Day Four (5 March 2014)
Not a walk in the park
Today the exile media that have returned to work on the home front report their challenges they have been facing.
The panelists include:
- Nang Phaw Gay – Karen Information Center (KIC)
- Toe Zaw Latt – Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB)
- Theingi Tun – Mizzima News
- Than Lwin Tun – Voice of America (VOA)
- Freedom to collect first-hand information
- Access to more detailed information
- Better and more detailed reports for one’s audience
- Printing and distribution of print publications inside the country
- Training of new journalists inside
- State officials still reluctant to offer information
- Distributors still afraid to sell papers published by returnee media
- Reporters still face personal security concerns
- Divided workforce between border and home offices
- Divided funs between border and home offices
- Less number of readers of ethnic language inside than on the border
- Still unable to do TV and radio broadcasts inside
- Necessity for more self reliance when it comes to fund raising
- Distrust by the government
- The need to train give more background information for new journalists
- Conflicts continuing in the country: state us society, state us ethnic resistance and communal
The 2015 elections, the panelists believe, will decide the trend the country is going to take.
The conference also discussed women’s role and community radio programs.
I spend the evening visiting my relatives, who have long since my departure in 1969 move to new homes in Taunggyi.
“Are you not ready to return home yet?” one of them asks.
“I’m getting ready,” replies I. “I’m only waiting for the right time and place. And we are all working on it.”
CHIANG MAI-March 7. Burma Army troops have partially withdrawn from
Tar Hsarm Pu after seizing Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) outposts, but
are forbidding villagers from using this strategic river crossing in
central Shan State.
The Burma Army troops had seized the outposts without fighting while leaders of the Shan State Progress Party, the political wing of SSA-N, were in Naypyitaw at the end of February.
Despite the withdrawal from the SSA-N outposts at Tar Hsarm Pu, there remain two Burma Army camps, one in the east, 1 kilometer away, and one in the west 2 kilometers away from Tar Hsarm Pu, each comprised of 50 soldiers. After the partial withdrawal of the Burma Army, the SSA-N returned to its outposts.
An SSPP officer said, “Since the Burma Army moved in around Tar Hsarm Pu, people have not been allowed to cross the river there. They have to travel on the road from Mong Jarng to Mong Su instead of Mong Jarng to Tar Hsarm Pu. It is very difficult for people to travel.”
Tar Hsarm Pu is a strategic crossing over the Pang River, where SSA-N collected tax from transport and mining.
SSPP/SSA signed a ceasefire with Naypyitaw in January 2012. The SSPP/SSA has reportedly engaged in over 100 clashes with the Burma Army since the ceasefire.
Day Three (4 March 2014)
Meeting my match
If I was happy with my short presentation on the peace process today, it was short-lived.
A young political analyst who has already made a name for himself by his critical articles in Unity, True and D.Wave, told me forthright I could afford to have been more forthright with my remarks.
“This is the government’s deliberate attempt to delay the political dialogue,” he said speaking on the three stages that the government’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC) and the resistance coalition Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), namely: Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) signing, Framework for Political Dialogue negotiations and Political Dialogue. “Had it declared a unilateral ceasefire like Gen Ne Win did (in 1963), we would have been engaging in political dialogue for more than two years now.”
“Firstly, investors are still concerned about the ongoing fighting,” he said. “Secondly, business laws in Burma are still posing as stumbling blocks. Even the CMLV (Cambodia, Malaysia, Laos and Vietnam firm) have packed their bags and gone. Thirdly, the government is talking about combining the FDI (Foreign Direct Investment law) and the citizens’ investment law to make a new law, even though the FDI has just been ratified and enforced. The total investments in the country, as a result, are just a child’s pocket money, compared to those in the neighboring countries.”
He also added that the people are now worse off than they were two decades ago, when new inland and offshore oil and gas fields were discovered.
The day started with opening speeches by Sao Aung Myat, Shan State Chief Minister, and U Paik Htwe, deputy union information minister.
According to the latter, censorship has gone forever since August 2012. And since April 2013, there are 18 private dailies and 389 weeklies, among which are 9 ethnic journals.
One panelist, Nang Calyar Win aka New Thewdar, a member of the Interim Press Council (IPC) urged the 250 plus participants to join in the drafting of the new press law being drawn whose first draft was published last year. (Ratified by Union Assembly yesterday)
In the afternoon, they were off to the Inlay Hotel Zone, leaving me to attend the funeral of an old friend Khun Pang (Unfortunately I missed it by 15 minutes) and then to visit another friend who I found was entertaining Dr Yan Naing Thein.
We talked for two hours before we parted friends.
I don’t know whether or not he had benefitted from the meeting. (I had told him The Three Kingdoms, a Chinese historical romance , where the righteous and most popular leader was beaten by his rival, who was bad and much hated, but who also turned out to be a better planner and prepared man.) But I decided I emerged from it a much learned man.
CHAING MAI- March 6. Chiang Mai Governor Wichian Puttiwinyu is
pushing to open Lak Teang gate on the Thai-Shan State border for
The Chiang Mai governor and the Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce held a Thai-Burma border committee meeting in February 2014, pushing to open Lak Teang gate, on the border of Wianghaeng district, northern Chiang Mai province.
The Chiang Mai governor will propose the plan to the Thai Ministry of Interior, then approach the Burma government. The Thai side is ready to open, as roads are well constructed, and it reported that on the Burma side, construction is underway of the road which connects to Lak Teang.
Over 500 Shan refugees are sheltering in a camp on the Thai side near Lak Teang gate, which has been closed since 2002.
They fled from fighting between the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) and joint Burma Army-United Wa State Army forces in 2002.
It is not known what impact the opening of the border gate will have on the refugees. In 2012, there were plans to resettle the refugees at Mong Taw-Mong Hta across the border in Shan State. However, the plans were halted after Shan CBOs voiced concerns that the area was still heavily militarized and there was no guarantee of safety for returning refugees.
Day 2. 3 March 2014
Old days still learn new tricks
During breakfast, I was informed that Ta Hsarm Pu, the Pang crossing that leads into Kunpang (Pang Island), a strategic area that lies between the Pang and the Salween, was taken by the Burmese Army on 28 February. Without a fight, because the Burma Army, instead of fighting, had resorted to charm. It had reportedly asked the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) guarding the crossing to temporarily move out, white its troops were going across. And after the SSA had graciously complied, it simply took over the positions, where it has remained until now.
I couldn’t decide whether I should cry or laugh, after the report was conveyed to me.
The highlight of the day is the press launch of the United States Institute for Peace (USIP)’s “Media and Conflict in Myanmar. Opportunities the media to advance peace”, held in the hotel’s dining room.
The presenter Stephen Gray, who had done a 6-month survey, said there has been a lot of “misinformation” and “misunderstanding” among the people. And the media has the opportunity to support peace by providing accurate and reliable information in a way that is understandable to them.
He suggested, among others, conflict sensitive training for journalists as well as government, CSO and ethnic leaders. He especially warned against online hate speech.
Then there was dinner attended by Shan State chief minister Sao Aung Myat and deputy union minister for information U Paik Htwe, who took trouble to shake hands with us, more than 100 of journalists and activists, before getting back to his table.
It was there I ran into old friends and new friends, among whom was Sao Haymar Thaike, one of the surviving daughters of Sao Shwe Thaike, Prince of Yawnghwe and the first President of the newly independent Union of Burma (1948-1952).
You can bet I had a good time and lose. Because I went to bed early, though a bit later than I usually do.
CHIANG MAI- March 5. SHAN in collaboration with Burma News
International (BNI) held the second ethnic media conference in the Shan
State capital Taunggyi. The conference started on March 4 and is
scheduled to end on March 6, 2014.
U Pike Htwe said, “The central government follows the constitution and provides freedom of expression; there is no more censorship. So far, there are over 300 journals registered and have got permits, and 9 journals in ethnic languages.”
However, Sai Hark Khur, an ethnic reporter said, “Ethnic media do not have full freedom of expression. For instance, when registering, the news agency has to sign a paper, saying they take responsibility for every word in the newspaper or journal they publish.
Furthermore, the authorities ask for ethnic publications to be translated into Burmese for them.”
According to BNI secretary Khin Maung Shwe, the conference was scheduled to discuss development of democratic media, women and media, and ethnic media.
The first ethnic media conference was held in Mawlamyine, Mon State, in April last year.
CHIANG MAI- March 4. The Shan State Progress Party/Shan State
Army-North lost a strategic base while its leaders were attending a
census meeting in Naypyitaw.
The Burma Army’s Central Eastern Command in Kolam sent a letter to SSPP demanding that the SSA-N troops withdraw from Tar Hsarm Pu base, because the Burma Army would use that route. On February 27, the SSA withdrew from the base as demanded, but on February 28, the Burma Army seized and occupied the base.
An SSPP officer said, “The Burma Army sent a letter to us, demanding our troops withdraw from the base so that the Burma Army could use the route. Our high ranking officers at the headquarters believed that it was time to make peace and the Burma Army was sincere, but the Burma Army then deployed more troops and occupied our strategic base.”
According to SSPP spokesperson, Sai Hla “Tar Hsarm Pu base was like our backbone, where we collected transportation tax and mining tax, so we defended it with our lives in the past.”
Tar Hsarm Pu is an economically and militarily strategic base of SSPP/SSA where it connects to its ally the United Wa State Army (UWSA).
Meanwhile the Burma Army has deployed more troops in SSPP-controlled areas and engaged in fierce fighting in Nong Keaw, from February 28 till March 1st 2014. The villagers in Nar Kew have fled into the jungle and villages nearby.
According to a villager at Nar Kew, dozens of Burmese soldiers were killed in the battle, because they were not familiar with the location, and many SSPP/SSA soldiers were injured.
About 1,000 soldiers have been deployed in SSPP/SSA controlled areas, reportedly in an operation named Shan Thit (Shan 1) under the command of Major Myint Aung from the 77th Light Infantry Division of Bago.
By: Sai Wansai
Friday, 28 February 2014
So far as the first point is concerned, all know that the 2008 Constitution has been manipulated from the beginning of its formulation to the nationwide referendum, to be able to achieve the military supremacy stance in Burma political arena for as long as possible. And there is no denying that this is the core problem that needs to be addressed and tackled.
The second point is whether the unitary presidential system, which is centrally controlled, is compatible to the people’s desired genuine federal union, where political decision-making power is shared between the centre and the states.
Amending a few paragraphs here and there is definitely not going to solve the political woes and accumulating, nationwide problems. Eventually, all the people residing within Burma would have to come up with a reality of formulating their own desired constitution and political system they aspired and not just amending the military-drafted constitution, a little here and there, so that the military won’t be upset.
The people concerned with the well-being of country should now try to think of replacing the military-driven vehicle with its own driver at the steering wheel, rather than just being passive passengers with no real say in plotting the journey and destination.