Recently, two pieces of news that are quite crucial to better
understand the nature of ethnic conflict were published, which need
One is the interview of Khun Okker, Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) member, with DVB on 21 May, and the other Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hliang’s request to Deputy Foreign Affairs of CCP, Central Committee, on 19 May, reported by Mizzima.
Khun Okker said that NCCT preparation of Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) leaders’ summit meeting will be held in Chiangmai, Thailand from 25 to 27; and the ensuing summit meeting will take place at Lawkhila, Karen National Union (KNU) controlled area, from 2 to 6 June.
When asked why Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) and Union Peace-making Work Committee (UPWC) have to be present at the forthcoming Lawkhila meeting, Khun Okker said that they probably taking advantage of all ethnic leaders’ gathering to adjust glitches and discuss with the EAOs’ leaders that they usually do and not to attend the meeting.
No doubt, many might see it in another aspect, given that the KNU is close to the government and also lately held a meeting in Inya Lake hotel, Rangoon, with Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), also a group keen to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) as soon as possible, plus various registered political parties, on 9 May.
Various other questions Khun Okker answered are as follows:
- No altering of NCA, due to the awaited, lengthy procedure of even changing a word of preposition, for it will have to go from MPC to UPWC, then to the military for approval and they cannot decide on their own. Given such circumstance, he doesn’t think they will touch or alter the already accepted 5th NCA draft of 31 March. Otherwise, the process could be very long.
- United Wa State Army (UWSA) is not against NCA, but agrees that it should proceed with those that are already involved and those not in it should go with their own process and formula.
- Regarding Kokang conflict, it is the key issue that will determine if NCA could be signed. The regime would need to stop the military offensives or tone down the attacks on Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), if favorable condition to sign NCA is to be achieved. For without it, it will be impossible for the EAOs to go ahead with ratification. It depends on how much give-and-take could be handled between the two parties.
- On 16 EAOs count of UPWC and NCCT differ. While government count might include UWSA, National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), also known as Mongla, RCSS and groups that have signed ceasefire, either state-level or union-level, NCCT is for all-inclusiveness, which means all those within the NCCT and non-NCCT, EAOs should be involved in the signing of NCA. Besides, he pointed out the fact that Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) haven’t sign ceasefire agreement, but are accepted by the government as negotiation partners.
- Although all-inclusiveness doesn’t mean that all EAOs have to sign the NCA together at the same time, the remaining, excluding or left out groups must be taken in at a later date into the peace process; that is the signing of NCA. Furthermore, excluding groups must not mean permanent left out or subject to military offensives of the military; for this won’t be accepted by the EAOs. The excluding groups would need to have political guarantee to participate in the future.
- If one of the EAOs is attacked in one corner of the country and still NCA is signed, all will become a laughing stock.
Commander-in Chief request to China
On 19 May, the Vice Minister, of the International Department of the Communist Party of China, H.E. Mr. Chen Fengxiang and Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hliang met, where the latter stressed that along the 2000 kilometers border between China and Burma, problems of ethnic armed conflicts couldn’t be resolved until now, and that since it is the violation of Burma’s sovereignty employing armed insurrection, it could not be accepted. Furthermore, as strategic partners, in view of keeping good bilateral relationship, China is requested to help solicit the ethnic armed organizations to give up arms, according to Mizzima report of 20 May.
However, it is not reported on how Mr.Chen has responded to the request.
The Commander-in-Chief’s request was interpreted by some MPs and political parties’ leaders as below.
- U Khin Maung Swe, Chairman of National democratic Front (NDF) said political settlement is essential before asking the EAOs to give up arms and government must show sincerity and give political security first.
- U Hla Swe, the MP from Magwe, said that Min Aung Hliang seems to be telling that China should not help MNDAA militarily, while Daw Dwe Bu, an MP from Kachin State, stressed that speedily implementing federalism will do the job, without having to solicit help from outsiders.
- Sai Nyunt Lwin a top leader of Shan Nationalities league for Democracy (SNLD) is of the opinion that Burma Army wants China’s help to win the war and it is likely asking China not to help MNDAA militarily. He said political solution is the best.
According to DVB report of 22 May, responding to Burmese military chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s call for ethnic groups to abandon armed struggle, the general secretary of NCCT, Saw Kwe Htoo Win, has said that disarmament was never an issue on the table at ceasefire talks between the ethnic bloc and the government. Besides, surrendering arms was never an option nor was the matter included in the 5th NCA draft, signed on 31 March.
“During the era of the military junta, they used such terminologies as ‘abandoning the armed movement’ and ‘entering the legal fold’, but those issues or phrases were not used during the ceasefire talks,” he said.
Points to ponder
Given the prevailing situation, there are quite a few points to speculate or ponder. They are on how China would respond to Min Aung Hliang’s request, particularly the disarming of EAOs along the Burma-China border; both countries taking responsibility of the border areas; and the blaming of MNDAA for the latest bombardment that landed on Chinese soil, on 14-15 May.
With the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei stressing in a daily news briefing that China required the Burma to make a “serious, overall and responsible” investigation into the incident and give a responsible explanation to China, on 20 May, it was made clear on what the Chinese thought of Min Aung Hliang’s accusation that the 14-15 May bombing was the handiwork of the MNDAA. Otherwise, it would have come down hard on MNDAA.
According to 20 May Xinhua news, Hong said China also asked the Myanmar side to take effective measures to prevent similar incidents.
“We urge the relevant parties to cool down the situation and restore peace and stability to the China-Myanmar border area at an early date,” Hong said.
Again, taking responsibility of the border areas interpretation could also be different. While Min Aung Hliang point of view is to disarm and conducting joint-military operation to weed out the elements like MNDAA, UWSA, NDAA and the likes, which are more or less dependent on China and some even outrightly see them as China’s proxies, China’s position is to promote negotiations and resolve the armed conflict peacefully. Besides, it has always made known that it could be involved in a peace-keeping force headed by the United Nations to help return the border areas to normalcy.
Before summing up two paragraphs from The Diplomat issue of 20 May, written by Dr. Xue Li, Director of the Department of International Strategy at the Institute of World Economics and Politics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, might be just what China is having in mind, regarding the ongoing problems along Burma-China border.
“Finally, China should use the advantages of the Kokang area, and make it a model for implementation of the Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road Strategy. A prosperous Kokang can benefit both China and Myanmar. Establishing a Kokang Special Administrative Area (a step forward from the current autonomous area), where the Myanmar government is only responsible for defense and diplomacy, might be a viable solution. This will need Myanmar’s government to genuinely implement the Panglong Agreement, and to go beyond the 2008 constitution, which is not recognized by local ethnic minorities”.
“An autonomous Kokang can provide economic benefits. It can also set an example for Wa and Kachin States. For the Chinese government, a stable Kokang is beneficial to the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic corridor, oil and gas pipelines, and other transportation infrastructure, and allows for the protection of ethnic Chinese in the area”.
The contributor is ex-General Secretary of the dormant Shan Democratic Union (SDU) — Editor
“8 of the 10 Burma Army’s light infantry divisions are in Kokang (the UWSA’s northern neighbor),” he explained. “Naypyitaw doesn’t need such a big force to subdue Peng Jiasheng (Kokang leader of the Myanmar National Democratic Army).”
The MNDAA, the Wa’s ally, is estimated to be 2,000 strong compared to the estimated 30,000 strong UWSA, reported to be equipped with anti-aircraft guns and missiles.
“One weakness of the UWSA is that the Burma Army can use anti-narcotics campaign as a pretext to fight it,” he added. “So without having allies that enjoy solid reputation as politically-motivated EAOs, it may have to fight a lone war against the Burma Army.”
But the Wa, by all accounts, also appear to be brazenly asking for the leading role in the joint struggle. Why?
“They may have ample reasons to be self-confident, “he replied. He refused to elaborate.
Meanwhile, one of the officers from the Shan State Army (SSA) “North” told SHAN, “The conflict in the north, I believe, is developing into another proxy war between China and the US.”
But another SSA officer rejected, saying, “I think this is going too far. We need more facts and data before arriving at such conclusions. But if it is true, the fragile unity of the EAOs may be further fragmented.”
The EAOs are due to meet at Law Khee Lar, the Karen National Union (KNU) stronghold on the Thai-Burmese border, 2-6 June, to consider whether or not to approve the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) draft finalized between their representatives and the government on 31 March.
So now, according to the Global New Light of Myanmar article, Outcome of Pang Seng conference and the true identity of UWSA,
18 May 2015, leaders of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), whom the
government, either past or present, had known as “friends” and “national
race leaders,” are all of a sudden becoming “drug kingpins”.
The article has leveled 5 charges against them:
- Involvement in drugs
- Ignoring government “information” not to invite groups fighting against the Tatmadaw (Burmese military) i.e. Arakan Army (AA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Ta-ang National Liberation Army (TNLA)
- On “the path towards secession from the Union”
- Administrative positions being taken over by ethnic Chinese and official language being Chinese
- Running weapons manufacturing factories
- Challenging and “total defiance of” the central government
- Khun Sa (1934-2007), when he was fighting against other groups fighting against the government, was given a free hand in drug production and trade. But when he started calling for Shan independence, he became a druglord
- It was the same with Peng Jiasheng, leader of the MNDAA. He was “a good guy” and “leader of the Kokang national race” until he refused to transform his army into a government-controlled Border Guard Force (BGF). Then he became a drug producer and illegal weapons manufacturer
It seems the world, not only Burma, is in conflict because every peacemaker believes the only way to have peace is by listening to him/her and nobody else as a political cartoon has suggested. Because in reality, even a family cannot be at peace if the husband only does what the wife wants or vice versa.
All Burmese who goes to school are taught kings should treat their people as “bosom children” (yin-we-tha). But we seem to have left this teaching at school and never practice it in our everyday life. Instead our “kings”, past and present, appear to be treating their people as “enemies”.
Conclusion: Yes, we all have to change our mindsets, but it must start from the top, not bottom.
The journal, written by a participant, has 53 pages on A-4 type paper
plus 99 pages of copies of prepared statements made by leaders of the
12 ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) at the summit conference held in
Pang Kham, better known as Panghsang, 1-6 May.
The excerpts here are on the whole selected from speeches made by the Wa leaders.
1 May 2015
The conference is opened by Bao Youxiang, Secretary General of United Wa State Party (UWSP); Commander-in-Chief, United Wa State Army (UWSA); and Chairman, Wa State People’s Government.
“The purpose of the summit is the speedy realization of internal peace. It is also to build a common platform among us prior to political dialogue with the union government for a nationwide peace accord.
We have also applied for an autonomous state status to the union government. In this respect, we hope there will be sympathy, understanding and support from the leaders participating in the summit.
2 May 2015
He reads out a 21 point prepared statement:
- We will never fire the first shot.
Neither are we afraid when it comes.
- We will uphold the duty to defend the country when it is under external aggression. But we will not be cajoled into fighting another group inside the country.
- We welcome the 2015 elections and will respect the decision of the majority. Whichever party wins and becomes our government, we will support and cooperate with it.
- We welcome the NCA draft that was completed on 31 March.
- In order to avoid complications, we will not allow any party, except for the UWSP, to set up office and be active in our state.
- The Wa State believes the country’s problems will be solved only when the constitution is amended.
He then switches to the following unscripted speech:
Dialogue is the only way to achieve peace.
If we are able to create a common platform and the neither government nor the military accepts it but uses force to pressure us, then we will have a just cause to defend ourselves against it.
The president and the military suspect we are trying to form an alliance to fight against them, which is not true. Our main purpose is to explore ways to resolve the country’s problems peacefully.
Our domestic problems will be resolved by the nationalities of the country. We will not support foreign powers meddling in our affairs.
If we take the examples of Afghanistan and Iraq, we will find that their sufferings have prolonged because of the American interference. Did their interference bring an end to the people’s sufferings? No. That’s why our internal problems must be settled by ourselves.
4 May 2015
We support the Wa application for a new statehood.
We happens in Kokang today is because the Burmese government had violated the ceasefire and attacked us in 2009. Therefore the Burma Army must be held accountable.
On 15 February, the Burmese units executed more than 100 people, and in March, more than 20 people in Chinshwehaw. Several Kokangs were arrested in Lashio and Rangoon and executed.
The Burmese government must take responsibility for these acts.
We fully support the Wa call for statehood. We already issued a statement since last year.
We fully support the Wa application for becoming a new state.
We support the Wa demand for an autonomous statehood. We also hope leaders will support our own demand for a self administered zone status.
We pray that the Wa achieve a statehood.
5 May 2015
One from each group holds meeting “practically” discussing the draft statement prepared by the host.
6 May 2015
Today the summit reviews the draft statement which lasts from 08:55-18:05 until it is approved and the summit concludes.
Since the conflict is taking place along the Chinese border, the (peace keeping) supervision of China and the UN is necessary. Similarly, if it takes place along the Thai border, it should be the UN and Thailand that are supervising it.
Master of Ceremony
For statement Point #10, the Chinese version says the UWSP will take the leading role in the political dialogue. It seems to be different from the Burmese version.
The Burmese version is correct. How the representative body will be formed and who leads it are to be decided at the next summit as stated in Point #12.
Statement of the Panghsang summit:
- Resolution of the civil war through political means
- Inclusion of EAOs yet to conclude ceasefire with the government in the signing of the NCA
- Cessation of government offensives in Kachin, Palaung, Kokang and Arakan areas
- Curbs on further human rights abuse
- Amendment of 2008 constitution to build up a federal union based on democracy, racial equality and right of self determination
- There will be no secession from the union
- Welcomes UN and China’s efforts to bring about cessation of hostilities in northern Burma and the signing of the NCA
- Nationwide political dialogue must include representatives from government, parliament, Tatmadaw (Burmese military), political parties, the people and the EAOs
- Need to cultivate the spirit of peaceful co-existence among different nationalities
- EAOs will form a representative body to hold talks with the government
- The majority EAOs attending the summit have shown understanding and support for the Wa call for a state level status
- More meetings hosted by the United Wa State Party will be held in order to further discuss and implement the points agreed at the summit
It is incredible by all standard that the Burma’s Union Solidarity
and Development Party-Military (USDP-Military) regime has managed to
become center of attraction within a time span of a week or so, due to
its domestic issues mismanagement, failed policy implementation and
short-sighted political vision, on how to charter the troubled political
Two issues that have grabbed headlines are none other than the decades old “Rohingya” problem, that the regime even refused to recognize the use of its name, and the more than six decades old ongoing ethnic conflicts, now personified by Kokang armed conflict, which has implicated China and caused diplomatic row.
Armed ethnic conflict
The Kokang conflict, which thrust out as a focal point these days started out in earnest when the Pheng Jaisheng’s Myanmar national Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) forcefully re-entered Kokang area to reclaim back its authority from the regime’s installed local administration. As the regime sees this as an infringement of its sovereignty, in trying to dislodge its installed administration, an all-out war ensued. The armed conflict that has begun in early February now still goes on unabated, with the Tatmadaw [Burma Army (BA)] waging offensive war, using some 15,000 troops, heavy artillery, rocket batteries, helicopter gunships and even war planes. It is an all out military onslaught to teach the MNDAA a lesson and possibly to conduct area cleansing and wrestle back its influence in the region.
And in process, the BA has violated China’s territorial integrity at least four times, two of them with human casualties and property damages.
Mizzima on 16 May reported that five Chinese villagers were injured, two of them critically, after two artillery shells fired from Myanmar landed in their village in Yunnan province on May 14, China’s state broadcaster and other media report on May 15.
It is the second incident military incursion from Myanmar in two months resulting in casualties across the border in Yunnan. On March 8, four farmers were killed when a Myanmar government fighter jet dropped a bomb on a sugarcane field near Mengding village, in Yunnan’s Lincang district that straddles the border.
The May 14 incident occurred in densely populated Wenming village, also in Lincang district, at about 8.30pm, according to China Central Television (CCTV). The five wounded were rushed to a nearby hospital.
China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying’s, during her Regular Press Conference on May 15, 2015, when asked regarding the media reports, two shells fired from Myanmar fell in Zhenkang county, Lincang city of Yunnan Province, on 14 May, causing injuries, to confirm, give more details and if China lodged protest with Myanmar, replied:
“ We have taken note of the relevant report and are checking on this. Conflicts in the Kokang area of Northern Myanmar have lasted for over three months, during which multiple shells fired by the Myanmar side fell into China and put the life and property security of the Chinese people as well as stability of the China-Myanmar border area in great danger. The Chinese side expresses strong dissatisfaction over this, and has solemnly required the Myanmar side to take effective measures to preclude similar incidents. We urge relevant parties to cool down the situation and restore peace and stability to Northern Myanmar at an early date. China reserves the right to make further response in light of the verification result. ”
For now, China’s response seems to be quite measured, a kind of hand in glove treatment, but the situation could change, once it sees that the Burmese regime wouldn’t consider to resolve the armed conflict in a peaceful way, but only for zero-sum game of “total annihilation” of the MNDAA or dislodging it from Kokang area by any means.
Already the campaign of saving the Kokangnese population, who are Han Chinese descendants, are on high alert, with many overseas Chinese and mainly from mainland China participating and responding to the call in Chinese Facebook publications. This kind of mass campaign could fuel racial hatred, which won’t be beneficial for either conflict parties and could have grave ramification, affecting peaceful co-existence and territorial integrity of both countries – Burma and China.
Meanwhile, Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hliang met Chinese ambassador Mr. Yang Houlan and stressed that it might be the handiwork of MNDAA to disrupt the friendly relationship between China and Burma.
According to Mizzima report of 19 May, the Chinese ambassador told Min Aung Hlaing that since the Chinese government didn’t like to hurt the two countries’ relationship, the Burmese regime should take measures that no further bombardment occurred again on Chinese soil. Min Aung Hliang told the Chinese ambassador that the situation was quite fishy and precarious, for the geographical location of the enemy, line of fire condition, and the distance of BA location suggested that it couldn’t be BA that has fired. Furthermore, he said, on 14 May night, long line of fires from MNDAA positions towards China were seen visibly. During this night BA didn’t fire a single shot, when more than 40 artillery were said to be fired. Reportedly, one Chinese was said to be killed during this period.
Earlier, on 16 May report of VOA, Tun Myat Lin, spokesman and general secretary of MNDAA, regarding the incident said: “We are defending the enemy with our backs to the borderline. So all our weapons, guns, RPGs will only fall on the west side of the border. That’s why only Burmese Tatamadaw’s firing could go into China. Besides, we heard that it is 105mm Light Gun, which we don’t have in our arsenal.”
According to 15 May report of BBC, in the past three years, more than 120,000 Rohingyas have boarded ships to flee abroad, according to the UN refugee agency. It published a report in May saying that 25,000 migrants had left Myanmar and Bangladesh in the first quarter of this year, about double the number over the same period last year. Between 40-60% of the 25,000 are thought to originate from Myanmar’s western State of Rakhine.
Lately, as thousands of Rohingyas and people from Bangladesh filled rickety boats that have been criss-crossing Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, being pushed back by the said countries into the seas, a regional humanitarian crisis has been created, in what the International Organization for Migration has described as “maritime ping-pong with human lives”.
An editorial of Bangkok Post, on 18 May, pointed out that the two long plagued problems of the region, Human trafficking and a sudden surge in the flood of boat people from the Myanmar-Bangladesh border region have long been there. Clearly, these twin problems have festered for too long. It is equally evident that solutions are neither simple nor easy. One shining fact, however, is that Myanmar is at once the largest part of the problem, and the key to a lasting resolution. This is not to say the entire regional problem of boat people and human trafficking is Myanmar’s fault. An international conference has been called in Bangkok by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on May 29. It probably will feature plenty of finger-pointing.
It is noteworthy, when Prime Minister Prayut rightly said that the end of the migration was impossible without cooperation from their home and destination countries. “ We need to solve the problem at the upstream and downstream levels,” he said, according to the Bangkok Post of 15 May.
However, various media reported that Zaw Htay, director of Myanmar’s presidential office, said his leaders would not attend if the word “Rohingya” was used in the invitation, as they did not recognise the term.
“We are not ignoring the migrant problem, but… we will not accept the allegations by some that Myanmar is the source of the problem,” he told the Associated Press news agency.
“The problem of the migrant graves is not a Myanmar problem, it’s because of the weakness of human trafficking prevention and the rule of law in Thailand,” he said in a separate interview with AFP.
According to Human Rights Watch report, on 1 May 2015, a joint military-police taskforce discovered at least 30 bodies at an abandoned human trafficking camp in the Sadao district of Songkhla province close to the Thai-Malaysian border. Many were buried in shallow graves, while others were covered with blankets and clothes and left in the open. Police reports indicate the dead are ethnic Rohingya Muslims from Burma and Bangladesh who starved to death or died of disease while held by traffickers who were awaiting payment of ransoms before smuggling them into Malaysia.
While the Burmese regime thinks that human trafficking is the cause of Rohingya’s flight, other surrounding countries of south-east Asia are convinced that they are leaving Buddhist-majority Myanmar, also known as Burma, because they are not recognised as citizens and face persecution.
Recently, the regime met with foreign diplomats at Myanmar Peace Center, on 18 May, to address the ongoing crisis of human trafficking along the country’s western coast, vowing to collaborate with regional governments to combat trafficking while denying that a recent exodus was caused by conflict and discrimination in the country. Minister of Information Ye Htut, however, failed to
commit to attending a May 29 multinational summit hosted by Thailand to address the crisis.
Denial and policy failure
The denial of taking responsibility to resolve the humanitarian and citizenship problems surrounding the Muslim population of Ararkan State, in an internationally accepted norms, won’t make the situation any better. And if the USDP-Military regime will make use of the plight of these downtrodden people for political advantage and galvanize ultra-Buddhist extremism, all of us could say good-bye to the half-hearted, reform process, muddling through without real political will to compromise, on an all-inclusive, nationwide consideration.
The direct effect of these two issues, Rohingya migration and repeated violation of Chinese territorial integrity could be horrendous. Already a Bangladesh op-Ed suggesting secession of the Rohingya populated area has touched the nerves of the sovereignty conscious regime; and what would happen, if Kokang and Wa would opt for the same thinking of joining China, rather than enduring USDP-Military heavy-handedness, which have time and again being proven by gross human rights violations in recent Kokang conflict and uncountable crime against humanity in all ethnic areas, all these years. If memory have failed to recall all these rights violations, one only needs to go back and look at all the well-documented archives by well-known rights groups like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and year-in and year-out UN Resolutions until a few years back.
Actually, the USDP-Military regime is in a better position to come to grip with the seemingly impossible to solve the problems surrounding the country. For one thing, almost all the non-Burman ethnic nationalities have, time and again, made known that all would like to find a solution within the formation of a federal union and vowed not to secede, which should be a sound basis for reconciliation. The regime and the misled Burman political elite only need to revisit and revitalize the original agreement of Panglong, where equality, rights of self-determination and democracy are enshrined for all ethnic groups of the country. And the place to start is, as repeatedly mentioned, to rewrite the constitution, according to the aspirations of the peoples inhabiting Burma. It wouldn’t do to monopolize state power by a privileged class or a majority ethnic group, for it is a multi-ethnic state and has to be governed accordingly, representing the whole political spectrum.
Another important point to take heed is that not to lend moral legitimacy to ultra-Buddhist, Burman nationalism, which is neither in line with Buddhist Dharma Teachings nor social justice. For giving a hand to such twisted ideology will only amount to promoting racial supremacy, Nazism that has no place in the world today.
One of the items on the agenda tomorrow at the Regional Border
Committee (RBC) meeting to be held in Chiang Mai is the introduction of
Burma’s temporary consul general Maj Kaung Zan Lwin, according to Thai
and Burmese security sources.
“4 of his staff, 3 male and 1 female, are already in Chiang Mai,” said a source. “But they are yet to disclose where the consulate will be located.”
The former consulate which was closed after Gen Ne Win came to power in 1962, was reportedly located in the old city near the Suan Buak Hard Park at the southwest corner of the moat. Thailand, in return, closed its consulate in Kengtung.
“As one-sixth of the city’s population are migrant workers from Burma, the need to look after them and their affairs are considerable,” said a source from the Burmese side.
The RBC is expected to be arranged by 5 regional commanders from the Burmese side: Triangle, Central East, Eastern, Southeastern and Coastal, and 2 regional commanders on the Thai side: the Third (Northern) and the Fourth (Southern).
Ta’ang National Liberation Army has continued taxing passengers and
car drivers passing on the main road between Kutkhai and Muse township,
northern Shan State, on May 18 morning.
The TNLA troops captured the union road between Muse and Kutkhai townships and set up a checkpoint at Parngsalong, Nam Pak Gar, about 15 miles from Kutkhai township.
Every vehicle was charged if they could not provide a receipt from the previous payment.
“I came from Lashio and headed to Muse this morning when I got stopped by the TNLA troops at about 8 am,” said a car driver called Sai Nong. “I had to pay them the car tax”.
He said, “People were calling their relatives or friends, telling them not to come on this way. Large trucks from both Muse or Lashio decided not to pass. Many trucks had to stop on the way, to wait until they stopped collecting.”
“We were supposed to be in Muse by noon to have our lunch. Because of this we arrived at 3 pm,” said one of the passengers U Ar Lee to SHAN. “This caused a lot trouble for the citizens.”
“I have no idea what is going on in our country. When the government troops collect money they call it “passing fees “. When ethnic armed groups do it, they call it “fundraising”. In any case, we have to pay both groups,” he said.
The tax range was according to the size of the vehicle; 20,000 kyats for a small car, 50,000 to 100,000 kyats for a bigger car, but 300,000 kyat for a twelve-wheel truck and twenty-two-wheel trucks or above had to pay between 500,000 to one million kyats.
“Stick to your guns” is a well-known English saying. It
means that you will not compromise. You will continue to demand what you
both need and deserve, and not settle for less.
For Burma, the country’s ethnic nationalities, who have suffered over fifty years of oppression at the hands of the Burman-dominated military dictatorship, need and deserve freedom and democracy. More immediately, they need relief from the dictatorship’s attacks against them, including its widespread and systematic commission of a wide range of crimes against humanity.
The ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) that defend the people from the dictatorship recently concluded a six day conference, following which they released a statement about the situation in the country and their attempts to reach a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the regime. (A translation of this statement, prepared by Myanmar Peace Monitor, and included in the article Burma Ceasefire Agreement: One step forward, two steps back, by Mark Inkey in Asian Correspondent, May 08, 2015, is included at the end.)
The statement’s most pressing demands are that the dictatorship stop its attacks, end its human rights abuses, and that the NCA include all the armed groups. Otherwise, how can it possibly be a “ceasefire,” and “nationwide”?
Of note, these demands, either overt or implied, have been part of all the EAO position statements dating back to the beginning of the ceasefire negotiation. This includes at the UNFC’s ethnic nationalities conference in August 2013; the Laiza meeting in November 2013; the Lawkeelar meeting in January 2014; and the UNFC statement in April 2015.
The ethnic nationality demands have never wavered. Similarly, the dictatorship’s aggression and abuse has never ceased.
The EAOs will now meet again, to consider the draft NCA (to which the latest UNFC statement applied). Frankly, given the regime’s intransigence, one wonders why they even bother. They have made their demands, and which are not only just: they are essential. The dictatorship must compromise, otherwise there is no reason even to talk.
The pro-democracy organizations for Burma’s ethnic nationality peoples must stick to their guns. This means they should never back down, and also, quite literally, that they should not end their armed struggle. The revolution in Burma must continue until their demands – the legitimate aspirations of their people – are achieved.
BURMA ETHNIC ARMED ORGANIZATIONS STATEMENT
Pangsang Meeting, May 1-6, 2015
- We reject the use of force. Political problems have to be solved by political means.
2. All ceasefire groups and non-ceasefire groups must have the right to sign the NCA.
3. The fighting in Northern Shan State and Kachin State must stop because it causes distrust.
4. Human rights violations in ethnic areas must stop.
5. The constitution has to be amended to guarantee ethnic rights, self-determination and a federal union.
6. We will not secede from the union
7. Fighting in Northern Burma must stop and the U.N. and China must monitor the ceasefire.
8. There must be all-inclusive political dialogue that includes the government, parliament, the army, political parties, EAOs and civil society organisations.
9. We all live together in the union, so we should have mutual respect and help each other. We need to build unity between Burmese and non-Burmese.
10. A group that includes representatives of all EAO groups should negotiate with the government and participate in political dialogue.
11. Conference participants support the proposal for the formation of a Wa State.
12. The United Wa State Party/Army will organise another EAO leaders conference at a convenient time.
Contact: Roland Watson, firstname.lastname@example.org
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