entry for trust).  The noun suffix te hsauk chīn means ‘building, construction, or existence’.

Negotiations between the Burmese government and the opposition party the National League for Democracy (NLD) are often described as confidence building.[1] In both contexts, the military government presents trust, confidence, and faith as a prerequisite to substantive political dialogue, which it asserts will follow only after a constitution has been drafted, elections held, and a legal government elected.   This attitude can be summarized as, ‘Trust us now and we will vindicate that trust later’.

In 1996, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi stated that confidence building was an important first step in helping ‘two sides [to] start having confidence in the other’s goodwill’.[2] Although yon kyi hmu te hsauk chīn is variously translated as ‘confidence building’ and ‘trust building’ she differentiated between the two noting that the former was a temporary process, while confidence building was ‘a never-ending process’.[3]

A series of secret meetings between the SPDC and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from 2000 to 2002 have also been characterized as confidence-building meetings.   Upon her release, Aung San Suu Kyi spoke critically of this confidence-building which she claimed was lacking in substantive dialogue.  She noted if confidence building takes too long:

it becomes counterproductive. It means that there is no confidence … at one stage … you have to show by more action, or by different action, that you have moved on to a more significant phase, and this significant phase should mean serious political dialogue. We have not yet started that.[4]

On 30 May 2003, Aung San Suu Kyi and her entourage were attacked at Depayin while she was touring Burma.  Dissidents charged that the attack was a government orchestrated assassination attempt.[5] The military subsequently re-detained Aung San Suu Kyi claiming that she had been placed under ‘protective custody’.  NLD members throughout the country were arrested.[6]

A subsequent editorial in the New Light of Myanmar published under the pen name Myo Tha Sit (literally, ‘pure breed child’), subsequently began

At first, I didn’t fully understand the meaning of the words ‘confidence building’ and ‘political dialogue’ when they were popular in Myanmar a few years ago.  ‘What is their concept?’ and ‘What do they mean?’, and ‘Why such terms are used?’ I didn’t know by then.

The article continues,

It was not important for the government whether the meeting was a confidence building or a political dialogue.  What was important for the government was to finally reach a complete stage of a political system based on love and unity in a family spirit that was higher than the task of building confidence.  Which concept would build confidence?  Who was sincere?”[7]

Can a dialogue be held easily between one side, which always keeps in the fore the national strength, and the other side, which always sticks to the results of the 1990 election are most important? …

Can a dialogue be made possible without the NLD’s efforts to first and foremost have trust in and accept the endeavors of the government that emerged after 1988, and to do away with deep-rooted accusations and propaganda by connecting with the present government with the old system?  The matter can be understood through clear thought … The issue of ‘confidence building’ unnecessarily included in the matter is the answer to the question …

The real requirement is to strengthen the negotiations and ensure success through the negotiation process is trust and understanding; from there come the love and friendship …

What comes after the brawl at Dabayin [Depayin]? The answer is quite clear: the NLD has got something to say – To lay all the blame on the government.  As they had plotted in advance, Daw Suu Kyi and her group got what they wanted; and that is to create more sanctions on Myanmar.  Obviously, it is her original plan …

Daw Suu Kyi and the NLD are trying to push Myanmar towards total destruction.

Despite the attack on NLD members and an intensified campaign of arrests, the UN continues to refer to its efforts to promote dialogue between the SPDC and Aung San Suu Kyi as confidence building.[8] While for its part, the SPDC criticized UN Envoy Ibrahim Gambari for his negative statement to the UN Security Council in November 2007 which it claimed had ‘jeopardized confidence building measures underway in Myanmar and created unnecessary disturbances and disappointing confusions among the ethnic nationalities’.[9]

The SPDC also uses the term confidence building with regard to the armistices it concluded with ethnic insurgencies.  As with the NLD, the SPDC has consistently refused to engage in substantive political dialogue with these groups, asserting that it lacks the authority to do so because it is not a constitutionally elected government.[10]

Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt noted of the governments efforts to achieve ‘unity, reconciliation and reconsolidation’ with ethnic insurgencies

In previous governments, the one stumbling block to discussions was that we always asked the armed groups to give up their arms and surrender. So now in our discussions we told them they didn’t need to surrender yet. Instead the government is trying to establish an understanding, and to win their trust and confidence.[11]

Claiming the success of these interim measures, Prime Minister Soe Win subsequently stated, ‘As a result of the confidence-building (yon kyi hmu te hsauk chīn) measures we adopted, armed groups have now returned to the legal fold (taubadei baung htē, literally, within the law), paving the way for national unity (tāing yīn thā nyī nyut hmu, literally ‘national races unity’) and the transformation of the country into a modern (hki me hpun hpyō byī, literally ‘modern developed’) discipline-flourishing democratic nation’.[12]

At one such ceremony U Kan Na, the commander of the 11 Brigade (11) of the Shan State National Army reportedly stated:

We SSNA members exchanged arms for peace in 1995, but kept on holding arms. We collected taxes and extorted money from the people to earn our living. As it was the confidence-building (yon kyi hmu te hsauk chīn) period we continued to hold arms. As a consequence, however, the local people had to live in fear of our arms. It could not yield any positive results for the region and the people. We decided not to commit similar acts again and in the end, we unconditionally exchanged arms for peace. [Emphasis added.][13]




[1] Anon. “BCUK Interview with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.” United Kingdom: Burma Campaign UK. June 17 2002.

[2] Ivan Suvanjieff. “An Interview with Aung San Suu Kyi” Shambala Sun, January 1996.

[3] Aung Zaw. “Two Interviews with Aung San Suu Kyi.” Irrawaddy. Chiang Mai:April 8, 2004.

[4] Anon. “BCUK Interview with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.” United Kingdom: Burma Campaign UK. June 17 2002.


[6] For an excellent chronology of the SPDC-NLD ‘confidence-building process’ between 2000 and 2003 see Tony Broadmoor, “The Talks: A Two-Year Chronology,”  1 February 2004, available at

[7] The New light of Myanmar Thursday, 7 August, 2003  No way or destination in sight – 7

The National Reconciliation Process in Myanmar, Journal article by Maung Aung Myoe; Contemporary Southeast Asia, Vol. 24, 2002

[8] “Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the spokesperson for the General Assembly President,” at

[9] As quoted in “Gambari back to square one on Myanmar,” Merinews, 10 Mar 2008

[10] This duality is explored in the article “Confidence Building and Total Destruction of NLD,” The failure of the confidence process is made apparent by the author’s statement that “the undesirable fact is that Daw Suu Kyi and the NLD are trying to push Myanmar towards total destruction.”  If We Really Desire Peaceful Transition and National Reconsolidation and other Articles, December 2004, News and Periodical Enterprise, Ministry of Information, Union of Myanmar

[11] Hla Myo New, “The Facts as We See Them,” Leaders Magazine., Volume 21, No.2, available at

[12] “Myanmar places importance in ASEAN and its commitment to moving towards closer cohesion and economic integration.” New Light of Myanmar 24 February 2005, and Myanma Alin 24 February 2

[13] “SSNA abandons destructive acts, armed insurgency,” Tuesday, 26 April 2005, The New light of Myanmar


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