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.
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)
- 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.
- 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
- 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).
- 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)
- Save as otherwise expressly provided in this Constitution or in any Act of Parliament
- The right of secession shall not be exercised within ten years from the date on which
- (1) Any State wishing to exercise the right of secession shall have a resolution to
- The President shall thereupon order a plebiscite to be taken for the purpose of
- The President shall appoint a Plebiscite Commission consisting an equal number
- Subject to the provisions of this Chapter, all matters relating to the exercise of the right
- Frontier Areas