The definition of “politics” in dictionaries lacks one more description. That description fits both ancient and modern times. It applies in both the East and the West. And it is blind to creed and color. It is the art of assassination.

From American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and former US President John F Kennedy in the 1960s to former premier Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan last December, assassination fits squarely into that definition of politics.
Burmese politics is no exception. Its latest victim is Mahn Sha, a Karen rebel leader.
On Valentine’s Day, two cold-blooded gunmen walked into Mahn Sha’s house in Mae Sot, near Thailand’s border with Burma, and shot him in the heart after greeting him in Karen. “Ha ler gay (good evening),” they said. Then they drove away.
Mahn Sha’s organization condemned its splinter groups, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army and the Karen National Liberation Army Peace Council, which are now allied with the military government, for the killing.
Mahn Sha was general secretary of the Karen National Union (KNU), one of the longest surviving rebel groups in Southeast Asia, struggling for autonomy since 1949.
He was respected among opposition groups as one of Burma’s most broad-minded and committed ethnic leaders. But rival groups saw him as a hardliner for his unwavering refusal to compromise with the military regime, which has never given autonomy to ethnic minorities.  
His assassination was based on political motives. Once again, Burma has lost a leader of vision. 
Like Mahn Sha, dozens of other Burmese leaders in the country’s modern history have met their end at the hands of assassins.

The most historically significant assassination happened at 10:37 a.m. On July 19, 1947, just six months before Burma regained its independence from Britain.
National hero Aung San, the father of detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and eight colleagues were assassinated by U Saw, a rival right-wing politician, and his followers. U Saw was Aung San’s main rival for the premiership of independent Burma. Many observers believed that some British army officers supplied at least some weapons to U Saw. 
It was a great loss and the whole country was plunged into grief. July 19 has become known as Martyr’s Day. In fact, it was a bad omen for the country’s future. From then on, assassinations have become a familiar feature of Burmese political life: Politicians on the left kill those on the right, who in turn kill their left-wing opponents; the government kills rebels, and rebels kill people in government; Karen fighters kill each other over ceasefire agreements; members of one ethnic group kill members of another; rivals kill rivals. 
Another assassinated Karen leader was Saw Ba U Gyi, father of the Karen resistance movement, who was killed in 1950 by Burmese government troops in an ambush in a town close to the Thai-Burmese border. Ba U Gyi was a minister of revenue in 1937, when the country was still under British rule. Karens said that the authorities never allowed the body of Ba U Gyi to be buried because the government was afraid that his tomb might become a political focal point for ethnic separatists. The body was reportedly thrown into the sea. How can the Karen people ever forgive the assassination of their revolutionary father?

A prominent communist leader, Thakin Than Tun, brother-in-law of Aung San, was killed by a government agent in 1950 in the Pegu Yoma range, where the Communist Party of Burma was based. He was also involved in the independence struggle.   
Sometimes the politics of assassination follows logic: friends of enemies may be regarded as enemies, just as an enemy’s enemy can be counted as a friend. But sometimes assassination makes no sense at all.

Let Ya (known as Bo Let Ya), was a leftist-turned-rightist who was killed by the anti-communist Karen National Union, near the Thai-Burmese border in 1978. Reports said Let Ya was killed when he was asked to surrender to KNU.
Brig-Gen L-Kun Hpang, an ethnic Kachin who served as commander of the northern command under late dictator Ne Win, was killed by fellow Kachin in 1985. He was seen as a “traitor” by the Kachin Independence Organization, an armed rebel group which signed a ceasefire agreement with the current junta in the 1990s.
Three Kachin who were prominent leaders in the Kachin resistance were also killed.   Pungshwi Zau Seng and brothers Zau Seng and Zau Tu were assassinated together in 1975, as a result of a power struggle with fellow members of the Kachin Independence Organization. The assassin was later killed by other leaders of the organization. 
After Ne Win staged a coup in 1962, there were more such assassinations.