It’s a pity that Obama and his experts did not know what is the crux of the Burmese problem? The Myanmar race which control the imperial Tatmadaw wanted to colonise all the non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities and that is the sole reason of the struggle as every ethnic race in Burma is fighting against the Myanmar dominated central government (note there is no horizontal struggle between the ethnic like in former Yugoslavia). A vertical struggle indicates that all these want some sort of genuine federalism. More than half a century since 1962, the Myanmar military dominated central government refused to grant them and now because of the unsurmountable pressure from China it has no choice but to go along with the Western democratic standards and began to negotiate grudgingly with the ethnic nationalities. The successful “Divide and Rule” policy of the Burmese government was able to coax the Southern Alliance composed of Karen, the Chin, the Mon, the Karenni and the Southern Shan and the All Burma Student Democratic Front to a cease fire after bribing their leaders outright and giving them some autonomy and economic incentives, however, the Northern Alliance composed mainly of Kachin, WA, the Palong (Tang), the Nagas, the Northern Shan and perhaps the Arakanese want genuine federalism and once it is clear that the Myanmar will not grant them may form their North Federal Military Alliance to resist the pressure. What proof is more wanted when the Central Government has waged an all-out war against the Kachin?
Day Four. Wednesday, 20 August 2014.
Unlike most Shans, I’m not a lover of festivities. Some may say that’s because I’m only three-quarter Shan. The remaining one-quarter is Chinese from my father’s side.
However, I had decided to attend the preparatory meeting for the Shan New Year 2109 which falls on 22 November for this year. The reason is simple: this year’s celebrations will be joined by Shans far and near. And since Taunggyi is the capital of Shan State, they will be observed by people from neighboring states and countries as well as tourists visiting there.
Most importantly, how Shans run the show will greatly affect the ongoing peace process, even though it is no more than a cultural event.
The meeting, attended by some 150 participants, is held at the Meeting Hall of the Shan Literary and Culture Society on the Main Road (now renamed Bogyoke Road during my 40 year plus absence) at 09:00.
It is presided over by Sai Tun Mya, 64, one of Burma’s construction tycoons. For three successive years, he has been elected as chairman of the Shan New Year Festival Steering Committee, as he has been able to collect huge financial contributions for the society.
He opens the meeting by declaring the upcoming festival must be an event of substance and that he has invited the Shan Vice-President of U Thein Sein’s union government Sai Mawk Kham to preside over the New Year ceremony.
Sai Kham Nood, joint secretary of the Steering Committee (who happens to be my nephew-in-law), then reads out the 35 planned activities that will be carried out by 35 sub-committees.
They include, among others:
• Information and documentation
• Accommodation for guests coming from afar
• Cultural seminar
• Miss Shan Culture contest
• Cultural Exhibitions
The participants, most of who are from southern Shan State, with only 4 from eastern Shan State, report the preparations that have been undertaken, the problems they are facing and suggestions.
Among them, many useful suggestions come from eastern Shan State, where the 4 participants had been part of the steering committee that had organized the first all Shan State New Year festival two years earlier. They explain the problems that they had beset them, notably in the fields of entertainment, transportation, sanitation and cultural seminar. “(For instance,) the date we had chosen for the seminar,” he says, “was on the last day of the festival. Naturally, there were only few attendees, because most of them were returning home.”
My contribution is little. Quoting Sun Wu’s “Governing a large number as though governing a small number is a matter of division into groups”, I suggest that the 35 sub-committees be regrouped into 5-7 sections to be supervised by vice chairpersons and assistant secretaries. “All of you know the famous Shan saying: If you want chaos, organize a festival. If you want to sleep alone, have a minor wife.” They all laugh but I cannot be sure whether they’ll take my suggestion seriously though I hope so.
We have a pleasant dinner party afterward. I don’t eat after three, but drink a little with them, before taking leave.
About 300 displaced villagers sent a petition letter today to President Thein Sein, calling for the withdrawal of Burma Army troops from their village Wan Pasaung in Ke See township, and demanding compensation for damage to their homes and farms during the past two months.
Since June 2014, about 3,000 Burmese government troops have been deployed to Ke See, Murng Hsu and Tangyan townships, in an offensive to seize territories of the Shan State Army-North/Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP), in violation of an existing ceasefire agreement. On June 26, the Burma Army began occupying and firing shells from the village of Wan Pasaung, causing about 300 people to flee to the nearby village of Wan Warp. Over 500 heavily armed troops remain stationed in Wan Pasaung until today, causing destruction of property and crops.
On August 7, 14 Shan community based organisations sent an open letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry, requesting him to raise concerns about this new offensive in Shan State during his visit to Burma. However, the Burma Army continued their military operations during his visit, clashing with SSPP on August 8 and 9 only four miles south of Wan Pasaung. Most recently, on August 22, Burmese government troops again intruded into SSPP territory, firing mortar shells at SSPP troops about six miles
north of Wan Pasaung.
The IDPs are sheltering in a temple in Wan Warp, relying on donations of food and other supplies. They are being guarded and their movements restricted by Burmese troops. A deaf villager was beaten and kicked when he was unable to hear an order from the troops. In their petition to President Thein Sein, 291 IDPs have requested compensation for damage caused by the occupation of their village, including destruction of 422.5 acres of farmlands, such as rice, peanut and corn fields, and loss of cattle, pigs and chicken, which have been killed and eaten by the Burma Army troops.
Copies of the letter have also been sent to the Burma Army Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, the four Regional Military Commanders in Shan State, the Shan State Chief Minister, as well as to the Shan political parties.
A copy of the petition is attached, and can also be viewed on www.shanhumanrights.org
Contact person: Nang Kwarn Lake: +66: (0) 84-668-0984 / 66: (0) 93-297-7754 (Burmes, English)
- · Forced land confiscation (dropping “by any justification”)
- · To treat the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) according them adequate human dignity (dropping “in accordance with internationally-accepted norms)
- · National level consultations (dropping multinational level consultations)
- · Confirming that EAO members and associates will be accorded a waiver from the notorious Section 17/1 on Unlawful Associations during the peace process
- · Interim arrangements as proposed by the NCCT will be discussed separately
- · Deletion of NCCT proposition on how the NCA may become void
- · Panglong spirit and Panglong promises (UPWC had rejected the latter saying it contains the right of secession)
- · Recruitment (NCCT wants to add “Forced”)
- · Matters of adjoining areas
- · The question of consensus or clear majority to pass resolutions
- · Three parties (Government which includes army, political parties and EAOs) or 8 parties (Government, Parliament, Army, political parties, EAOs, CSOS, Business sector and academies) as proposed by UPWC
- · Whether it is necessary to conduct a periodic review of the NCA as proposed by the NCCT
- · Who and which parties are to sign the NCA (For instance NCCT wants Arakan Army that is fighting alongside the Kachin Independence Army to sign but the UWPC does not)
- · Whether DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration) of the EAOs must come before or after political settlement (The President, according to the MPC, is in favor of after)
- · Whether “in accord with the law” should be added to sensitive words like “federal union” (The President, again according to MPC, is in favor of “in accord with the outcome of the national dialogue”)
Day Two. Monday 18 August 2014.
It takes us some time to get to MPC because the road is packed with cars big and small, old and new. All of them however possess one common feature: the number plates are all in English. No more are the Burmese characters and numerals. One might say Hopeland has cut ahead of Thailand at least in this respect. Because while motor vehicles in the kingdom have long adopted the Arabic figures, they still retain their Thai characters.
The meeting hall is already jammed with both the participants-observers and the media when we arrive just a few minutes ahead of 09:00, when the meeting is due to start.
The seats and desks have been arranged in a triangle. The base, where there is a screen in the rear, is for the UPWC. (I don’t see any military representatives there). On the left hand side are representatives from 34 parties out of 37 that were invited. (There are 67 registered parties in Hopeland).
On the right hand side of the triangle are the NCCT members. The seat reserved for me is there near the apex, where the two moderators, Aung Naing Oo and Dr Kyaw Yin Hlaing, are already seated.
Behind us are the technical advisers for the NCCT. All together, according to the self introductions there are about 75 attendees, including Vijay Nambiar, the UN Secretary General’s special representative.
The following is the gist of what takes place throughout the day:
U Aung Min (opening speech)
At first there were 122 points to be discussed. During the previous two meetings, we were able to reduce them to 31. Now after three days of working together (15-17 August), only 4-5 points remain.
The Irrawaddy reports later that the 5 points that need to be resolved are in the 5 chapters, namely, 2,3,5,6 and 7. It however doesn’t say which points they are.
It should be remembered that the 7 chapters of the draft Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) are:
- 1.Basic Principles
- 2.Aim and Objectives
- 3.Ceasefire matters
- 4.Strengthening the ceasefire
- 5.Guarantee for Political Dialogue
- 6.Future tasks
Hkun Okker, another NCCT member, says what remains are mainly military matters.
Nai Hong Sa
This garden called Union will be ravishingly beautiful, if all varieties of flowers are allowed to bloom.
We’ve been called Hsupu Thaunggyan Thu (Troublemakers), but I would like to point out that our basic rights were denied. And when we had demanded them in peace, we were brutally suppressed, leaving us not choice but to take up arms.
The term “insurgent” is literally “Tha bon” (sounding much like “the bone”) in Burmese. But officially it has been translated as Hsupu Thaunggyan Thu (troublemakers).
U Thein Zaw
Our next step will be for ratification of the NCA by the parliament.
Some have complained that it has taken so long for the NCA to be completed. But I would like to point out that three years are nothing compared to 5 years (and upwards) in other countries.
One of the problems that have consistently dogged us is terminology. I have thought about how the Burmese language will fare after the peace process. Will it become more sophisticated or damaged?
After the opening speeches, the floor is given to the political parties. It should be noted that all of them, without exception, are supportive of the perceived success of the 3 days palaver (“The glimmers of peace have pierced though the darkness, “praised Sai Saw Aung, Vice Chairman of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy).
Dr Tuja, Kachin State Democratic Party (KSDP)
We fervently hope our happiness will not again turn to sadness. We don’t mind if it takes time (to complete the NCA). What we are asking is there be no unnecessary delay. (U Khin Maung Swe, National Democratic Force, later seconds by saying, “there must be no shilly-shallying. The momentum must be kept up.”)
My proposition is that there be a tripartite political dialogue afterward. (He is supported by
, leader of the White Tiger Party. Federal Democratic Alliance (FDA) while proposing basically for a tripartite arrangement, suggests other participants should be nominated by the three. Nationalities Brotherhood Federation (NBF) on the other hand, calls for a 5 way dialogue: Democratic Parties, Ethnic Parties, Civil Society, Armed Groups and Government. The UPWC however has recommended on 8-party political dialogue: Government, Parliament, Armed Forces, Armed Resistance Movements, Political Parties, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Business sector and Academics. The NCCT has vehemently spoken against this configuration, fearing many of them will be government proxies).
Other Issues discussed by parties include: land confiscation; assistance for migrants in Thailand returning to Burma, especially the “1.3” million Shans; resettlement and rehabilitation of people affected by war; local government; to invite Kayan New Land Party (KNLP) a group that has been at ceasefire status since 1994 and the ratification of the Law Protecting The Rights of The National Races ASAP, among others.
The bombshell unexpectedly is dropped by a PaO leader, Hkun Soe Myint, chairman of the Union PaO National Organization (UPNO) who wakes up every sleepy attendee, including myself, by proposing that poppy cultivation be legalized if the zero- tolerance policy is to be implemented only half- heartedly, if all groups concerned are taxing the farmers and if no development projects are effectively carried out.
Vijay Nambiar then reads out the UN Secretary General’s message. (attached: see below)
Nai Hong Sa
We gratefully acknowledge the magnanimity of the UPWC for opening up doors for peace. We have now agreed upon the remedy for our malady. We will only need people who will courageously administer this remedy to cure our ills.
Since President Thein Sein took over, he has adopted a new culture: what is agreed upon, we will implement together. What is yet to be agreed, we will continue to discuss.
At 16:00, the meeting ends. Four of the NCCT members, whose organizations are also members of the 12 armed movements alliance, United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), go to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD).
For myself, no time is given to decide whether I should return to my hotel or visit my relatives. Because I find myself being dragged away to a special room occupied by SkyNet for a talk show conducted by Zaganar. Others who are being invited there to participate are Sai Ai PaO, Dr Tuja and Dr Andrew Ngun Zung Lian (MPC).
The session takes one and a half hour. And since I’m not taking any notes, I remember very little of most of what are being said by my friends. But I certainly won’t forget when Dr Andrew says: Successful negotiations, as Mr Khuensai has noted, are based on relationship-orientation rather than deal-orientation. So I would strongly suggest that a stable foundation is laid down before the 2015 elections.
By the time it is finished, it is already time for the dinner party hosted by U Aung Min at the MPC’s mess hall, where I meet several old friends and new ones.
Thus by the time I arrive at Summer Place, the hotel with the ground floor but no 4th floor, it is already 21:30, 22:00 by Thai count, well past my bed time.