Kevyn: So we’re losing?
Petey: No, we’re winning expensively.
Schlock Mercenary, Quotes on Pyrrhic Victory
From 21-23 February, I was invited to observe the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) annual meeting in its Loi Taileng (Shan Shine Mountain) base that reviewed its past year activities, November 2016- October 2017.
The last time I attended its annual meeting was in 2014, when the SSA South was still embroiled in hundreds of clashes.
Naturally I wanted to know how much progress it has made since the signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) on 15 October 2015.
And also naturally, my problem is to inform the reader what they are entitled to know without, at the same time, revealing sensitive data.
I hope I’ll be doing my best to please both sides.
Day One, Tuesday, 21 February 2017
Sao Yawd Serk opens the meeting with a 10 minute speech extracts of which are as follows:
- The Shan resistance is almost 59 years old, 20 of which I have been in the leading role. A critical review is necessary
- Whether we fight or negotiate, the objective is to achieve political power for the people
The following are extracts from the annual reports:
- Conscription has been suspended, but we still encourage voluntary enlistment
- We have also resolved to establish a police force
- We have been in 34 clashes during the year: 6 against Burma Army and 28 against the TNLA. Casualties on our side: 8 killed and 41 wounded.
- We conducted public consultations in 15 towns in Shan State in October 2016. Altogether 2,380 had attended. (Their questions, and statements of problems and wishes are reported separately). We also held consultations with migrants in Bangkok, Rayong, Lampoon, Chiangmai, Maehongson and Chiangrai in Thailand.
- We participated in the 2 Union Peace Conferences (UPCs) in January and August 2016
- Study trips were made to 8 countries: The Philippines, Germany, Indonesia, Switzerland, China, Cambodia, Norway and Japan
- We received rice assistance and cash assistance to purchase rice, before the program was suspended in mid-2016:
16,333 bags from Nippon Foundation
371, 141, 982 Kyat from Myanmar Peace Center (MPC)
- The SSA received 1,333 recruits and had 690 discharges, most of whom were conscripts plus some deserters
- The Finance Department received approx. $ 20 million in Thai, Myanmar and Chinese currencies (I forgot to calculate the expenditures, but it is about the same size, the bulk going to the military. Not too different from the Tatmadaw, wasn’t it?)
Here are some of the questions asked by the people during the consultations:
- Can we really rely on the Committee for Shan State Unity (CSSU)? We hope it’s not just a straw fire. (It was set up on 17 October 2013 by RCSS, SNDP and SSJAC plus 9 CSOs)
- Why are there still fighting between the RCSS/SSA and the Tatmadaw?
- How do we tackle with demands for new states inside Shan State?
- Can the conflict with TNLA settled peacefully?
- Shouldn’t 7 February designated as a public holiday?
- Will Mogok and Maymyo (Pyin Oo Lwin) return to Shan State?
Next come the problems faced by the people:
- Rising drug addictions
- Few Shans hold national ID cards
- Land confiscations
- Bullying by the Tatmadaw and PMFs (People’s Military Forces set up by the Tatmadaw) continues
- Paying tax to SSA North and SSA South along adjoining areas
- Continued deforestation
- Increased air and water pollutions
The last are their wishes:
- Shan State should have its own constitution
- The 2008 constitution should be amended
- Shan language should be taught during school hours
- There must be Burman state (s) too
- There should be only one Shan State defense force
- Other racial groups of Shan State should join CSSU
- The Shans were the losers because of the 1947 Panglong. May they not lose more because of the 21st century Panglong.
The day ends with dinner at Chairman Sao Yawd Serk’s house, where he talks about his MA studies in Bangkok. One more subject, and one dissertation paper, his school days will be over, he says.
“My teachers have urged me to do a doctorate, but I don’t think I’ll be able to handle it at present.” He’s 60 this year.