Bold and decisive moves needed from the NLD



The now much talk about 21st Century Panglong Convention, initiated by Aung San Suu Kyi, is literally confronted with the military's notion of national  reconciliation, which is embedded in negotiated surrender and/or total annihilation of the ethnic resistance armies, coupled with continued Bamar supremacy tendency on one hand; and the hazy federalism promises of the NLD, which no one knows what it really has in store, for failing to spell out clearly on how the party envisioned federal union should look like, on the other hand.

But her treatment of the ethnic nationalities armed and unarmed as not being so important or insignificant was viewed as a betrayal to the common cause and not taken lightly. Suu Kyi has only negotiated intensively with the military regarding national reconciliation, but not with ethnic nationalities so far, even it has all along been agreed that the three most important stakeholders – the military, NLD and the ethnic groups – should interact with each other.

This dissatisfaction is compounded by the 8 States versus 14 States and Divisions/Regions controversy, as the NLD's top leadership have shown, on several occasions, that they were on the same page with the USDP-Military clique. This in turn lead to the suspicion of Suu Kyi and the NLD being on the same boat with the military, where policies related to the pursuing of Bamar ethnocentrism and denial of national equality for the ethnic nationalities are concerned.

As such, it is not a wonder that the ethnic nationalities rank and file are so reluctant and even pessimistic of the Suu Kyi initiated Panglong-like convention that is supposed to take place in a month or two.

Given such a backdrop, only a bold initiative of Suu Kyi would be able to dispel such  distrust.

Firstly, it should make a declaration of NLD position on federal union, which is in line with the 1947 Panglong Agreement, 1947 Union of Burma Constitution and Ethnic Federal Proposal of 1961. Of course with necessary innovation to be in tune with the present political reality.

Secondly, a unilateral ceasefire declaration of the government should follow, as it is the only way to create a level playing field, where non-signatory ethnic armed groups could participate, in an all-inclusive manner.

But whether the military will cooperate or come on board for such decisive bold action will be totally dependent on how Suu Kyi would negotiate and handle the situation, as half-measure undertakings like those of the former Thein Sein regime would bring the country nowhere, but only continued warfare and heightened ethnic tension.




The now much talk about 21st Century Panglong Convention, initiated by Aung San Suu Kyi, is literally confronted with the military's notion of national  reconciliation, which is embedded in negotiated surrender and/or total annihilation of the ethnic resistance armies, coupled with continued Bamar supremacy tendency on one hand; and the hazy federalism promises of the NLD, which no one knows what it really has in store, for failing to spell out clearly on how the party envisioned federal union should look like, on the other hand.

But her treatment of the ethnic nationalities armed and unarmed as not being so important or insignificant was viewed as betrayal to the common cause and not taken lightly. Suu Kyi has only negotiated intensively with the military regarding national reconciliation, but not with ethnic nationalities so far, even it has all along been agreed that the three most important stakeholders – the military, NLD and the ethnic groups – should interact with each other.

This dissatisfaction is compounded by the 8 States versus 14 States and Divisions/Regions controversy, as the NLD's top leadership have shown, on several occasions, that they were on the same page with the USDP-Military clique. This in turn lead to the suspicion of Suu Kyi and the NLD being on the same boat with the military, where policies related to the pursuing of Bamar ethnocentrism and denial of national equality for the ethnic nationalities are concerned.

As such, it is not a wonder that the ethnic nationalities rank and file are so reluctant and even pessimistic of the Suu Kyi initiated Panglong-like convention that is supposed to take place in a month or two.

Given such a backdrop, only a bold initiative of Suu Kyi would be able to dispel such  distrust.

Firstly, it should make a declaration of NLD position on federal union, which is in line with the 1947 Panglong Agreement, 1947 Union of Burma Constitution and Ethnic Federal Proposal of 1961. Of course with necessary innovation to be in tune with the present political reality.

Secondly, a unilateral ceasefire declaration of the government should follow, as it is the only way to create a level playing field, where non-signatory ethnic armed groups could participate, in an all-inclusive manner.

But whether the military will cooperate or come on board for such decisive bold action will be totally dependent on how Suu Kyi would negotiate and handle the situation, as half-measure undertakings like those of the former Thein Sein regime would bring the country nowhere, but only continued warfare and heightened ethnic tension.



The now much talk about 21st Century Panglong Convention, initiated by Aung San Suu Kyi, is literally confronted with the military's notion of national  reconciliation, which is embedded in negotiated surrender and/or total annihilation of the ethnic resistance armies, coupled with continued Bamar supremacy tendency on one hand; and the hazy federalism promises of the NLD, which no one knows what it really has in store, for failing to spell out clearly on how the party envisioned federal union should look like, on the other hand.

But her treatment of the ethnic nationalities armed and unarmed as not being so important or insignificant was viewed as betrayal to the common cause and not taken lightly. Suu Kyi has only negotiated intensively with the military regarding national reconciliation, but not with ethnic nationalities so far, even it has all along been agreed that the three most important stakeholders – the military, NLD and the ethnic groups – should interact with each other.

This dissatisfaction is compounded by the 8 States versus 14 States and Divisions/Regions controversy, as the NLD's top leadership have shown, on several occasions, that they were on the same page with the USDP-Military clique. This in turn lead to the suspicion of Suu Kyi and the NLD being on the same boat with the military, where policies related to the pursuing of Bamar ethnocentrism and denial of national equality for the ethnic nationalities are concerned.

As such, it is not a wonder that the ethnic nationalities rank and file are so reluctant and even pessimistic of the Suu Kyi initiated Panglong-like convention that is supposed to take place in a month or two.

Given such a backdrop, only a bold initiative of Suu Kyi would be able to dispel such  distrust.

Firstly, it should make a declaration of NLD position on federal union, which is in line with the 1947 Panglong Agreement, 1947 Union of Burma Constitution and Ethnic Federal Proposal of 1961. Of course with necessary innovation to be in tune with the present political reality.

Secondly, a unilateral ceasefire declaration of the government should follow, as it is the only way to create a level playing field, where non-signatory ethnic armed groups could participate, in an all-inclusive manner.


But whether the military will cooperate or come on board for such decisive bold action will be totally dependent on how Suu Kyi would negotiate and handle the situation, as half-measure undertakings like those of the former Thein Sein regime would bring the country nowhere, but only continued warfare and heightened ethnic tension.


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Over 200 villagers trapped by clashes in Shan State



Over 200 villagers from three villages in northern Shan State's Hsipaw Township were trapped in a battle on May 19th after the Burma Army launched an offensive against the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA).



The Burma Army launched an offensive against the SSPP/SSA at 9 pm on May 18th. The offensive was paused at night but then continued again at 7 am on May 19th.  Three combat helicopters were used in the attack on May 19th, according to an official from the SSPP/SSA.

Over 200 residents from Nartaung, Khonanpha and Kyaungmai villages were trapped inside a monastery in Kyaungmai village because of the clashes, according to local residents.

“There were four or five military columns from the Burma Army. They were entering one village after another. They stayed in the village and fired to the area outside the village using heavy weapons. The battle has been raging since yesterday [May 18th] till this morning [May 19th]. There are over 200 people in Wanmai monastery. We couldn’t take them out because of the Burmese soldiers. They didn’t allow [the residents] to leave the monastery,” said Nang Nguen, a 35-year-old woman who has been seeking refuge at Nampaung Ywama Gyi.

The 68th, 69th, and 291st Infantry Battalions and the 532nd Light Infantry Battalion (LIB-532) under the North Eastern Command are now active in the southeast of Hsipaw Township and they are being led by a tactical operations commander from Lashio.

According to an unconfirmed news report, political parties and social aid groups from Hsipaw have been attempting to bring the trapped residents to Hsipaw.

Thousands of local residents have fled from their homes in Kyaukme Township due to the offensive launched by the Burma Army against ethnic armed groups.


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Lt. Gen. Yawd Serk : If this conference is wrong, it will affect the future of the union



Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s State Counsellor and leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), has pledged to hold a national conference later this year that would follow in the footsteps of the historic Panglong conference attended by her father General Aung San and representatives of Burma's ethnic groups.


The agreement reached at Panglong, stipulated a significant level of autonomy for Burma's ethnic groups in exchange for their decision to support Aung San's bid for independence from Britain. Aung San, was assassinated just months after the agreement was reached, his successor U Nu, did little to implement the agreement before he was overthrown by General Ne Win in 1962. The subsequent military regimes that ruled Burma also disregarded the commitments made by General Aung San at Panglong.

This week SHAN interviewed Lt. Gen. Yawd Serk, Chairman of the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), to discuss his thoughts on Aung San Suu Kyi's proposed summit, the ongoing situation in Shan State and his recent meeting with the Shan State Chief minister, Dr. Linn Htut.

Lt. Gen. Yawd Serk's organization the RCSS/SSA is one of eight ethnic armed groups that signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) last year with the central government. While the RCSS/SSA has not clashed with government forces since signing the NCA, there have been repeated clashes over the past 6 months between the RCSS/SSA and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA). The TNLA is member of the United Nationalities Federate Council (UNFC), who unlike the RCSS/SSA did not sign the NCA.

Q: In your meeting with the Shan State Chief Minister, what did you discuss with him?

A: As he is the new Shan State Chief Minister, I met with him to build a good relationship. We also talked about how the RCSS/SSA can cooperate with the new government for Shan State's development and the betterment of the people.

Q: What are your thoughts on the 21st Century Panglong conference which is going to be led by Aung San Suu Kyi?

A: Regarding the 21st Century Panglong conference which Aung San Suu Kyi will lead, I do not know in detail how will this conference will be. However, what we have to know is that the Panglong conference has three main points; the commitment of Panglong, the Panglong Agreement and the spirit of Panglong. Regarding these three points, I have no idea which points she will work on and how she will deal with it.

Q: As an RCSS/SSA leader, what would you say about this 21st Century Panglong conference?

A: I hope that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will do her best for this Panglong conference. However, I am also worried that she might misunderstand and do it in a wrong way. If this conference is wrong, it will affect the future of the union. The result from the first Panglong Agreement is the ongoing civil war in the country. I don’t think anyone knows how this 21st Panglong convention will look like. I would like to say that before holding this conference every group should discuss how he/she wants the conference to be like. I’m afraid if we do not discuss clearly first, this will affect the conference.

Q: The RCSS has been said to be recruiting new soldiers in Nam Sarng Township, what would you say about this issue?

A: This news is wrong. We were accused by the government military [Tatmadaw] of recruiting villagers. If the media wanted to know you should go to villagers and ask them. The RCSS held its Shan State Resistance Day on May 21st at the Loi Tai leng headquarters so that these people could join the ceremony.
We have a policy that if anyone does not want to be a soldier, we won't force them.

Q: With the new government how will you work with them on the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA)?

A: The NCA was led by the previous government. But, for this new government we do not know how they will proceed. I can only wait and see.

Q: How will the problems between the RCSS and TNLA be solved?

A: The problems between us and the TNLA cannot be solved with armed fighting. The best way to solve the problems is for both sides to meet and discuss these problems. The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) formed a committee during Tingngan (water festival) for talking. However, after the water festival, the TNLA attacked us again. They intentionally created problems between the Shan and the Palaung people. In order to solve the problems we have avoided fighting with them. But, there were over 30 clashes with them and we lost eight soldiers and over 30 were injured. The loss is normal in conflict, but it affects the people. I felt depressed about this.


BY Staff / Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)



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Charred human remains found after clashes in northern Shan State village



The charred remains of at least three bodies were found in the northern Shan State village of Woe Long in Kyaukme Township after a battle took place there between the Burma Army and the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA), according to Shan State Hluttaw MP Sai Tun Win who recently visited the area.
A dead body found in Woe Long Village after the fire, (Photo - Naw Kham Naw Kham)
A dead body found in Woe Long Village after the fire, (Photo - Naw Kham Naw Kham)
Two huts and a house belonging to local residents were also set on fire, according to Sai Tun Win, who represents Kyaukme for the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD).
Sai Tun Win, led a group that also included his fellow SNLD MP Sai Tun Nyan, who visited the villages on May 21st, a little more than a week after the clashes took place there on May 13th. The group found that At Ngee Village, Nam Pak Village, Pang Kaen Village and Woe Long Village received the most damage. Woe Long Village suffered particularly badly and it is difficult for the residents of Woe Long Village to return home from Pang Kaen Monastery, where they have taken shelter, said Sai Tun Win due to safety concerns.
“I went there [to Woe Long Village]. Two huts and a house have been burned down. The rest have been damaged. I found human charred remains. There were three bodies. Only the bones were left. We don’t know who set the house on fire,” explained Sai Tun Win.
Heavy fighting between the SSPP/SSA and the Burma Army broke out near Woe Long Village on May 13th. The clashes forced hundreds of local residents to flee to Nong Bing and Parng Lau villages.
It will be difficult to verify the identity of the the charred victims as little remains of their bodies. According to Sai Tun Win two people from the village have been reported missing after a headcount.
The majority of the villagers are still taking refuge at monastery and most of the houses in Woe Long have been ransacked, explained Sai Tun Win. The refugees are in serious need of food and other humanitarian aid the MP added.
In a follow up interview conducted with the Irrawaddy after SHAN's interview with Sai Tun Win took place, he reported that an additional two more bodies were found in Woe Long village and 5 more bodies were found in another village identified as Nong Kwan. “We are sure of the identities of the three bodies from Nong Kwan. We still have to identify the other five. We plan to issue a report highlighting the human rights violations of the recent fighting. We’ll then talk with our party about what to do next,” Sai Tun Win was quoted as saying.
The Burma Army detained two residents from the Woe Long on May 12th one day before the fighting broke out. SHAN has learned they were released four days later, with large bruise marks on their bodies.


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Suu Kyi’s 21st Century Panglong Convention: Old wine in a new bottle?



Sai Wan SaiTwo issues regarding the plight of the Muslim in Arakan State and heightened armed conflict in Kachin and Shan States dominated the political arena during these few weeks.
The flared up old issue of “Rohingya”, due to the US ambassador to  Burma, Scot Marciel's stand point of addressing the chosen nomenclature as it preferred by the said ethnic group and the US Secretary of State John Kerry's inquiry following his recent visit, pushed Aung San Suu Kyi to take up position that she has so far tried to avoid.
While this tip-toeing around or asking for sympathy and more space, regarding the Rohingya issue might be necessary for a short period of time, the armed ethnic conflict that have flared up to a new height in Kachin and Shan States these days is alarmingly and disturbing, which needs immediate attention for the National League for Democracy's (NLD) national reconciliation commitment hinges upon on how fast and effective the so-called Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) could be implemented, in words and deeds.
In this respect, the Suu Kyi-led, newly renamed, National Reconciliation Peace Center (NRPC) seems to be moving towards adopting the previous regime's well-beaten path of peace process, so much so, people are starting to say that her program is, in fact, “an old wine in a new bottle”.
Let us examine in the light of recent political development, if this is really the case.
The Rohingya terminology
Her tip-toeing around the racial and religious conflict was explained as largely due to the fact that the risk of inflaming the issue was so high, only by just mentioning and using the terms “Rohingya” and “Bengalis,” that are politically and emotionally highly charged.
The Buddhist nationalists label the group "Bengalis", casting Burma's more than one million Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, according to various news reports.
"The  Arakan Buddhists object to the term 'Rohingya' just as much as the Muslims object to the term 'Bengali'," Suu Kyi said during a press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry in the capital Naypyitaw.
One positive statement Suu Kyi said was that her new government was determined to address deep hatreds in western Rakhine State. And in addition,  Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Mr Kerry both stressed that the ability to self-identity was important for people all over the world. “We are not in any way undermining people’s desire to establish their own identity,” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said.
Suu Kyi, who has faced criticism internationally for not speaking up for the Rohingya, pledged to work towards a situation where the communities "live peacefully and securely outside the camps".
"That is why we say that we need the space to build up trust and security within the community", Suu Kyi added.
The 21st Century Panglong Convention
According to U Khun Myint Tun, chair of the Pa-Oh National Liberation Organisation, the new government’s peace plan will be built on the foundation laid by former president U Thein Sein, though non-signatories will also be invited.
“What we understand is the 21st-century Panglong Conference will be held in accordance with the provisional timeline of the NCA. It is just a replacement to the Union Peace Conference. With a few changes, I think the new government will follow the old peace process laid out by President U Thein Sein,” he said.
The newly renamed NRPC, which formerly was Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), meanwhile has formed two sub-committees, one headed by Lieutenant General Yar Pyae would meet with the signatory Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs), while the other led by U Tin Myo Myo, who is also head of the NRPC,  would liaise with the non-signatories. Reportedly, in U Tin Myo Win's team prominent ethnic politician U Khun Tun Oo was said to be included as a member, according to Myanmar Times report.
However, regarding the new regime's soliciting of the remaining EAOs to join the political dialogue, it is not clear whether all the 13 non-signatory EAOs will be included or the military, also known as Tatmadaw and Burma Army, rejected 3 EAOs - Kokang or Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Palaung or Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Arakan Army (AA) - will be left out.
The military has said that the said 3 EAOs would have to surrender first, before they could participate in the peace process.
On top of this, the NLD usage of the word phrase “those that deserves and appropriate to participate” in the peace process would be included is hardly an all-inclusive pledge, even if the party's political commitment is said to be so.
Burma Army position on peace process
According to the Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing's much publicized press conference of 13 May, the military position on the peace process could be summarized as the following:
  • It adheres to the constitution and thus also accepts the President leading role of the country;
  • It will support Suu Kyi's Panglong-like convention;
  • EAOs need to sign NCA first before participating in the peace process; and
  • MNDAA, TNLA, AA must surrender first to be part of the peace process.
Apart from that,  on question of 25% military's non-elected, allotment in the parliament and its subsequent withdrawal from politics, Min Aung Hlaing reiterated with his usual answer that it would be according to the desire of the people, if armed conflicts ended and peace is restored.
But to underpin the military's independence from that of the administration, the military leaders, including the Commander-in-Chief, maintained that they could continue to take up responsibility and run their own affairs, even after the pensioned age of 60.
Military activities and development
Meanwhile, the military despite its public commitment to support Suu Kyi's 21st Century Panglong Convention, it has been conducting military offensives in the Shan and Kachin States.
On 19 May, Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) issued an eight point statement, of which its doubtfulness on Burma Army was stressed and its aim to derail the Suu Kyi initiated Panglong-like convention by staging offensives on SSA positions in Lashio and Hsipaw Townships was mentioned. It went on to protest the onslaught and demand the Burma Army to immediately stop the offensives.
Again on the 58th anniversary of  Shan Revolution Day, that has been started by 31 Shan patriots in Mong Ton Township, on 21 May 1958, called on all EAOs to unite and strive for ethnic rights.
“(We) urge all our ethnic armed brethren to unite hand-in-hand to fight for our ethnic rights in unison, using diverse actions,” stated the statement.
On 21 May, Daung Khar, Chief technical advisor of the Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/KIA) , told BBC that he was disappointed and ruminated for the new government's silence on the military using of  combat aircraft against the KIA and that they won't be asking for help from the regime, for it has already known the situation. He went on to stressed that the 21st Century Panglong Convention will be meaningless, with the war on ethnic groups going on.
During these few weeks, the MNDAA, TNLA, that the military refused to accept as negotiating partners, tendered resignation to the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) a coalition of 11 EAOs alliance, which is still pending,  has led many to think that the United Wa State Army (UWSA)-led military alliance in the north of the country, might become a reality. This means, the alliance to be formed would include some 5 to 6 EAOs that would weaken the UNFC militarily.
Meanwhile, the escalation of wars in Shan and Kachin States continue unabated, citing criminal activities like illegal logging, taxation of the EAOs and also “area clearance and control” policy, to create more “white areas” or government control areas, before the Panglong-like Convention really started.
Analysis
Apart from the possible problematic or debacle of all-inclusive policy line of the NLD with the military demanded non-inclusive posture, vis a vis the EAOs, the time has also come for the NLD to tackle the  mentioned issues head on.
The Rohingya issue, which is based on religious hatred and racism, would need a clear policy on how to go about. This should be a kind of “denazification” -  “entnazifizierung” in German -, which was an Allied initiative to rid German and Austrian society of the National Socialist ideology (Nazism), to build awareness of how a responsible democracy-adhering society needs to behave and thus is a long term undertaking. But beating around the bush won't help. The civilian-based initiative of harmonious living together among different races and religions are already there, albeit at a very rudimentary stage, but needs institutional support and as well, decisive “secular form of governance” commitment that is a must in a democratic society.
Similarly, ethnic conflict that have plagued the country for so long needs bold, innovative approach rather than being bogged down in the first step of actual nationwide ceasefire, due to lack of political will.
 The Burma Army's usual mantra of protecting sovereignty and upholding national unity is not conducive and helpful. More so, if it combines this with its commitment of creating more “white areas” prior to the actual political dialogue, to be at an advantaged bargaining position.
Actually, this doesn't make sense as an agreed “Union Accord” will resolve all these problems with one stroke, for soon as a political settlement of a genuine federalism solution is reached.
 In a nutshell, if Suu Kyi and NLD don't want its peace initiative to be termed as “an old wine in a new bottle”, there is only one option open. And that is, as time and again being advocated by well-wishers and keen observer of the country, to wipe the slate clean or create a level playing field, by unilateral ceasefire declaration from the part of the government, for it is a must and necessary step, rather than beating around the bush. Of course this will be only possible with the Burma Army's willingness and commitment, so that the initiated 21st Century Panglong Convention will have its real meaning and become a reality.


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REBUTTAL: On Secession Clause and Panglong Agreement



weekly_472_wansaiLately, quite a number of non-Bamar ethnic leaders and people in general were airing their opinions that the 1947 Panglong Agreement didn't mention “secession” and that it was not “all-inclusive”, as only Kachin, Chin, Shan and Burma Proper or Ministerial Burma were involved and not all the other ethnic nationalities were included in the treaty.
Let us look into the said two arguments in an objective approach, so that history would be treated as it is and not as we like them to be seen or interpreted.
The first question that Panglong Agreement didn't include “secession” is only partly true and that the treaty didn't also mention “federalism” in any way.
It is true that such words were no where to be seen, but the treaty has to be viewed together with the 1948 Union of Burma Constitution, so that the whole picture of the secession issue and that of federalism  could be viewed in a comprehensive light.
After this, the second argument of the treaty not being “all-inclusive” and thus is flawed will be discussed.
Panglong Promises and Secession Clause
The 1947 Panglong Agreement underpinned the ethnic aspirations of democracy, rights of self-determination, equality and democracy, as could be seen by the three clauses included in the nine points accord.
They are:
  • The Frontier Areas will enjoy full autonomy in internal administration
  • Citizens of the Frontier Areas shall enjoy rights and privileges which are regarded as fundamental in democratic countries.
  • Financial autonomy vested in the Federated Shan States shall be maintained
In this conjunction, one of the now defunct Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC) statements, on 12 February 2007, is also worth mentioning.
  • When the ethnic nationalities leaders met again for the second time in Panglong in February 1947, Bogyoke Aung San came to join them. He had been to London to negotiate with Prime Minister Atlee for Burma’s independence, which was conditional on the unification of the Frontier Areas with Burma. Based on Aung San’s promises of democracy, equality and self rule, the ethnic nationalities agreed to work together with Aung San’s interim government to form the Union of Burma. Some of the historical quotations are as follows:
  • “We stand for full freedom of all the races in our country, including those so-called Karenni states…” (Aung San, 14 January 1947 – The Times, London).
  • “If the Burmese receive one kyat, the Shan will also get one kyat.” (Aung San at Panglong, February 1947).
On how the inclusion of secession clause enshrined in 1948 Union of Burma Constitution came about was documented by Pangmu Shayi as below:-
  • Duwa Shan Lone recalled the exchanges that took place between the Nyaung Shwe Sawbwa (Prince of Yawnghwe) and Bogyoke Aung San thus:
  • Bogyoke: Sawbwa Gyi, let me put to rest all your concerns regarding union with Burma. Federated or not, your rights to secession will be honoured. I would strongly urge you to join hands with us to form a union after we gain independence from the British.
  • Sao Shwe Thaike: Bogyoke, we the Sawbwas and the people of Shan States have complete trust in you, but we cannot say the same about the other Burmese leaders around you.
  • Bogyoke: I am glad to hear your expression of trust in me, but let me tell you this. Do not put your trust in man. Rather, trust the constitution that we will be drafting. I can assure you here and now, that all matters such as the right to secession and other safeguards you wish included in the constitution, will be fully addressed. So please join hands with us in the Constituent Assembly where further details will be discussed and thrashed out. (Source: Kachinland News – 20 April 2015)
In short, arguing that Panglong Agreement has nothing to do with secession is only partly true, as the Shans particularly didn't feel safe and thought that they would be only changing the colonial master from  British to Bamar, which later proved to be exactly the case following the independence from the British.
As a consequence, the Shan Saohpas, also pronounced Sawbwa in Bamar pronunciation, even rejected the notion that U Aung San represented them – The Federated Shan States - by mentioning that it was not the case in a telegram sent to the British government, when in 1947, he was then negotiating for Burma's independence from Prime Minister Clement Attlee, in London.
It is not for nothing that the said Aung San-Attlee Agreement had included a paragraph below:
“It is agreed objective of both His Majesty’s Government and the Burmese Delegates to achieve the early unification of the Frontier Areas and Ministerial Burma with the free consent of the inhabitants of those areas. In the meantime, it is agreed that the people of the Frontier Areas should, in respect of subjects of common interest, be closely associated with the Government of Burma in a manner acceptable to both parties.”
Following this, U Aung San negotiated with the Hill peoples – Shan, Chin and Kachin –  to alleviate their doubts and angsts, the Chapter 10, Secession Clause was included in the 1948 Union of Burma Constitution.
Regarding the word “federalism” not being included in the Panglong Agreement, the inclusion of full administrative and financial autonomy, including fundamental democratic rights, for Shan States and as well the Kachin and Chin indicated that it was meant to form a political system of federal union, if not explicitly or particularly mentioned in words in the accord.
Panglong Agreement not “all-inclusive”
The treaty of Panglong signed in 1947 was between the Burma Proper, represented by U Aung San for the Burmese Government, Kachin, Chin and Shan Committees.
While understandably that the Mon, Karen, Arakan States were rejecting the treaty as not all-inclusive, for their representatives were not participating at the Panglong Conference and eventual signing of the agreement, in official point of view they are included. For all the said territories then were not yet being created as States and were included in the then called Burma Proper, which was represented by U Aung San.
In a way, this rejection is like saying, “We can't accept the legacy – meaning: being all-inclusive – for we were not at the maturity stage, when our parent's – in this case: U Aung San - signed the treaty on our behalf.”
The point is an historical legacy is a legacy that could not be denied, whether we like it or not.
As for the Karenni State, its Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) maintained that “In 1948, it was annexed by Burma without the knowledge of Karenni Supreme Council or the consent of the Karenni people.” (Source: UNPO Year Book 1997)
However, the Constitution of the Union of Burma in 1947 proclaimed that the three Karenni States be amalgamated into a single constituent state of the union, called Karenni State. It also provided for the possibility of secession from the Union after 10 years.
In conclusion, to do justice to the history, Panglong Agreement could be said to tacitly include Secession Clause and was all-inclusive, in a legal sense, so to speak.
DOCUMENTS RELATED TO SECESSION & AUNG SAN-ATTLEE AGREEMENT
CHAPTER X
RIGHT OF SECESSION
(1948 Union of Burma Constitution)
  1. Save as otherwise expressly provided in this Constitution or in any Act of Parliament
made  under  section  199,  every  State  shall  have  the  right  to  secede  from  the  Union  in
accordance with the conditions hereinafter prescribed.
  1. The right of secession shall not be exercised within ten years from the date on which
this Constitution comes into operation.
  1. (1) Any  State  wishing  to  exercise  the  right  of  secession  shall  have  a  resolution  to
that effect passed by its State Council. No such resolution shall be deemed to have been
passed unless not less than two-thirds of the total number of members of the State Council
concerned have voted in its favour.
(2) The Head of the State concerned shall notify the President of any such resolution passed
by the Council and shall send him a copy of such resolution certified by the Chairman of
the Council by which it was passed.
  1. The President  shall  thereupon  order  a  plebiscite  to  be  taken  for  the  purpose  of
ascertaining the will of the people of the State concerned.
Repealed Laws
  1. The President  shall  appoint  a  Plebiscite  Commission  consisting  an  equal  number
of  members  representing  the  Union  and  the  State  concerned  in  order  to  supervise  the
plebiscite.
  1. Subject to the provisions of this Chapter, all matters relating to the exercise of the right
of secession shall be regulated by law
(Source: 1948 Union of Burma Constitution)
Part of Aung San -Attlee Agreement (27 January 1947)
  1. Frontier Areas
It is agreed objective of both His Majesty’s Government and the Burmese Delegates to achieve the early unification of the Frontier Areas and Ministerial Burma with the free consent of the inhabitants of those areas. In the meantime, it is agreed that the people of the Frontier Areas should, in respect of subjects of common interest, be closely associated with the Government of Burma in a manner acceptable to both parties. For these purposes it has been agreed: -
(a) There shall be free intercourse between the peoples of the Frontier Areas and the people of Ministerial Burma without hindrance.
(b) The leaders and representatives of the peoples of the Frontier Areas shall be asked, either at the Panglong Conference to be held at the beginning of next month or at a special Conference to be convened for the purpose, to express their views upon the form of association with the Government of Burma which they consider acceptable during the transition period: whether –
(I) by the appointment of a small group of Frontier representatives to advise the Governor on Frontier affairs and to have close liaison with the Executive Council; or
(II) by the appointment of the Frontier Area representative as Executive Councillor in charge of Frontier affairs;
or
(III) by some other method.
(c) After the Panglong meeting, or the special conference, His Majesty’s Government and the Government of Burma will agree upon the best method of advancing their common aims in accordance with the expressed views of the peoples of the Frontier Areas.
(d) A Committee of Enquiry shall be set up forthwith as to the best method of associating the Frontier peoples with the working out of the new Constitution for Burma. Such Committee will consist of equal numbers of person from Ministerial Burma, nominated by the Executive Council, and persons from the Frontier Areas, nominated by the Governor after consultation with the leaders of those areas, with a neutral Chairman from outside of Burma selected by agreement. Such Committee shall be asked to report to the Government of Burma and His Majesty’s
Government before the summoning of the Constituent Assembly.
{Source: Aung San-Atlee Agreement (27 January 1947)}


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Only de-escalation of the war could pave way for reconciliation



Sai Wan SaiBurma Army is sending a clear message of “ethnic resistance forces annihilation stance aimed at derailing the Daw Aung San Suu Kyi desired Panglong-like convention to thrash out a much needed political agreement with the ethnic nationalities, within the mould of a genuine federal union."
Recently, The Irrawaddy reported that the Burma Army helicopters were said to be shooting at civilians, rather than at the KIA positions, which again confirmed its standard procedure of decades-old harassing the ethnic population, who are seen as enemies' support base and thus must be treated as enemies.
“[The Burma Army] didn’t shoot at KIA outposts,” said Lt-Col Naw Bu, a spokesperson for the KIA. “They only attacked civilians.”
“If the fighting breaks out again, civilians could be in danger of being tortured,” said Aung Myo San, the coordinator of a local civilian protection committee, “And there are Burma Army troops in the middle of the village, so it would be dangerous for the villagers if [both armies] start shooting at each other.”
These are clearly human rights violations and the international actors should treat it as such.
The fact that attacks on SSPP/SSA had intensified despite it had held talks with a tactical commander from the Burma Army on the de-escalation of military tensions between the two sides on May 12 is due to the military's unspoken policy to keep the war flames on and the rejection of a genuine federal union formation, which it always pays lip-service, but never really means it, to hood-wink the public and international community.
At this point in time, why is it so important to gain so much areas of influence within ethnic homelands, if the Burma Army is really committed to the task of a negotiated peaceful settlement, as it time and again declared publicly, than war?
The way to go is not to escalate the war, but to de-escalate it. And to do this, it should declare unilateral nationwide ceasefire, to show its good-will by cooperating with U Htin Kyaw government, so that the much publicized 21st Century Panglong Convention could be held.
Otherwise, the Burma Army's heightened war in ethnic states will be viewed as going against the national reconciliation idea of NLD regime and will only be viewed as a spoiler, regardless of its make-believe, cover of upholding national unity and protecting the sovereignty of the country.
Time for the Burma Army to change mindset and listen to the people's voice.


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Villagers demand an end to coal mining in Hsipaw Township



Residents living near large scale coal mining operations in northern Shan State have called on the firm, Ngwe Yi Pale Mining Co. Ltd, to stop coal mining in Hsipaw Township due to the serious environmental consequences the mining has inflicted on the area.
coal miningThe firm is part of the Ngwe Yi Pale group, one of the largest sugar, cement and coal producers in Burma.  Ngwe Yi Pale Miningstarted their operation in Hsipaw Township in 2004, with mining sites at Peng Zai, Parng Ngar and Nar Goon villages.
On April 1, 2016, over 250 villagers gathered at the Nam Ma temple to discuss problems caused by coal mining in their area.
Long Sai, an elder from Nam Ma village, told the Shan Herald that before the company operated in Peng Zai village, there was a small rice mill that provided electricity for the temple.  Tea and rice grew well in the area, he explained.
“If the company continued digging the coal in the Ho Nar Fa area, over 100 acres of rice fields will be destroyed,” Long Sai explained. “The villagers will then have to move out from their homes.”
“We will not allow them to dig for coal in the Ho Nar Fa area,” he added. “We totally disagree with their operation. We want them to stop immediately and get out of the area.”
In 2010, residents in Nam Ma staged a protest against the coal mining, calling for the operation to permanently stop. However, this did not happen and the company continued to dig for coal.
“They do not care about local people who belong to the area,” said Sai Kyaw Jing, one of Nam Ma village leaders.
Over a 10 year period from 2005 to 2015 the company dug many holes throughout the Township.  The holes appear to be part of an exploration study conducted by the firm.  Villagers tell SHAN that they worry that people or livestock will fall into the numerous holes which the company has left in many places.
“We requested them to fill up the holes but they refused to this”, said Sai Kyaw Jing.
Earlier this year, residents of Nong Khio Township which is also in northern Shan State, reported serious problems with contamination in their area due to the company’s sugar production operations.
“Even though we met with their representatives to find a solution, they never did anything,” said a frustrated villager, Sai Zaw Moe.  He reports that the firm continues to dump sugar production related waste into a nearby river (link http://english.panglong.org/residents-complain-of-contaminated-water-in-nong-khio-township/ ).
The recently released, Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) report for Burma shows that 43.55% of Ngwe Yi Pale Mining, is owned U Thein Myint, also known as Chaung Hpin.  Another individual listed as U Myint Shein, owns 29.20% of the firm.
BY SAI AW / Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)


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