HKUN HTUN OO: Tripartite dialogue the way to go not six-partite

With the intention, as many speculated, to show President Obama prior to his last month visit to Burma, that the peace process is not back-sliding but still kicking and alive, Thein Sein called a 14-member round table meeting aimed at easing the accusation of a stalled reform process. Recently, the  Union Parliament passed proposal for a six-partite meeting about constitutional reform, which  would include President Thein Sein, speakers Shwe Mann and Khin Aung Myint, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing and an ethnic representative still not yet named. However, it has not yet been accepted by parties proposed by the Parliament.

Hkun Htun Oo, chairman of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), the second largest winning party in 1990 nationwide election, in a yesterday interview with the BBC said that he is skeptic if the proposed meeting will be fruitful and that ethnic representatives from states and regions have to dance to the tune of the USDP-dominated parliament. He is for a tripartite meeting that includes the government, democratic forces headed by Aung San Suu Kyi and non-Burman ethnic representatives.

Suu Kyi, chairperson of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party welcomed the idea of high-level discussions. She is said to consider the proposal to be an improvement from the part of the parliament and not oppose to the high-level six-partite meeting. She has asked for a four-member meeting, which should involve the President, House speaker, Commander-in-Chief and herself to discuss about constitutional amendment.

Min Ko Naing, a well known 88 generation student leader, also endorsed the proposed meeting saying that it should be substantive and insightful, leading to amendment of the constitution, according to the yesterday report of BBC.

While expectations are high that the stalled reform process, marred by Burma Army heightening of the armed conflict in Kachin State, when a recent bombardment of KIA Laiza base killed 23 cadet trainees and wounded some 20, plus the on and off shelling of the IDPs within KIA controlled areas, many are also skeptic if this would be another unfruitful ad hoc meeting, with no real political will to compromise.

Meanwhile, Commander-in Chief Min Aung Hlaing recent interview with the VOA outlined his hard-line position as non-compromising in the amendment of the military-drafted constitution, stating that the army will defend it with its lives, if necessary. No one doubt that without his endorsement or agreement, constitutional amendment will be possible, given the appointed 25 percent military seats within the parliament, which has a veto in any motion made, due to the more than 75 percent set ceiling for any proposal to first sail through the parliament.

Apart from that the non-Burman ethnic groups see the proposed meeting to be not inclusive and proportionate. They look at it as a five to one ratio, which means there will be five Burmese or Bama representatives, while only one ethnic member will be sitting at the meeting. In other words, the whole non-Burman ethnic spectrum is starkly under represented.

True, Aung San Suu Kyi, in her latest VOA interview tried to portray her NLD party as a national one, cross-cutting across ethnic line, representing also the non-Burmans. But a few representatives running under NLD flag in elections don't make it an all-embracing union party for the ethnic nationalities. This is at least how it is seen by the people it claims to represent. And the same goes for the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and National Unity Party (NUP), which are seen as Bama-military-oriented parties.

And thus, the ethnic groups consider the up-coming meeting, if it ever happens, to be largely a talk among the Burmese or Bama, mapping out on how to divide the cake among themselves, and the ethnic grievances of federal union, equality and rights of self-determination aspirations will be sidelined. This is understandable, for as Hkun Htun Oo pointed out correctly and boldly, even an ethnic representative that would participate will be under the sway of USDP, the ruling government party, which is a Bama-military-dominated one.

The entire have to do away with its big brother mentality or syndrome and start to adjust itself on an equal basis with the ethnic groups, in mapping out or discussion of a country's political future, if earnest solution of peaceful co-existence and living together in harmony is to be achieved.

Last but not least, the SNLD Chairman position of tripartite dialogue is the way to go, in order to be proportionally fair and appropriate. Otherwise, even adjusting the participation ratio will be a challenge and hindrance to start a level-playing field type of meeting, much less discussing the substance and problematic issues. Besides, the UN has for years endorsed a tripartite meeting, but only become mute lately for reasons only its decision-makers know. But nevertheless, the proportional ratio of tripartite is the one, which the non-Burman ethnic nationalities see as a fair and just set up.

 The contributor is ex-General Secretary of the dormant Shan Democratic Union (SDU) — Editor

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Peace process: The journey of a thousand li

One of the questions frequently asked by people is why the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) has taken so long to be finalized.

Since the first draft of the NCA was produced by the ethnic armed organizations (EAO)’s  Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) and the government’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC) in April, over a 100 points in dispute have been resolved, according to the government, and now only 18 points remain to be negotiated.

The fact however is that since the last joint meeting was held 22-26 September, when the controversial 4th draft came out, no one knows when the next meeting will be, although speculations are it could be during the first two weeks of December.

Some have dubbed the situation a deadlock, while U Aung Min the ever (outwardly) optimistic government key negotiator, insists it is only a natural order of things. “It is like eating roasted beans,” he said in October. “At first you eat only the crisp ones, because they are easy to chew. But now only the tough ones remain. So it will take some time either to chew or digest them.”

SHAN would like to add that it is also natural for brokers to keep everyone happy and you can’t blame them for glossing over things sometimes.

Nevertheless, there are several factors that must be taken into account‐and admitted ‐ when the question arises why it is taking so long to reach a mutually acceptable win-win agreement.

Without pulling wool over anybody’s eyes, here are some of them: deep-seated distrust, inexperience and weak political will.

They have led both sides and cheerleaders on both sides to make mistakes, according to observers who have studied peace processes in their countries:
A negotiator is one who is trying to sell his goods. It goes without saying his job is to persuade the other party to want to buy them. But, on several occasions, the negotiators are found thinking and acting like debaters trying to prove they are right and their opposite number wrong

Negotiations, academics often point out, must be based on relationship- orientation and not deal-orientation, trying to close the deal as soon as possible. Negotiators therefore often go for informal meetings before they decide to hold formal ones. To be sure, there are a lot of informal meetings between the two sides, but very few participation from the government’s military, considered the major decision-maker

The NCA, as the name indicates, is about military matters. However, what really has happened is that both sides are spending more–and unnecessary ‐time on political matters which are best discussed in the upcoming stages: negotiations for Framework for Political Dialogue and the Political Dialogue itself

Public understanding of the peace process is little or nil when the need for public participation is great to push the process to the point of no return. Few reports that are being churned out both by the media and non-media are written in the language that ordinary people can understand. Indeed even many people who are leaders of their communities have spoken of their frustration in getting relevant information

There are splinter groups on each side who see that any achievement made by the present government may prevent them from becoming founders of the next government. (We won’t elaborate much on this point.)

 Considering these, perhaps a meeting of all those who are concerned about the peace process is in order. Somewhat like the “pentapartite” meeting of representatives from the government, legislature, military, democratic parties, and ethnic parties on 31 October in Naypyitaw. But also adding representatives from the EAOS.

Then we can perhaps expect a swifter and happier conclusion to the peace process.

Li = Chinese measurement which is equal to ½ km.
The title is taken from Chinese philosopher Lao Zi who says: The journey of a thousand li begins with the first step.

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Two Shan political parties in northern Shan State release joint statement opposing changing state names

Two Shan political parties, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) and Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP) in Namkham township, northern Shan State, jointly released a statement on 21st November objecting to the suggestion to the parliament by U Aung Thaung from Myanmar’s ruling party (USDP), to change the names of Burma’s states from ethnic-based names to city-based names.

The statement also mentioned the two parties’ surprise that such a proposal could be made by a member of parliament while the country is working to achieve national reconciliation and establish a democratic society. The statement also urged all the ethnic nationalities in Shan State and other states to object to any kind of attempt to change the name of the states.

The SNDP secretary of Nam Kham, Sai Tun Hla, said that this kind of proposal should not be made. He commented to SHAN, “We are already trying to make sure that the local names of the villages, townships, and cities in our states can be preserved. So, as a representative of the two Shan political parties in Nam Kham and also as a citizen, I strongly object to this proposal to change the name of the states.”

This proposal to change the names of the states could create major problems for the ethnic nationalities, said one of the Shan politicians who wanted to remain anonymous.
Sai Tun Hla also suggested that all citizens and the people of Shan State should study the 2008 constitution, so that they could better understand how to handle problems related to the constitution.

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KACHIN CADET SCHOOL SHELLING: Trust-building at its lowest ebb

With the backdrop of Kachin Independence Army (KIA) cadet school shelling by the Burma Army, in Laiza, Nationawide Ceasefire Coordinating Team (NCCT) and Union Peacemaking Working Committee (UPWC) scheduled December meeting  in Thailand, to talk about the talks, on how to proceed with the stalled peace process, since they last met in September, won't be an easy task, with little or no trust left to go on with the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) formulation.

According to Free Burma Ranger report of 21 November: “At 12:15 on 19 November 2014, the Burma Army’s Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 390 fired a 105mm Howitzer at the Kachin Woi Chyai Bum Officer Training School, killing 23 trainees. The Burma Army fired from their position on Hka Ya Bum mountain, which has a direct line of sight to the Kachin training school, located north of Laiza in Waingmaw Township, Kachin State. The shell impacted on the parade ground of the Woi Chyai Bum Officer Training School when officer trainees were practising drills. Twenty trainees were instantly killed and three died of their wounds on the same day.  At least twenty people were wounded, including four instructors.”

In an interview reported by RFA, on 21 November, KIA spokesman La Nan said that the shelling was intentional and must have been aimed with the aid of binocular, before pulling the trigger on cadet trainees. The Burma Army statement of a deliberate act of self-defence and stray ammunition hitting the cadet school, as an unintentional act is absolutely not true, said La Nan. He further stress that the skirmishes that occurred between 16 to 19 November between KIA and Burma Army were at least 40 kilometres away from the Laiza cadet school.

According to DVB report , on 21 November, Burma Army on 20 November rejected blame for the incident, saying that the artillery shell fired was a “warning shot”, which was taken shortly after KIA troops attacked a Tatmadaw column providing security at roadworks along the Sama Junction-Gagun route.
The VOA recent interview with Commander-in-Chief, General Min Aung Hliang, on 23 November, buttress the Burma Army's position that the Laiza cadet school shelling was a warning shot and not intentional.

When asked by the VOA, if the 19 November incident of shelling the Laiza headquarters, which was quite far away from the armed clashes with the Burma Army, isn't going beyond the norm of self-defence and whether it would be like inviting counter attacks within Burma Army's control areas, Min Aung Hliang replied that even the incident that happened, where a Tatmadaw column was providing security for the roadworks and shelling that took place were far apart, it was a just a warning shot to make them aware, which is one military theory from many others.

Again, the RFA interview with General Gun Maw, deputy commander-in-chief of KIA and top NCCT leader, on 22 November said that the problem with the recent intentional shelling of the KIA Laiza base and NCCT forth-coming meeting will be handled separately. He said that the KIO has asked U Aung Min for a separate meeting to talk about the problem. Concerning the shelling, he elaborated that it was not the difference of statement from government and KIO, but the total false publicized assessment, contradicting with the reality on the ground. He further accused the President and government's news outlet as not reporting the truth and thus has damage the trust-building, now reaching its lowest ebb. He said accidental clashes could be understandable, but intentional ones only would lead to the deterioration of peace process. On the President's suggestion that both warring parties should abide by the agreement so that to avoid clashes, he answered that there has been no such rules or code of conduct agreed upon, whatsoever, as yet. In order to avoid such incidents, he said that they are considering if monitoring and intervention of UN and China could be asked to include as neutral parties.

Part of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) in its “Position Statement” released on 20 November 2014, regarding the artillery bombardment, writes:

“During the time when effort is being made to establish trust for the achievement of peace in the country, the use of military pressure by the Burma Tatmadaw raises the question of whether the Burma Tatmadaw really has the desire and intention for peace, and it should be mindful that such acts are a serious obstacle to the establishment of trust.”

“The timing of the attacks with the Union Parliament Speaker U Shwe Mann's comment that amendment of the 2008 Constitution would be possible only after the 2015 election could be assumed as a case of joint military-political conspiracy.”

All in all, the present situation is preservation of the status quo, as far as the USDP-Military regime is concerned. It also seems that it has been able to work out or sort out a compromise with the Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) camp concerning the amendment of the 2008 Constitution.

According to DVB report on 19 November, Suu Kyi speaking to reporters said, “He [Shwe Mann] was talking about the process [of constitutional reform], and this is how it has to be. Suppose there is a decision to amend Article 436 – with regard to time and procedure, it has to follow this process.”

“I know people have held a lot of hope in me becoming president in 2015, but in order to amend Article 59(f), Article 436 must be amended first. Therefore it is realistic to follow this procedure.”

Article 436 stipulates that any constitutional amendment requires the approval of 75 percent of parliament. Critics say that the clause is undemocratic because it provides the military – which is appointed 25 percent of parliamentary seats – veto power on any proposed amendments.

Article 59(f) is the clause that bars Suu Kyi from running for the presidency or vice-presidency because her sons – and deceased husband – have foreign citizenship.

The same DVB report further said that the opposition leader’s comments come shortly after her party spokesman Nyan Win admitted to news agency AFP that the NLD “cannot win” the battle to change the constitution.

“Calculate the ratio mathematically,” he is reported saying. “We cannot win [the fight to change key sections of the constitution].

And with the Suu Kyi and her NLD camp effectively tamed and neutralized, the USDP-Military clique reasoned that it could now afford to push ahead with its policy of containment and negotiated surrender on the Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAO), with military offensives ready to be launched, if it fails to secure its policy intention.

Min Ko Niang, the charismatic student leader of 88 generation doesn't seems to be so enthusiastic with the Suu Kyi capitulation, particularly abandoning the voice of five millions voices backing the NLD's signature campaign to amend the 2008 military-drafted constitution.

He said during the recent interview with RFA, on 21 November, regarding the incident of KIA cadet school shelling, that it had complicated the matters and negatively impacted upon the peace process and as well, the constitutional amendment of the country. He further said that the voice of the five millions citizens must be honoured and should not reject it as unimportant; and that trust with  the outer parliamentary movement must be maintained, empowered and positioned as pressure groups, without loosing sight of the developing political situation. He said constitutional amendment must not be seen only from the law point of view for it is politics, which concerns every politically aware individual.

For now, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has asked the government to withdraw all its outposts from around the Laiza vicinity to prevent such happenings in the future and the possible, monitoring of neutral party, which the UN and China should be involved. And as such, whether the peace process will continue or not  would solely depend on how sincere and how much political will the USDP-Military regime posses and what kind of accommodation it could offer to all the ethnic armed organizations as a whole.

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Giving Peace a chance in Burma

According to French fabulist-poet Jean de la Fontaine (1621-1695): A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.

Don’t you think it’s normal in everyone’s life? That the more you try to avoid someone, the likelier you will run into him/her? That the more you try to avert something from happening, chances are it will happen anyway?

I remember a lady friend who was trying to make her husband quit smoking. First, no smoking indoors at home, later cutting down his daily pocket money, and other measures you can well imagine but won’t like me to mention. Of course, he did warn her: “Wife, I had given up a lot of my vices when I married you. Drinking, smoking opium, gambling and chasing women. Smoking is the only thing left. I know it’s not good and I’ll try to quit when the right time comes. But if you keep on pushing me to do it now, I’m afraid everything I have cherished in life but have done away with will all return. So make up your mind, do you want me to be my old self before we married?”

Fortunately and to the relief of their friends, the lady stopped being a fusspot. In time he quit smoking.  The two then lived together happily even after to their old age.

Unfortunately, I fear that is just what’s going to happen if the military keeps repeating its 3 holy mantras: Non-disintegration of the Union, Non-disintegration of national solidarity and Perpetuation of national sovereignty; keeps on trying to derail the constitutional amendment and peace processes, and keeps on attacking the non-Burman resistance movements with which it is supposed to be making peace.

We all know a balloon that is kept filled up with air or gas but with no outlet can only burst in the end.

Of course, not all the mistakes in the country’s peace process are made by the military. It is made by all of us, both armed and unarmed. Because we are used only to make war, not peace.

Perhaps one thing that can be done to smooth out things and prevent further unnecessary hiccups in the negotiations is we all come together, not separately, to learn how peace is made and how negotiations are conducted.

According to Getting to Yes: Negotiating agreement without giving in, “principled negotiation is an all purpose strategy. Unlike other strategies, if the other side learns this one, it does not become more difficult to use; it becomes easier.”

I think that’s just what the doctor ordered. So why don’t we all try it? And if we find out it doesn’t work, we can all happily go back to war, the way we are more at home with.

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Shan New Year heralds year of peace

Chinese astrologers have predicted that 2015 will be a year for peace and harmony, according to ethnic Chinese visitors to the all Shan State Shan New Year festival in Taunggyi, the state capital.

Sao Aung Myat of Pwela, Shan State Chief Minister, opening Shan New Year Festival, 18 November 2014. (Photo: SHAN)

“2015 is the Year of the Goat or Sheep,” said a respectable source who asks anonymity. “It is the 8th sign of the zodiac. For Chinese, #8 is a lucky sign for all those born under the 12 signs. It is also a symbol for peace and harmony.”

At least appears to agree with the source. “Processes,” it says,” that have been unfolding and spreading chaos for the past few tears are finally wrapping up; both political and economic situations in the world are starting to stabilize. The crises that have been tormenting many countries for the past several years are finally promising to be over.”

The said Chinese predictions coincide with the words of the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) spokesman Col Sai La to Myanmar Times, 16 November 2014. “The New Year hope is for peace. Only peace can solve the political problems we are facing now.”

 The RCSS/SSA is one of the 14 major ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) that have signed preliminary ceasefire with the government.

16 of the EAOs, after forming a joint negotiation team, dubbed the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), since 4 November 2013, have been parleying with Naypyitaw’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC). So far the two sides have been stuck in the 4th draft of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the last 18 key points that are still under critical review.

Both sides are due to meet informally next week before the formal meeting which is expected to be held early next month.

The Shan New Year 2109 falls on the First Day of the First Lunar Month (Nadddaw for Burmese and 11th Month for Chinese) which is tomorrow, Saturday, 22 November for this year.

The festival in Taunggyi, 18-24 November, is participated by Shans, who call themselves Tai, from Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and India.

According to (2000), Tai-Thai-Lao is the 13th most widely spoken language in the world (90 million) and 6th most widely spoken in Asia, after Chinese, Hindi, Bengali, Malay and Japanese.

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Happy Shan New year!

Tomorrow, Saturday, 22 November 2014, also happens to be the First Day of the First Lunar Month Year 2109, of the Shans.

As Shans, let alone non-Shans, know very little about their own New Year, we are reproducing here excerpts from the paper written by Monthip Sirithaikhongchuen, Shan scholar who lives in Thailand, in 2008. Our sincere thanks to Shan Cultural Association (UK) for permission to reprint it-Editor

Tai Name of the Year and Tai New Year

Monthip Sirithaikhongchuen (Mahamoong, Muang Zae)

So far, we do not yet know exactly, indeed we know very little about the political and social circumstances in which the Tai family group began to use a calendar that would result in the celebration of this New Year Day. So, instead of repeating legend as history, I shall bring your attention to the astrological calculation that helps us arrive at this New Year Day.

In so doing, I shall venture to suggest that this particular calendar was earlier used by all branches of the Tai ethno family groups, for instance, Thai, Lao, Tai-khun, Lue, Tai Dam and Shan. Today, we see members of the Tai ethno family groups celebrating also a few other new year days: some celebrate Songkran in April which has become common to nearly all South and South-east Asians; and others join the celebration of the First of January. The Songkran and the Gregorian New Year obviously come from India and the West respectively. Some branch of the Tai family celebrates even the Chinese New Year.

In the Tai ethno family group there was a custom of using the name of the star groups in calculating the years, months and days and time for everyday life. This calendar is used to tell the day and date in everyday life. For example, karpsun year (Year of Monkey), lupkai month (Month of Pig) hoonghao day (Day of Rooster). We can say that people used ming to tell the year, month, day and date in everyday life. This was very important in the agriculturally orientated life. Up to this day the Tai race from the North and North-East of Thailand, Tai Yai, Khuen, Lue, Tai Nua, Ahom Tai (In Assam of India) , Laos, Tai Lum, Tai Leng and Tai Khao (In Vietnam) still use this calendar system. Only the Central Thais and the Southern Thais no longer using it. Instead, they use the Khmer calendar system.

Here we need to understand is, in astrology that uses the lunar month and star groups in the astral world the names are taken from animals in our world. This concept is now popular also to the Tibetan and Chinese. All the animals and the star groups are assigned to match each other symbolically and use indirectly.

Names of the Years
There are twelve son years or rather child year in a year cycle; and each with a name. They are:

1. Jai known as the Year of the Rat
2. Pao Year of the Ox,
3. Yee Year of the Tiger
4. Mao Year of the Rabbit or Cat,
5. Si Year of Naga/ Big Snake
6. Sai Year of Snake
7. Si Nga Year of the Horse
8. Med/Mod Year of the Goat
9. San Year of the Monkey
10. Hao Year of theCock
11. Sed/ Med Year of the Dog and
12. Kai Year of the Pig/ Elephant.

And there are other 10 Mother years each with a name. They are:
1. Karp
2. Lup
3. Hai
4. Muang
5. Puek
6. Kud
7. Koat
8. Hoong
9. Tao and
10. Ka.

When the Mother Years are rotationally combined with the Son Years until the last one from each set meets, which is ka and kai, we get a sixty-year cycle. It begins, for example, 1.Karp Jai with the first mother year of karp combining with the first son year of jai. 2. Lup Pao where the second mother year of lup is assigned to the second son year pao and so on. When both sets of year run out at the same time, we complete one cycle of 60 years; and we then start again at year one of Karp Jai,
meaning we begin a new cycle. In fact, not just year, but also the months and also the days are calculated in this sixty-cycle.

In the past, this sixty-year-cycle of Mother-Year and Son-Year system, was used by the Tai people to calculate the calendar era, record events and chronicles and also to give names to children.

In giving names, for example, the name Ai Noan is given to a boy who is born on the fourth day (Wednesday) or Hai Med (Goat day), the third waning day of Kod Yee month (Tiger month or the third lunar month), in the year of Kar Med (Year of the Goat), Culasakkaraja Era 1364. It will be understood immediately by a Tai who is well versed in this calendar that on the third waning day of the third Lunar month ( Lern Jeing in Tai or Duan Ai in Thai) of the year 1367, Ai Noan will be three years old.

How did the year names come into existence? Astrological experts still have different views as to how the year names were given according to constellations. Some said the names were given since the ancient civilization times of the Egyptians and the Persians. Some said it was part of the ancient Indian culture, but some who studied ancient Chinese culture said it was Chinese art and later spread throughout Asia and South-East Asia . Still, some argued that after studying the 12 year names there are no Chinese words in the names such as…..Jai, Pao,Yee, Mao, Si, Sai, Si Nga, Med, Sun, Hao, Sed, and Kai. Although the year name system was first, found in Chinese history its origin may not have been Chinese. So, the system was not invented by the Chinese.

According to some, the Chinese only began using the year-name system during the Western Han Dynasty 220-20 BC. It could be that the Chinese adopted this system from a certain race, who migrated into China at that time. Some historians have found in the history of Sung-Nu tribe that the method of calculating time by using Year name system of Mother Year- Son Year came from the Pai Ti custom. These tribesmen were nomads, herding animals in the plains. The Year name(nakkhatta) such as Jai, Pao, Yee were from the Pai Ti language. According to some historians, Hsu Han Sae, the leader of Sung-Nu who lived near the land of the Pai Yee, lost a battle to his brother. He fled to live with the ruler of the Western Han. He brought the system of the year name with him and the knowledge spread throughout China . From then, the Chinese have been using this system.

However, after several generations the Chinese changed the Pai Ti names into Chinese. The ten names of Ton Fah ( Mother Year) are Jae, Hii, Ping , Ting, Oo, Ji, Gerng, Sin, Yen and Gui (10) . The twelve names of Ging Lin (Son Year) are Jue, Jau, In, Mao, Choen, Sue, Oo, Woei, Sern, Yau, Si and Hai (12). When the 10 Mother- Years and the 12 Son-Years are combined the result is the sixty-year cycle. The Chinese call the sixty-year cycle Liu Sue Jay Jue.

At present the Pai Ti constellation year name system is not only used by all Tai ethno family groups, but also by Chinese, Khmer, Vietnamese and Indians. The names have also been changed to local languages. The Chinese call the Year name system Ging Lin (Sue Eua Ging Lin) and The Indians call the twelve constellation year name system (Dva-dasa rasi.) Although some academics believe this year name culture came from Si Han (Western Han) before it spread throughout Asia, they do not agree that it was invented by the Chinese. Actually, they insist, the Chinese “borrowed” it from Pai Ti. I also believe that The Tai people also borrowed it from Pai Ti who invented this system first and that the Pai Ti should be highly honored. But of all the people who use this Pai Ti year name system only the Tai people are still using it in everyday life up to this day. Some even suggest putting the Pai Ti into the Pai Yue group. (Yue or Yee One hundred Race group). Here is it possible to pose a question: were Pai Ti the ancestors of the Tai race? As I have no answer myself, I would like to leave it some learned researchers.

Tai New Year and Year name Basis
Of those who are using the Pai Ti system of Year name as a custom to calculate time, days, months and years for their own use, they consider the first new moon day of the twelfth month as the last day of the old year, and day of the first waxing moon day the first day of the year or New Year’s Day. The first month in Tai is called Lern Jeing. Yuan (Yonok), Laos, Thais, Khuen, and Lue call this month Doen Ai. The Chinese, Vietnamese and Khmers also consider the first day of the first month as New Year’s Day up to this day. All the people in the Tai ethno family group have considered this day as New Year’s Day for generations. [Lern Jeing or the first month of Yuan is two months faster than Tai and Thai. The first month of Khuen and Lue is one month faster than Tai and Thai. This is according to where the Hora was taken from.]

Any Tai ethno family group, including Thai and Laos celebrate four different New Year Occasions or Rites. They are the Songkran in Thai, the Gregorian New Year’s Day, the Chinese New Year’s Day and the Tai New Year’s Day.

Tai New Year’s Day
This day has been considered to be New Year’s Day by the Tai Race for almost 3,000 years. It falls on the first waxing day of the first month (Lern Jeing) according to the constellations. This is the ancient wisdom and custom of the people of Asia. For South-East Asians this day falls mostly in November and sometimes in December. But the New Year’s Day according to 60 Year name calendar of the Tai Race has been forgotten. Only the Tai Yai people (Tai Long living in the present Shan States) still consider this as a special day and continue to celebrate it up to this day. It is written in The Thai history that this Tai New Year’s Day was celebrated from the Sukkhothai period to the middle Ayutthaya period. Although people from the high society have changed to using the Gregorian New Year’s Day, which is calculated by the movement of the sun, the middle class and the lower class are still using the Tai New Year’s Day. This is because they have to depend on the season and weather to
make their living on agriculture and the months are calculated by the moon and the constellations.

If we calculate the years, months, days and time according to the hora science of the South-East Asians which use the 60-year cycle year name system as said the new moon day of the twelfth month is considered to be the last day of the year. So the first waxing day of the first month or Lern Jeng or Lern Ai is New Year’s Day. It will be a cycle of every year. Our ancestors have used this calendar system to celebrate New Year’s Day by giving alms with newly harvested rice. This means it is the end of cultivation, harvest and produce of the last crop of the old year. In another it was the
end of the 60 cycles (360 days). Finally, I want to request every Tai in the Tai ethno family groups, wherever he may be, to recognize the first day of the first month (Lern Jeng or Lern Ai) as the New
Year’s Day of all the Tai ethno family groups. Even though the first of January is recognized as the official New Year’s Day by the Thai government, we need the further generations to know the real Tai New Year’s Day of our common ancestors. It is the duty of every one of us that this shared cultural value is revived and promoted so that it lasts forever.

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Stalling constitutional amendment to uphold “disciplined democracy”?

On the heels of military law makers rejection of  Articles 59(f) and Article 436, including many other provisions in the 2008, military-drafted Constitution, Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann told a press conference on 10 November that any changes or amendment of it will have to wait until after next year’s general elections.

Although this is hardly a surprise, the urgency in letting the cat out of the bag makes many wonder, if the USDP-Military regime from the outset has no intention, whatsoever, to share political decision-making power with anyone, in anyway.

It seems the bad note given by President Obama on back-sliding or stalled reform process, which have particularly upset the military leadership, coupled with ending of Burma's ASEAN Presidency taken over by Malaysia, it is now free from responsibilities and stately manners, and could show its real nature and motive, on how it would like to dominate and run the country.

And to drive home the message, military top brass have been recently maneuvring to expand the role of National Defense and Security Council (NDSC), a military-dominated 11-member body, which takes the leading role in a State of Emergency, wherein it exercises the powers of the legislature, executive, and judiciary before the Parliaments are again formed. Accordingly, the military representatives, during the recent parliamentary debate put forward the argument that NDSC should be given the right to dissolve the Parliament, if a third of the seats become vacant. With twenty five percent unelected military representatives sitting in the Parliament and the USDP members sure to at least secure some seats, even if it would not be able to secure a stark majority, in the forth-coming 2015 election, like it is now enjoying, the USDP and military factions would be able to create a situation of dissolving the Parliament, whenever they choose, leading to a State of Emergency rule, according to the constitution.

It is a clear indication and intention to create a built-in safety device for the military-dominated government to be able to hold on to power, if things turn out to its disadvantage after the 2015 election.

According to The Irrawaddy report of 19 November, Saw Than Myint, deputy chairman of the Federal Union Party, said : “It’s like saying clearly that there is no situation in which the 2008 Constitution will be amended.”
The same report writes that Mya Aye of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, said: “If a few amendments are not made to this Constitution, there will be more doubts about how it will be possible to build a democratic federal union, which the non-Burman ethnic groups are expecting. This is the immediate impact.”

Nai Han Tha, Vice-President of the UNFC, said in an interview with The Irrawaddy that it could be the government-backed USDP would like to maintain its victory in 2015 election and also to ward off amendment within the armed forces, which the Burma Army has been reluctant to comply. He said  the 2008 Constitution is not a real federal union, but just a charter to cloak the real nature of military dictatorship, which the people neither like or support. But he doesn't think that it would have an impact on the ceasefire talks for they haven't touched on the subject or reached the political dialogue phase as yet.

The Irrawaddy report of 18 November also writes, Khu Oo Reh, General Secretary of the United Nationalities Federal Council, told The Irrawaddy that delaying constitutional amendments until 2016 will undermine the integrity of the next elections.

“If none of articles of the 2008 Constitution can be amended and the 2015 election is held based on the current Constitution, it will be very hard to expect that the elections will be a free and fair one,” he said.
Indications are that the democratization and peace process have completely stalled, with the military determined to impose its “disciplined democracy” or military-dominated regime, at the expense of the opposition political parties and the non-Burman ethnic nationalities.

Meanwhile, as if to show and buttress the Burmese military intention of playing hard ball against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the government military base at Hkarabum directed artillery shelling at a military cadet training school, in Laiza, killing 22 trainees and wounding 14, according to Eleven Media Group, on 20 November.

According to the report,  Lamai Goon Ja of Peace Creation Group (PCG) said: “ The Burmese troops manning the artillery from the mountain top could see the cadet school clearly and when they saw the cadets were gathering, they fired the big guns.”

KIA spokesman, La Nan also said that the fighting is still ongoing in some areas and described the Laiza encounter as an “ambush”, according to The Irrawaddy report.

The UNFC Statement coming out today said that the attack on KIA Laiza headquarters could be seen in the light of military and political onslaught, following House Speaker Shwe Mann's announcement of shelving amendment of the 2008 military-drawn constitution.

Given such circumstances, the issues of constitutional amendments will be put on ice at least for some time, leaving the military in control of running the country and the signing of Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) won't materialize anytime soon either, if the government and the military refuse to address the aspirations of ethnic equality in the form of a federal union and insist only upon “negotiated surrender”.

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