Why the ethnic parties lost in the last election

There is two reasoning why the ethnic parties lost in the last nationwide elections.
One is the so-called tactical vote, where all non-Bamar ethnic groups, fed up with the military's suppression and military occupation of their homeland, decided to vote for the Aung San Suu Kyi-led NLD to usher in the "regime change". For they knew every vote counts, to get rid of the hated military and its regime, the USDP.
The second one is the election, played out on an imbalanced political playing field. Suu Kyi was and is a world class political figure, aside from being an democracy icon, who is closely identified with the NLD. Thus the elections held in ethnic areas were like a fight between a light weight and a heavy weight boxers, or if you like, a fight between Goliath and David.
Not surprisingly, except only in Shan and Arakan States, the NLD won with a big margin.
While the tactical voting is necessary to give the NLD the majority it needed, it is not aimed to be a blank check that the NLD or Suu Kyi should take it for granted. In other words, ethnic states politics should be left to the ethnic parties to sort out the representative question among themselves, and not muddying it in the name of rallying under a "national party" banner, that has the nature of cross-cutting across the ethnic lines. For NLD is a Bamar party in every sense of the words and not a union party that it wants itself to be seen or portrayed. Of course, the time will come, when such political configuration will become a reality, like in a lot of matured democratic countries, but not now.
But this is not to say, the ethnic tactical voting during the last election was wrong, but in fact, it is a brilliant move. The only problem now is for the NLD to accept and draw back now from the forthcoming future elections and abstain from entering the fray in ethnic states, and instead, energize the ethnic parties that have the identical ideology as coalition partners, concentrating only in the 7 Divisions or Regions, where the majority of the Bamar resides.
Of course, whether the NLD and Suu Kyi could brush out their latent ethnocentrism, camouflaged by the national party facade, and follow the said suggestion is another question.
The point here is just to give some theoretical thinking, why the ethnic parties had performed so badly in the last elections.

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Shan rights group urges government action in sexual assault case

The Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN) issued a statement last week calling on Burmese government authorities to take steps to ensure that due process is followed in a sexual assault case involving a teenage Shan women. The group alleges that the victim, who remains unnamed, was sexually assaulted by her businessmen employer in Mandalay 2014.

SWAN alleges that the young victim was sexually assaulted by Maung Hla Sein, also known as Kin Min Jee, age 24, the manager of the Xin Hua Company and later physically assaulted by his father-in-law U Kyan Yee Kane, the owner of the Xin Hua Company.
According to SWAN the first incident took place on November 6 2014 when the then 17-year old Shan teenager, a cook for the Xin Hua Company in Mandalay, was sexually assaulted by Maung Hla Sein, at the Shwe Phyu Guesthouse. At the time of the alleged incident Maung Hla Sein was in charge of the local Xin Hua Company branch.
According to SWAN following the sexual assault Maung Hla Sein told the then 17 year old that they would get married. The young women continued to stay with the man for 3 months and became pregnant. Maung Hla Sein, allegedly drugged her without her consent causing their unborn child to be aborted. Maung Hla Sein, is then alleged to have told the victim to go back to her home, after promising her that he would marry her within two months. This never happened, according to SWAN.
It is alleged that Maung Hla Sein later phoned the victim and told her that they could not marry because he was already married but that he would give her 40,000 Kyat (approx US$33,000) as compensation for what he did. According to SWAN however he never paid her the promised funds, the young women then filed a law suit against him.
According to SWAN while the suit was still pending the young woman was summoned by Maung Hla Sein’s father in-law, U Kyan Yee Kane, to come to their family's home Muse in order to discuss the settlement. According to SWAN, “When she arrived at the house at 7 pm on 7 May 2015, U Kyan Yee Kane and his entire family brutally beat the girl, stripping her of her clothing. She managed to escape with no clothes on,”
The the victim then filed a report about the incident with police authorities in Muse. According to SWAN,“Since then, there have been more than 30 court appointments regarding the case. The Police officer responsible for the assault case, Sub Inspector of Police, U Aung Lin never appeared in court. There has been no examination of the attackers, U Kyan Yee Kane and Daw Ah Shwin.”
In March 2016, the victim was informed that she was being sued by U Kyun Yee Kane and is facing charges under Penal Codes 447 & 427. The same judge, U Sithu Tun , is supposed to be presiding over both cases.
Reached for comment, Ying Harn Fah, a spokesperson for SWAN told the Shan Herald that she is concerned that the accused's wealth and influence has been used to further harm the young woman.
“Nobody has stood on the side of the young woman who has been violated, including the government. That’s why I want the new government to know this. I want to warn them that allowing foreign businessmen to manipulate Burma’s judiciary is an infringement of the country’s sovereignty,” she said.
Yein Han Pha added that her group will continue to support the Shan teenager throughout her ordeal. “SWAN will stand on the side of violated and oppressed women. I want to request the public to help and support the women who are victims of injustice. In most cases, the families abandon the case and fail to report them to the police because of their feelings of shame. Such kind of things shouldn’t happen in this era. I want everyone to give their support and take fair action against injustice”, Ying Harn Fah said.

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21 Century Panglong Convention: A way forward for peace process?

Concerning the pending and failed peace process, a lot of people, including Burma watchers were expecting another spectacular performance from Aung San Suu Kyi. However, they were disappointed as it turned out to be an average show, not comparable in anyway to the two extra-ordinary political moves played out earlier by the National League for Democracy (NLD) regime, namely: the creation of a State Counsellor position Suu Kyi against the military (Tatmadaw) strong opposition and the mass release of the political prisoners, incarcerated by the former, Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP)-Military regime.
True to her conviction, Aung San Suu Kyi did tried to impress her audience by declaring that she is keen to start a nationwide political dialogue, dubbed the “21st Century Panglong” within one or two months, during a speech given in Naypyitaw, on 27 April, at the Union Ceasefire Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC-U) meeting that was supposed to be her first serious political appearance, after taking office as a State Counsellor.
While she admitted that it is a sort of information gathering, learning and orientation to be acquainted with the works done by the previous administration regarding their undertakings, she left no doubt that the course of peace process would be set by her, involving restructuring of the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) and perhaps, even introducing the whole new game plan, although she hasn't spelled it out as yet.
For the moment, her intention was said to be convening the political dialogue, which she might and could term it as 21st Century Panglong, while at the same time, wooing the non-signatory Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).
Now let us look at the reactions of the ethnic leaders and the Tatmadaw on this latest Aung San Suu Kyi's initiative.
Responses of the ethnic leaders
Regarding Suu Kyi's initiative, Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) Chairman Hkun Htun Oo, according to BBC, said that to achieve peace, constitutional amendment is essential, for the EAOs are also asking for it. As circumventing it is not possible, the present regime should discuss and secure promises from the military.
He stressed that doubts are growing between the military and EAOs and thus is impossible to amend constitution through the peace conference. And also since both camps are having their own policy and planning, only sitting down at the table on an equal basis would be able to resolve the problems.
He added further, “At the moment, Burma's political situation is not even clear who is leading (the country)”.
SNLD Secretary General Sai Nyunt Lwin, who was offered a minister post by NLD but declined due to his party decision, was also of the opinion that it would be more appropriate to start the Suu Kyi's initiated move only after the problematic of armed conflict is resolved.
He said: “I welcome (Suu Kyi's initiated) convention and also endorsed it. But desiring it to happen within one or two months and don't want to wait longer is just the opinion of the elder sister (Suu Kyi). In reality there could be a lot of problems. It is impossible to start an all-inclusive discussion within two months. A lot of talking is needed with the Tatmadaw. Raging battles are not the only concern of the Tatmadaw, (we) need to talk with the other side (EAOs) as well. (We) could start the negotiation only if both sides could stop fighting.”
Secretary General of United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) Khu Oo Reh also echoed the same when he said: “My view is that if we are going to hold such convention, we would need a common agreement. And to prepare details concerning political issues and discussion together, we need to first stop the ongoing war. (We) just can't lightly say that the ceasefire is already there. I think firstly it has to be firmly consolidated.”
UNFC Vice-Chairman Nai Han Tha's point of view was more or less along the same line and stressed that Panglong-like conference or convention would only be effective, if it is all-inclusive and nationwide ceasefire could be implemented. But in order to do it he said: “All EAOs need to participate and nationwide ceasefire has to be in place. Otherwise, it would be also good if the government could declare unilateral ceasefire and invite all (EAOs). For example, in 1963, the government just stopped fighting and invited all (anti-government combatants). The (present) regime could also do the same.”
The Tatmadaw
Generally, the military seems to be in tune with the policy of NLD, although armed confrontations are ongoing in Kachin, Shan and Ararkan States.
Lieutenant General Yar Pyae, vice-chairman of the Union-level JMC formed by eight armed ethnic groups who signed a so-called NCA and the military last October under the former military-backed government led by Thein Sein, said prior to the Aung San Suu Kyi's attendance of the meeting on 27 April: “The new government has said many times that it will work to prioritize national reconciliation and peace as its policy.”
“The groups that have signed the NCA should work [as examples] for achieving national reconciliation and peace,” Yar Pyae said. “We will work to stop fighting by connecting with each other, because we have networks.”
In an interview with BBC Burmese, Colonel Wunna Aung, secretary of the JMC-U described Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s perspective on the peace process as a continuation of the Tatmadaw’s goals.
“What she said is in line with what we have been doing,” said the Colonel. “The most important thing is the ceasefire. Only after the ceasefire can we move on to political dialogue and the peace conference.”
According to an interview with an online media, Col Wunna Aung, who is also a spokesperson for the Tatmadaw, besides being a member of the JMC-U, recently said: “We will cooperate. We’ll form committees and continue engaging in the peace process. It is too early to say when [a second Panglong conference can be held]. We still can’t say, as we have not yet prepared. We are no longer fighting with the eight groups with which we have signed the ceasefire. As we are an organization dedicated to peace, we will give a hand to the peace process.”
Outlook and analysis
The military doesn't vary much with the ethnic leaders on the convening of peace conference, or according to Suu Kyi's wish of 21st Century Panglong Convention, that it needs to wait until real ceasefire on the ground could be established. But the major responsibility hinges upon the military, for so long as it is entertaining the idea of being the sole enforcer and protector of the national unity and sovereignty, going about with its military offensives within the ethnic homelands, in the name of establishing the “area of influence and peacefulness” policy, the war cannot be stopped, much less the durable ceasefire.
The case in point, why meaningful ceasefire could be hard to achieve might be the explanation made by the Pyidaungsu Institute's Director Khuensai Jaiyane, when he said: “The Burmese military seems to want to secure as much land as it can before political dialogue starts with the new government. These kind of acts affect trust.”
Generally speaking, the phobia that the EAOs would opt for secession from the union by the Tatmadaw and Bamar political class is an outdated perception, given the unfavourable contemporary regional and international configuration in facilitating such an ambition. And as such, they have all given up the aspiration of total independence and since years projected their aims to a practically achievable genuine federalism, within the mould of the present political entity.
Likewise, all the non-Bamar ethnic nationalities have embarked on a federalism solution, as a way out of the ongoing ethnic conflict and realization of their political aspirations.
However, the existing reality on the ground are ongoing wars in Shan, Kachin and Ararkan States, involving Kachin Independence Army, Shan State Progress Party,Ta'ang National Liberation Army, Kokang's Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, and Ararkan Army, while latent conflict prevails with all the non-signatory EAOs, including the United Wa State Army, which fields some 30,000 troops and is the strongest ethnic armed group.
Adding to these debacles are the Tatmadaw's positioning of a “state within a state” posture which tend to leave the government of the day powerless to deal with the peace initiative in an effective and appropriate manner, as the former Thein Sein regime had shown, during his five years tenure. The present NLD government, no doubt, also faces the same position.
The name of the game then is to ponder on a workable cooperation between the NLD regime and the Tatmadaw, so that real ceasefire on the ground could be implemented.
For now, the strained situation between the two adversaries are compounded by a number of disagreement, undertaken by the NLD, such as creation and appointment of Suu Kyi to a State Counsellor position and mass release of the former regime's political opposition prisoners. Recently, as if to stoke the military's burning anger, although symbolic and insignificant it might seem, the publicized administrative line-up in the presidential Facebook, which placed Suu Kyi second in line, after the President and pushed down the Commander-in-Chief one place down to the eighth place, is not so helpful or conducive for the cooperation to materialize.
Furthermore, Thura Shwe Mann, who recently called on his 11th in-take classmate of the DSA to join the Suu Kyi's regime in the democratization and development of the country is seen by the Tatmadaw as driving a wedge between the military establishment. More so, as Shwe Mann is a former USDP second boss and now head of the Commission for the Assessment of Legal Affairs and Special Issues, under the NLD regime.
Given such prevailing political atmosphere, Suu Kyi is faced with a dilemma of escalating the latent conflict to an open one and reversing the confrontation course to a manageable level that the military could accept without losing face, enabling the top brass to fade away in silence, coupled with a continuation of democratization process that would benefit the country and the people. Thus, handling this delicate political situation, or charting the troubled political waters, would largely depend on the ability, far-sightedness and tactfulness  of the NLD leadership and Suu Kyi.
In the same vein, the Tatmadaw leadership would need to accept and confront with the reality of the people's wish, personified by Suu Kyi and her NLD, and do away with its entrenched, privileged stature of a “state within a state” of more than 50 years.
If such a compromise could be worked out, unilateral ceasefire on the part of the NLD regime could be easily announced and implemented, followed by all-inclusive invitation of all ethnic armed combatants without preconditions, leading to an all-inclusive Panglong-like convention and eventually, a set of political settlement that all could identify and live with.

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Burma army mobilization in Kokang blocks refugee returns says report

A new report released recently by the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) alleges that an ongoing mobilization of army troops in northern Shan state along the border with China in Kokang has made it “impossible for tens of thousands of Kokang refugees to return home”.

The outbreak of heavy fighting between Kokang forces from the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and Burmese government troops in February of last year led to an estimated 100,000 refugees fleeting from the homes, many of the refugee arrived in China. “Now continuing persecution by Burmese troops camped near their villages is preventing many of these refugees from returning home,” concludes the SHRF report released on April 22nd.
“No one can go back to our village now. The Burma Army has blocked the road to our village. They have also laid land mines at the border to prevent people crossing over”, said a 61 year old refugee farmer from Shung Diao Ai interviewed by SHRF. According to this man three other refugees returned to his village to check on their possessions in March of last year and they were never seen from again.
SHRF interviewed refugees from more than 20 villages in Laogai and Konkyan townships, many of whom described their villages as completely “deserted or with only a few inhabitants temporarily staying to look after their farms”. According to SHRF the interviews indicate that there is a “deliberate strategy by the Burma Army to depopulate the eastern border regions of the entire Kokang self administered zone.”
Another refugees SHRF interviewed also described other serious human rights abuses including rape being carried out by Burma army soldiers on Kokang refugee women who sought to return to their villages last year.
Report: UN downplays Kokang refugee crisis
Citing figures from aid workers, SHRF reports that there are still more than 20,000 Kokang refugees enduring increasingly precarious conditions in China's Yunnan province. A recent report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) on Burma's refugee situation released in January estimated that only 4,000 Kokang refugees remain in China, something that doesn't sit well with SHRF who say that the UNOCHA report “downplays the severity of the crisis”.
SHRF's research found that many of the refugees who fled to China are currently “sheltering in makeshift camps just inside the Chinese border, surviving on donations from volunteers and wage labour in nearby farms”. Compounding the crisis, Chinese authorities shut down the official camps last year, according to SHRF. In the report's conclusion the group called on donors and aid agencies “to seek ways to address the urgent humanitarian and protection needs of the refugees sheltering along the Kokang-China border.”

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In my first article about the reset of the negotiations in Burma, I made the following points: The NCA should be abandoned; new people were needed (the MPC staff should be excluded from the peace process); the ethnic and religious census results should be published immediately; the law should be changed so the EAOs are not designated as illegal; the NLD should take ownership of the process; and, the focus should be on achieving peace on the ground, before proceeding to political negotiations.
Aung San Suu Kyi has just attended a meeting of the Joint Monitoring Committee - she does appear to be taking control of the process. But, the JMC was an outcome of the so-called NCA between the military dictatorship and two resistance armies, the leaders of which were bribed by Europe to sign. In addition, the MPC is going to be renamed the National Reconciliation and Peace Center. It apparently will survive (probably at the behest of Europe), although it is uncertain if the old faces will return.
Just by participating in this meeting, Suu Kyi gave legitimacy to the NCA. She further said, as quoted by DVB: "By strengthening the ceasefire we have now and making evident the positive outcomes of a strong ceasefire to the public, we can entice the remaining parties to join in and pave the way for peace talks that can promise us perpetual peace."
This statement signifies a couple of things. First, she believes there is a ceasefire. This is ridiculous, as the dictatorship is attacking the EAOs in many different places. The Burma Army even last week invaded the KNDO HQ, which NCA violation led the group to announce: "The NCA is bringing a fake peace in our territories and this evil accord was only implemented to destroy the ethnic people."
Secondly, Suu Kyi also has no intention to abandon the NCA. She merely wants the non-signer EAOs to sign. These groups resisted years of intensive pressure, because it meant surrender, and now her strategy appears to be: Well, just sign - surrender - anyway. Dear Daw Suu: There will be no "positive outcomes," or "strong ceasefire." Please understand, the old peace process served the dictatorship perfectly. Nothing concrete happened and the Burma Army came under no pressure: to stop offensives, war crimes, even to implement code of conduct measures with the groups, such as the KNU, with which it had deals. It was a time wasting exercise. For Senior General Than Shwe, it did exactly what he wanted. Now, you are proposing that the process that suited him perfectly be continued.
At the JMC meeting she further called for a new Panglong conference, in one to two months time, which would be a political meeting, and for which an enduring peace on the ground is absolutely essential. Also, the census results are still not published, one month after the NLD has taken over the government; and, while the law is being changed to decriminalize protest, it is unclear if this will extend to the armed resistance groups.
The issue of False Equivalence
The reason all of this is important is because it reveals the fundamental assumption underlying the entire negotiation: that the two sides have equal legitimacy. But, while the Burman dictators and the EAOs are absolutely the two sides of the negotiation, they are not equal. The first is the oppressor and the second the oppressed. In many peace talks, such as over borders or territory, the different sides often have authentic positions tied to history. The purpose of the discussion is therefore to negotiate these differences. This does not hold for Burma. Indeed, Harvard Law School researchers who studied the country concluded that the generals have committed war crimes. They shouldn't even be in the peace process. They should be arrested, and tried at the International Criminal Court.
When Sui Kyi says that she has warm feelings for the Burma Army, or that the NCA should be extended, she is reinforcing the false equivalence between the dictators and the EAOs. She, possibly without even realizing it, has picked sides. To once again state the obvious: any peace process that is biased will fail.
The EAOs' greatest fear has always been that Suu Kyi would align with the Burma Army. This would give credence to the idea that they are insurgents. This is why they and their activist allies have repeatedly documented that it is the military who are the terrorists, and who have invaded the ethnic homelands like a colonizing force and committed crimes against humanity.
The possible explanations for Suu Kyi's bias include that she doesn't really understand it - she lacks both self knowledge and a deep appreciation of what is taking place and what needs to be done to bring peace to Burma; that it is actually an overt characteristic - she is a Burman racist; or that she is uninformed. To be polite, I will assume the last. When she was under house arrest, she obviously had limited access to information, but this no longer holds. Suu Kyi should make a sincere effort to understand Burma's civil war, including its daily manifestations. She further needs help to do this. For example, President Obama is given an intelligence brief, every morning, about events - notably military events - that are signifiant to U.S. interests and policy. Suu Kyi needs the same type of brief.
In the first article I said that the NLD should establish a peace working group, to manage the process. One of the responsibilities of this group should be to prepare this brief, including of all the conflict currently underway in the different parts of Burma. Furthermore, the EAOs should help with this, since they have the best battlefield intel. They should email sitreps to the new NLD peace group, which can then include the info in Suu Kyi's briefs.
I would also suggest that the first order of business for the EAOs, through the UNFC, should be to compile a list of all the Burma Army bases and outposts in their territory, including with the number of soldiers present and their heavy equipment such as artillery and aircraft. There are no doubt hundreds of such bases. Lists, and if possible maps, would make the full extent of the Burma Army colonization clear, and also that the obvious route to peace is for the generals to withdraw.
Lastly, in a negotiation there is an agenda, of what needs to be discussed. But, for Burma, there is one thing that is not subject to negotiation. The Burma Army must stop its attacks. Aung San Suu Kyi can believe in unicorns, for all I care, but there won't be peace in the country until the military dictatorship ends it offensives.
A new Panglong
This brings us to the idea that it is possible to have a new Panglong conference, in short order. Suu Kyi's proposal misses a basic point. The Panglong Agreement was signed in February 1947. This was a year and a half after the end of World War II; before the assassination of Aung San that July; and almost two years before eventual dictator Ne Win started attacking the Karen in Insein and other townships. This means Panglong was signed during that rare thing for Burma, a period of peace, and with a trusted leader in charge. Suu Kyi may be trusted by many people, including some EAO leaders, but there is no peace. There is no possibility at all of a new Panglong until there is peace on the ground, and for an extended period. But, this isn't up to her. Regarding conflict, the generals are in charge. And, if anything, they have increased their attacks since the election. Suu Kyi promoting the possibility is simply raising false hopes and expectations. It may even be an attempt to deceive (that she can bring peace to the country without confronting the military).
Finally, if such a time does arrive when a new Panglong conference may be held, the EAOs should be extremely careful about signing anything. The original agreement is still valid, and it gives them many rights, including to secede. A new agreement will rescind this. Considering how uncertain the future of Burma is, with the dictators still in power and clearly after Suu Kyi leaves the scene, the EAOs need to hold onto their guns and not yield any of their rights.
The National Census
In conclusion, I want to return to the unpublished national census results once again. Why do I focus so intently on what seems to be a minor issue? The reason is that their publication could change the peace negotiation if not the entire national dynamic. Everything about Burma is based on a single idea, that the Burmans are the majority. It underlies the generals' demand that they be in charge, and that the EAOs have no right to leave the union much less autonomy. It further supports the false equivalence - the dictators must be legitimate since they "represent" the majority.
But, what if the Burmans aren't the majority? Prior national surveys counted all Buddhists as Burmans and mixed group individuals as well. The results, therefore, were false. But now there is a much better, and U.N. sponsored, count. It is quite possible if not likely that pure-Burmans (both parents are Burman) are not in the majority. Instead, the country has no majority. It is a collection of disparate minority groups!
In that case, no one group can claim precedence. Indeed, the country must have a federal democracy. No other system can work.
Suu Kyi, though, is extending the censorship. This combined with her appointment of regime official Thein Swe as Immigration and Population head is very suspicious. She is either being timid - she fears what will happen if the truth is known; or she really is a Burman bigot and racist, and not only against the Rohingya. Aung San Suu Kyi: Don't live in fear! Please release the ethnic and religious breakdowns. The truth will set you, and the country, free.
By Roland Watson
Dictator Watch

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The Mantra of Give and Take

The State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, during her meeting with  Union Ceasefire Joint Monitoring Committee recently, 28 April, said “I always urge, when you do a job, there is give and take. It can be more productive if every one of us considers what we can give. It will be more difficult if you consider what you can take.”
Give and take mantra is easily said than done.
When Aung San Suu Kyi talks about compromise between the non-Bamar ethnic nationalities and Bamar-dominated military there are points that one needs to ponder and answer them in an honest and straight forward manner.
  • Who are being cheated from the promises of Panglong Agreement (1947) that the then newly setup political entity, called Union of Burma, was to be a genuine federal form of government with equality, rights of self-determination and Democracy?
  • Who is bullying who and who is intruding and occupying whose homeland militarily?
  • What sort of compromise would Suu Kyi and NLD would suggest to the ethnic nationalities, who were being robbed and cheated, in order to right the wrong?
  • Finally, should the oppressed, militarized ethnic nationalities be satisfied with token compromises of giving back their stolen birthrights sovereignty, bit by bit, in a piecemeal manner and still have to entertain the military's heavy-handedness and occupation of their homelands?
If Suu Kyi and NLD could give earnest answers and see the above mentioned points in a clear and transparent manner, they would be able to make use of the give and take preposition in a constructive way, not just an utterance of a mantra in resolving a corporate-like dispute. As ethnic conflict could not be treated like a corprate disagreement. Otherwise, it will only be another tricky game, where the ethnic nationalities will lose out again, in restoring  their birthright sovereignty and self-determination are concerned.

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Northern Shan State’s Namtu dams project marred by controversy

A series of dams slated to be built in northern Shan State on the Namtu (Myitnge or Dokhtawaddy) River have been the subject of strong opposition from environmentalists and activists. Of the four new dams, three are set to be built in areas that are located in conflicted zones in northern Shan State.

The Namtu River (courtesy SHRF)
A recent report released jointly by the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF), the Shan Sapawa Environmental Organisation and the Shan State Farmers’ Network, titled “Save the Namtu River,” argues that that there has been a complete lack of transparency around plans to construct the dams.
Combined with the existing Yeywa dam, the four new dams will obstruct more than half of the Namtu river which the report says will have an effect that will be “irreversibly impacting” for the Namtu river’s ecology.
“For Naypyidaw to push ahead with large dams in conflict zones, against the wishes of local ethnic communities, is thumbing their noses at the peace process,” said Sai Khur Hseng of Shan Sapawa in a press release accompanying the reports release.
“If the new NLD-led government wants to build peace, they must immediately halt the dams on the Namtu and other rivers in ethnic conflict zones,” he said. Shortly after the report was released Aung San Suu Kyi’s opted to relinquish the role of Minister of Energy and Electric Power. A position that was instead given to Pe Zin Tun, an ex military officer and a former employee at the state owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE). It remains unclear if the longtime government official will be more responsive to the concerns of community groups than his predecessor.
Of the four dams slated for the Namtu, the Upper Yeywa Dam in Nawngkhio Township, which began in 2008, is the furthest along. The dam is slated for completion in 2018, when finished it will create a reservoir that will be at least 60 kilometers long and according to the report wholly submerge Ta Long, a Shan village that is home to 500 people. Parts of Hsipaw town may also be affected.
According to the report residents of Ta Long “were never informed or consulted before the dam began, and have insisted they do not want to move”. The report suggests that both the environmental and social impacts of the dam were a complete afterthought for the firm’s involved as the dam’s Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) was controversially completed in 2014, some six years after construction of the dam had already begun.
The dam which is being funded by China’s state backed Exim Bank is being built by China’s Zhejiang Orient Engineering Co., Ltd. who serve as the engineering, procurement, and construction
(EPC) contractor which means the firm has the overall responsibility for the dam’s construction and is overseeing the entire project including design, procurement, construction, commissioning and then the handover of the project to the end user which in this case will be the state run Myanmar Electric Power Enterprise (MEPE).
Other firms involved in the project as subcontractors are the Chinese firm Yunnan Machinery Import and Export Co. Ltd, Lahmeyer International GmbH of Germany and the Swiss company Stucky SA. A Chinese subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate Toshiba called Toshiba Hydro Power (Hangzhou) Co., Ltd will provide the generators and related equipment for the dam.
Norwegian firm going ahead with middle Yeywa dam despite quake risk
Another of the Namtu dams known as the middle Yeywa dam is set to be built in a location identified by the report as “seismically hazardous” because it is close to the Kyaukyan fault line. According to the report this was the location of the biggest earthquake known to have taken place in the country’s history in 1912. The quake which struck Nawngkhio is estimated have been an 8 on the Richter scale.
A state owned Norwegian power firm, known as Statkraft Norfund Power Invest or SN Power, is going ahead with plans to build the 700 megawatt dam. The MOU for this dam was signed with the previous government in July 2014. A pre-feasibility study for the dam began in April 2015.
The involvement of a Norwegian state owned firm with such a controversial project has drawn the ire of the groups behind the report. The report notes that Norway, who are a significant donor to Burma’s ongoing peace process, is “opportunistically partnering with Naypyidaw to profit from ethnic conflict areas before peace has been reached.” Similarly Japan and Switzerland, who are also significant donors to the peace process, have firms from their country involved with the Namtu dams.

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Army Reinforces Troops near SSPP/SSA’s Loi Say-Loi Leng Base

The Burma Army has dispatched reinforcements to the Loi Say-Loi Leng area in northern Shan State’s Tangyan Township, where a Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) base is located, according to an SSPP/SSA information officer.

He said that over ten vehicles from the Burma Army were heading towards Tangyan on 24 April. Last week, the Burma Army’s North Eastern Command ordered the SSPP/SSA to withdraw from the Loi Say-Loi Leng ridge in Tangyan Township by 22 April. This ridge is located to the west of the Salween River near territory controlled by the United Wa State Army (UWSA).
On 22 April the commander of the North Eastern Command ordered the SSPP/SSA to allow joint field inspections to be conducted on 27 April.
SSPP/SSA spokesperson’s Colonel Sai La said: “We haven’t replied to their demands yet. We haven’t even held a central committee meeting yet. We have no place to stay. We won’t withdraw. They said the same thing in the past and attacked us. Now, we have to make ourselves ready for combat. The military wants us to stay only in Wan Hai [the SSPP/SSA headquarters]. Nobody has finalized who should stay where yet. We have been living here for more than 50 years now.”
When S.H.A.N. contacted the Pyidaungsu Institute’s U Khun Sai he said: “The Burmese military seems to want to secure as much land as it can before political dialogue starts with the new government. These kind of acts affect trust.”
According to the SSPP/SSA since 2012 the Burma Army has made similar requests to visit and inspect their bases before launching attacks on SSPP/SSA positions.
The Burma Army previously requested to visit the vicinity of Tar Phar Saung Bridge, which is located between Ke See and Hsipaw, before attacking it in 2014.
Although the SSPP/SSA has not participated in the signing of the nationwide ceasefire agreement the group participated in the drafting of the ceasefire agreement. It also signed a union-level and state-level ceasefire agreement with the Thein Sein administration.

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