The Aung San Suu Kyi-headed Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC), which is made up of Union Government, Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) and Political Parties, with 16 members from each group, recent restructuring meeting looks like it has created an atmosphere of a tripartite dialogue, which the UN has all along endorsed to resolve the ethnic and ideological conflicts that Burma has to endure, since the military coup of 1962.
The UN had, until 2010 nationwide elections that has ushered in the quasi-civilian Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP)-Military government of Thein Sein, steadfastly stood by the tripartite dialogue initiative, which should involve representatives of the government, political parties and the ethnic nationalities, to resolve the problems and conflicts surrounding the country. But started to become silent on its insistence of tripartite dialogue, after the military has allowed limited political reform and the quasi-civilian government came into being in 2011.
Perhaps the UN, together with the international community would like to encourage the nascent reform process by staying on the sideline, rather than pushing hard for the tripartite dialogue.
But whether the planned 21st Century Panglong Convention (21CPC), also dubbed Union Peace Conference (UPC) by the former Thein Sein regime, would really be tripartite dialogue in a real sense or not is a question, which needs to be scrutinized. For equal representation is the key that would make the peace process all-inclusive and not unequal or imbalance representation.
Apart from this, the speculation of shifting alliance, between the EAOs and between those of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and the military also requires careful attention, as the fate of the whole peace process would depend on the outcomes or results materializing from such interactions.
First, let us look at what the UPDJC structuring meeting of 27-28 May has changed and altered from the previous setting.
NLD or Aung San Suu Kyi's undertakings
Aung San Suu Kyi has taken the position of UPDJC chairperson with Kyaw Tint Swe, Thu Wai and Phado Kwe Htoo Win appointed as vice chairmen, and former government peace negotiator Hla Maung Shwe of the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), now renamed as National Reconciliation Peace Center (NRPC), as secretary.
The UPDJC meeting decisions are:
- Confirmation of the Union Government 16 members for UPDJC;
- Confirmation of the 8 EAOs 16 members, that had signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA);
- Agreement that for the Political Parties group, 16 of its members will be chosen by the government, including consideration of at least one woman representation; and
- Agreement that the UPDJC Secretariat will be formed with 3 persons each from the 3 groups, of which list would be sent to U Hla Maung Shwe, general secretary of the UPDJC.
Some of the NLD or Suu Kyi's policies were spelled out as the following in the recent two days UPDJC meeting.
- Regarding the future peace process restructuring of MPC and 21st Century Panglong Convention (21CPC) would be undertaken.
- Suu Kyi explained that 21CPC and UPC are the same and both names are usable and accepted.
- UPDJC role will continue but amendment would be undertaken to meet political reality and future necessities.
- Regarding political convention participation of more than 90 political parties, as the NLD's previous policy of parliamentary representation will be norm, only political parties that have at least one elected representative, in either union, or state/regional level parliaments, will be eligible to participate in the peace convention.
- The role of the political parties, that have no representation in the parliament, would be to compliment the convention process through participation in the Civiian Based Organization (CBO) Parallel Forum, which is open to them.
- Suu Kyi said that many understood Panglong as secession. She took Panglong spirit as being the main core necessary factor than Panglong Agreement. Saying that the Panglong spirit had united all the ethnic peoples leading to the achievement of independence through unity and cooperation and that the same could be done to reach the goals of peace, tranquillity and development.
Other than that the UPDJC will meet non-signatory EAOs in June, from which it hopes that many will join, leading to joint-activities to alter and review the Framework for Political Dialogue (FPD), which they will also become co-ownership and participate in UPC in July, according to the secretary U Hla Maung Shwe. He said the meeting participants also agreed to this arrangement, according to RFA report of 28 May.
Under the 21CPC preparation mould, two negotiation committees, one for the 8 EAOs signatory group and the other, for the non-signatory 13 EAOs. However, it is not clear if the military rejected 3 EAOs – MNDAA, TNLA and AA – will be covered is unknown.
Even as Suu Kyi actions have been in full swing regarding the peace process, the doubtfulness on her commitment to national reconciliation are rife, especially from the ethnic nationalities' point of view.
Looking at the indecisiveness of Suu Kyi where all-inclusiveness of all EAOs is concerned, many are doubtful of her real sincere intention, whether she meant what she said. On several occasions she said that the convening of 21CPC or UPC would go parallel with soliciting the non-signatory EAOs, emphasising and including the former regime's usage of the phrase “those who deserve and are appropriate to participate” in the peace process.
Besides, it was said to be decided that she would curtail economic incentives of the EAOs, which the former Thein Sein regime had effectively used to win over the EAOs, and that future negotiations would only be conducted within the country and not in Thailand or China, where previous meetings were held on several occasions.
And as she seemed inclined to give in to the military demand, the MNDAA, TNLA and AA, would likely be excluded.
Although this could be a tactical move or political tightrope walking of Suu Kyi, the EAOs took it as her possible shifting of alliance from being an ally to collaborator of their adversary, the military.
The ringing of alarm bell was evident, as an ethnic leader who attended a recent meeting of the newly formed peace committee dealing with the eight groups, which signed the NCA, but declined to be identified said: "In the past the army guys all attacked her, but now they hail her in our meetings," according to Larry Jagan in his commentary in Bangkok Post, on 27 May.
He stressed: "Clearly there is a strong understanding between the military and the government and we fear we will be isolated and Aung San Suu Kyi take the military's side."
The UWSA factor
As the shifting of alliance seems to be in the making between the Suu Kyi-led NLD and Tatmadaw from adversaries to those of actual, grand coalition partner, the non-Bamar armed ethnic front is also gearing up for a possible change.
During the last few weeks, the Kokang or Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and Palaung State Liberation Front/Ta'ang National Liberation Army (PSLF/TNLA) have tendered resignation to be excluded from 11 member military alliance, United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), of which both are members, although the decision of acceptance or approval is said to be pending for the moment.
The reason for their resignation was given as the UNFC being unable to do much for the said two EAOs practically, while they have to endure ongoing heavy Tatmadaw offensives. Besides, they didn't want to be on the way of UNFC, which has been adhering to all-inclusiveness and thus unable to sign the NCA, due to the former Thein Sein government's exclusion of the two, including the Arakan Army (AA).
The reasoning is that the new NLD regime is likely to toe the same policy line of excluding them, as it doesn't like to upset the Tatmadaw, which had openly said that they all have to surrender first in order to be able to join the peace process.
And with the UNFC's rejection – after the 19-22 April meeting in Chiang Mai - of the United Wa State Party/Army (UWSP/UWSA) aspirations to lead the whole ethnic military alliance, it is only a matter of time that the MNDAA and TNLA would join the military alliance headed by the latter, including the Mong La or National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) and AA.
During the Ethnic Armed Organizations Leaders’ Summit held from 26 - 28 March 2016 at Pang Kham Town, where 34 representatives from UWSP/UWSA, KIO/KIA, Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA), PSLF/TNLA, AA and NDAA attended, one paragraph of the statement issued after the meeting stated:
“Conflict between RCSS and TNLA in Northern Shan State was discussed at the meeting and both sides are urged to immediately halt hostilities. Both sides are encouraged to solve the problem through negotiation mean. In case, one side keeps creating conflict, all EAOs agreed to collectively prevent and protect from it. Simultaneously, we demand Tatmadaw immediately cease all military offensives in Northern Shan State for the sake of the stability for the people living in the areas.”
Following this some weeks later, heavy clashes involving some 700 troops of TNLA attacked RCSS positions, which let many, including the SNLD's secretary general Sai Nyunt Lwin, to say that other EAOs might be involved on the side of TNLA to rid the RCSS from its encroachment within the areas, which the TNLA insisted belongs to them.
The situation became even more complicated with the TNLA accusation that the RCSS and Burma Army were coordinating the assaults on its positions with heavy artillery and at time, attacking in tandem.
Thus, the UWSA military alliance, although not yet formally formed, might have already existed in practice. The inclusion of the KIA, AA and NDAA were highly likely in attacks against the RCSS, while SSPP could not be involved as it is also a Shan Army like the RCSS and also member of the UNFC, which is trying to mediate the conflict between TNLA and RCSS.
If this development process of UWSA forming a military alliance becomes real, the UNFC could be drastically weaken.
Given the recent military and political developments, it is a bit too early to predict if the Suu Kyi initiated 21CPC or UPC would really lead to the tripartite dialogue of the government, political parties and ethnic nationalities, as had been endorsed for decades until 2010 by the UN.
It will actually depend on equal representation on all level of the peace process from manning the Joint Implementation Coordination Meeting (JICM) to overseeing its execution by two bodies: the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee (JMC) that essentially deals with military matters, and the other, the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) that deals with the political ones.
Two points needed to be considered, in order to become a bona fide tripartite dialogue and would hinge on altering the following in an equal basis, acceptable to all parties.
Firstly, the restructuring of UPDJC will have to include the participation of the 13 non-signatory EAOs, which would also include the 3 left out EAOs. This would mean expanding the representatives from 16 each to 16 + 26 = 46. The added 26 representatives would come from 13 non-signatory EAOs inclusion of 2 representatives each, making it 26 altogether.
The present UPDJC is manned by 48 members, with 16 each from the government, ethnic armed groups and political parties.
Secondly, the Union Peace Conference that has been slated to be attended by a total of 700 delegates comprising 75 from the Government, 75 from the Hluttaw (Parliament), 150 from the Tatmadaw, 150 from ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), 150 from registered political parties, 50 from ethnic representatives and 50 from others who should participate, written in The Framework for Political Dialogue, would need to be adjusted to reflect the recent changing political configuration and equality.
In the formerly UN endorsed tripartite dialogue, the three group stakeholders were the military government (State Peace and Development Council), the democratic forces (NLD) and the ethnic nationalities.
Speculation on possible de-escalation or heightened armed conflict will solely depend on how the Tatmadaw would go about with its non-inclusiveness in relation to the all-inclusiveness of the non-signatory EAOs and a not so clear stance of the NLD's stance regarding the matter.
If the Tatmadaw would continue with its strategy of side-lining the MNDAA, TNLA, AA and continues its offensives on the SSPP/SSA and KIO/KIA, the possibility that the Tatmadaw's military pressure would push the two groups into a wider alliance with the UWSA could become a reality. Then this would strengthen the hand of the UWSA and increased influence of the big regional power, neighbouring country, whether one likes it or not.
At the same time, the counter strategy of the EAOs could be like those of the Tatmadaw, which is talking peace, while fighting. In other words, the UWSA headed military alliance would tie down the Tatmadaw militarily, while the UNFC-led alliance would continue with the negotiations within the bounds of 21CPC.
But if such speculation would become a reality, where would the country's peace process lead us to?
The answer would likely be continued warfare, at the expense of the ethnic nationalities in the first place and hindering overall development and democratization process in the rest of the country.
As such, we should all take heart that compromise, or a real equal tripartite dialogue, is the only way out of this debacle and that it must be coupled with determined conviction to be able to end the decades-long ethnic armed conflict and strive to achieve durable peaceful settlement, that the people has been waiting for so long.
A recently completed film made for European TV, Twilight Over Burma, based on the true story of Prince Sao Kya Seng, the ruler of Hsipaw and his Austrian born wife Inge Sargent, had its premiere in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai this past weekend. The story focuses on Sargent who became the princess of Hsipaw also known as the Mahadhevi Dhusandi and her marriage with the prince who was jailed when General Ne Win launched a coup d'état in 1962.
As the film, which is the first to explore the events surrounding Burma's 1962 coup, shows Sao Kya Seng died in detention shortly after his arrest under circumstances that have never been fully explained. A similar fate suffered by Burma's first president Sao Shwe Thaike, another Shan royal who was arrested in the 1962 coup, and who was also never seen alive again.
Maria Ehrich, the German actress who played Inge Sargent, was at the screening in Chiang Mai along with some of the film's producers. Many Shan living in Chiang Mai attended the screening including some who played minor roles in the movie. Apart from Ehrich most of the major roles in the film were played by Thai actors.
During a Q&A conducted after the screening of the movie, which takes its name from Sargent's memoir, Ehrich explained that coming to Asia to shoot the film was an interesting experience. She added that the tragic nature of the script posed a challenge at times during production.
“It was always the tragic story in my mind so I could not be very happy all the time when we were shooting the movie. Sometimes, all the crew team had a difficult time to shoot, for example, when Inge gets to know Sao might be dead. Everyone was crying on the set. It really touches you very hard. You can see in the movie how we felt. So, it’s real,” explained the 23 year old Ehrich who has also starred in a number of German language productions including a kids film called My Brother Is a Dog.
Ehrich traveled to Hsipaw where much of the film is set, shortly after the film was completed to see the palace where Sargent lived. Like many visitors to Hsipaw she was saddened by the poor condition that the dilapidated Hsipaw palace is in. “In my mind I had already imagined Hsipaw, I was eager to see how it really is. My heart was really checking when we got close to it. We went up to the palace and talked with the person who is in charge. I told her that Inge did not take anything with her when she left and I'd really like to take something to give her but she said there is nothing left. The Burmese military took everything. I almost cried. I was really shocked because
I thought it would be beautiful from what I knew from the script and the book, but it is not. It’s a little dirty and rotted……. It really made me sad”, she said.
Inge Sargent eventually resettled in the US where she has lived for many years. She and her two daughters, Sao Mayari and Sao Kennari, wrote a letter to Burma's government concerning the disappearance of Sao Kya Seng. They never received a response to their inquires.
Burma's newly installed consul-general in Chiang Mai Kaung San Lwin, also attended the screening. He told SHAN that did not know about the Inge Sargent's letter and was unaware of the specific details of the case which he said took place before he was born.
It remains unclear when the movie will receive its Burmese premier but the movie which would almost certainly would have been banned in Burma had it come out a few years ago, will likely receive a much better reception under the new NLD government.
But some things have yet to change. Today more than 50 years after the 1962 coup, turmoil continues in northern Shan State where the army in recent weeks has been engaged in clashes with ethnic armed groups including carrying out airstrikes against positions held by the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA).
BY Staff / Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)
A 4 men team to hold peace talks with ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) yet to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) will be arriving in Chiangmai on a 3-day mission, 2-4 June, according to government and rebel sources.
The team will be headed by Dr Tin Myo Win, the new chief negotiator appointed by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi. Members will include U Hla Maung Shwe, Secretary of the newly formed 21st Century Panglong Conference Preparatory Committee and former special advisor to the now defunct Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), Lt-Gen (ret) Khin Zaw Oo, and an unnamed member of the Preparatory Committee.
The 12 person Delegation for Political Negotiations (DPN) formed by the 11-member EAO alliance, United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) will be holding an ad hoc meeting on 1-2 June in preparation for the negotiations, said a UNFC member.
“Some of us are suspicious of the latest move and are demanding official credentials from the mission,” he added. U Hla Maung Shwe, interviewed by SHAN, confirmed the matter, saying, “For the sake of peace, we are accommodating their wishes, although we had never done this during the previous government’s tenure,” he said.
Hkun Okker, Patron of the PaO National Liberation Organization (PNLO), a signatory to the NCA, yesterday urged the DPN not to spurn this latest offer from the government headed by Aung San Suu Kyi. “The question is not about who are coming,” he said. “It’s about who’s sending them.”
To which the UNFC source retorted, “We are only trying to make sure about that.”
Hkun Okker told SHAN the rejection by three EAOs (AA, MNDAA and TNLA) of the overtures made by a government delegation to hold informal talks earlier this month, was an ill-advised one. “This should not be repeated,” he said.
The purpose of the visit, according to sources, is to invite the non-EAOs to participate in the Framework for Political Dialogue (FPD) revision meeting to be held sometime in June. “Following their agreement with the revised FPD, they will be invited to sign the NCA, prior to participation in the upcoming 21st Century Panglong,” said Hla Maung Shwe.” As most of them had taken part in the NCA negotiations, we hope the NCA would not prove a serious obstacle.”
The UNFC meeting in March reportedly discussed amendment proposal to the NCA, which was ratified by the Parliament on 8 December 2015. It remains a question whether the government would agree to new changes in the text. “The amendments proposed by them, however, may become part of the meeting decisions, which collectively constitute an integral part of the NCA,” explained Hla Maung Shwe.
Article 30 of the NCA reads:
We agree that, in consultation with each other, decisions contained in the agreed meeting minutes during negotiations for the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement shall be referred to (and part and parcel of, according to the text in Burmese) in the implementation of the Agreement.
Day Two. Tuesday, 24 May 2016
When no credit is taken
Tao Te Ching (Book of The Way and its Derivative), Chapter Two
I don’t have much to say about today. We have 3 meetings, all about pure academic and technical matters
- Already, there are signs of fallout between those who want to follow the NCA “to the latter” and those who are more for its “spirit” than the letter among the peacemakers on both sides. Some of the former are said to be even against the “21st Century Panglong Conference,” not because they are against the Panglong Spirit (the term adopted by the NCA), but because the NCA mentions only “Union Peace Conference,” nothing about the 21st Panglong Conference.
(I thought later that maybe we’re just being human beings to have different and opposing interpretations of a dogma all have agreed upon. Just take a look at Communism’s “dogmatists” and “revisionists,” Islam’s “Sunni” and “Shia,” Buddhism’s “Theravada” and “Mahayana,” Christianity’s “Roman Catholic” and “Protestant,” and so on. Examples seem to be endless.)
- One of the results is the increasing distrust among the three main stakeholders: the military suspects the EAOs might join hands together with the NLD against it, while the EAOs suspect the military, being Burmans, may ally itself with the NLD against them
- Still there are others who say the object of forming a 21st Century Panglong Conference Preparatory Committee is only to invite the non-signatories of the NCA to attend its meetings and have a say in revising the Framework for Political Dialogue (FPD). After they have agreed on the FPD, then they will be invited to sign the NCA before they are allowed to participate in 21st Century Panglong.
- As for the 3 other non-signatories, the military’s demand is two told:
- Issue a statement that they have abandoned the armed struggle
- Have their arms locked stock and barrel on the border under supervision of border authorities concerned
Well, I hope both sides come to a mutually acceptable agreement when they meet next month.
The latest visit was the result of the invitation from the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) and Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army (KNU/KNLA) who were scheduled to hold talks with several stakeholders.
As usual, what I was able to give was much less than what I got — information for readers to utilize in the struggle for peace.
Many of the meetings I attended however were off-the-record ones. Names of many of the venues and participants understandably will be kept undisclosed. I therefore hope while the readers will gain from the contents in my report, those who were present at these gatherings are in no way compromised.
Day One. Monday, 23 May 2016
Names can name no lasting name.
Tao Te Ching (The Book of The Way and its Derivative), Chapter One
Our plane is late today. It used to land in Mingladon at noon, more or less sharp. But by the time I reach a taxi outside the terminal, it is already near 13:00. So instead of directing him to the hotel, I name the place where the meeting is going to take place.
It is already in full swing when I get there. The presenter is giving us a power point presentation of official documents published during the immediate post-Independence days as evidence that “Rohingya” is not a new word, but one which must be at least as old as the country’s Independence. Among them are old encyclopedias in Burmese and a public announcement that the government broadcasting service’s ethnic language program which included Rohingya.
Among his audience, unnoticed by me until then, is an Arakanese scholar, who quietly sits and listens to him. His comments, I think, are worth considering:
- The Rohingya issue is a political one, not an ethnic or religious one. The Rohingyas must decide which priority comes first: Recognition (as Rohingya) or citizenship
- I would advise the second. If you, on the contrary, choose the first, I’m afraid the situation will only worsen
The following are comments by other attendees:
- Daw (Aung San) Suu (Kyi) has said she has other issues which demand her undivided attention first
- The Rohingya issue is one of the political minefields that the previous military dominated governments had created for us
- Former president U Thein Sin wanted to shift the responsibility to the UN. I, for one, think we should shift it to God, Allah and the Buddha (which triggers laughs.) Because I don’t think this is a matter that us human beings can handle anymore
We then have a separate meeting to exchange notes on current situation. During the 2-hour long exchange, the lights go on and off, prompting one to quip: “Before the new government came, we used to complain that the lights were frequently out. But these days, we say it differently, that the lights are frequently on.”
The following are what I have noted from their discussions:
- Have you noticed that the military never addresses Daw Suu by her new position as State Counselor? And have you also noticed that if you call her State Counselor, military officers react like earthworms coming into contact with salt?
The parliamentary vote appointing her State Counselor may be legal and democratic. The constitution also doesn’t have anything to say about such clever maneuvers. Only she had found an imaginative way to circumvent the charter altogether. And they may not like being outsmarted like that.
- 27 May Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) meeting in Naypyitaw
- 28 May 21st Century Panglong Conference (21 CPC) Preparatory Meeting also in Naypyitaw
- The agenda will include invitation of non-signatories to participate in the revision of the Framework for Political Dialogue (FPD)
- While the Union Peace Conference #1 (UPC1) started with 5 main dialogue topics: Political, security, economy, social and land and natural resources management, the word is that she may want to retain only two: Political and Security for her 21st Century Panglong and leave the rest to a CSO Forum. The Forum however will not be mandated to pass decisions, only recommendations
- Another report is that she is against inclusion of parties that are not elected. This may go against the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).
(Article 22 (a): “Representatives from the government, Hluttaw and the Tamadaw, representatives from Ethnic Armed Organizations, representatives from registered political parties, ethnic representatives and other relevant representatives shall participate in political dialogue that is based on an all inclusive principle.)
- As a result, the military representatives held an informal meeting with the EAO representatives to say they expect the EAOs to firmly adhere to the NCA
“The NCA is the only legal bond between the military and the EAOs,” U Aung Min, the former chief negotiator, told one EAO leader. “We need to hold on to it for dear life.”
After checking in at the hotel, I get a phone call from a young friend from Taunggyi. “Happy Birthday!” she says. “Do you know we share the same birthday?”
“Now, how would I know,” I reply. “Since you don’t look old like me.”
“No, I’m not. I was born in 1993.”
We then exchange happy birthday to each other.
I’m 68 today.
Sai Wan Leng Kham, an upper house member of parliament for the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), visited a refugee camp in Lashio Township last week. The visit to displaced families affected by the conflict in Shan State led the MP to call for Burma's military to stop reinforcing troops in ethnic regions.
Reached for comment by SHAN, Sai Wan Leng Kham, said that the ongoing civil war is an obstacle for development. He noted that because of the conflict children have become malnourished and are unable attend school.
“In ethnic areas, the education system is very poor,” he explained. “And even worse, it is because the government's military launched their offensive in these areas and as a result children can’t access education. Again, this time is the time for villagers to grow their crops but they have to face this. I want the government's military to stop their offensive,” he added.
Sai Wan Leng Kham went on to explain that because of the fighting, the plan for development in ethnic areas could not be completed.
“While the country is developing, the people in ethnic areas are facing difficulties. Because of the fighting, they are left behind,” he said.
“There has been ongoing conflict for over 60 years. Every day people are fleeing their homes. If this situation keeps going on, I have no hope for our country to be developed,” Sai Wan Leng Kham added.
He believes now is the time to bring peace to the country. As the new government just came to office, this kind of conflict not should be happening
“The Burma Army should call for a nationwide ceasefire and work on the peace process immediately,” he said.
Due to the Burma military's offensive against the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA), over 1,500 people have become internally displaced persons (IDPs). They are now staying in refugee camps, temples and with their relatives in Lashio and Hsipaw Townships.
BY SAI AW / Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)
BY SAI AW / Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)
On Thursday, a coalition of three Shan organizations sent an open letter to Burma’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, urging her to put a stop to a series of planned dams on northern Shan State’s Namtu River.
The Norwegian state owned company, Statkraft Norfund Power Invest or SN Power, concluded an MOU for a project known as the Middle Yeywa dam with the previous government in July 2014. This dam is set to be built in a location that has been identified as “seismically hazardous” because it is close to the Kyaukyan fault line.
The three groups behind the statement, the Shan Human Rights Foundation, the Shan Sapawa Environmental Organisation and the Shan State Farmers’ Network, say they are very concerned that a study conducted by SN Power failed to take into account the on-going conflict in northern Shan State and how the dam will affect the conflict and whether the conflict would affect the dam.
“Fighting was raging in northern Shan State even while the pre-feasibility study was being conducted, but no mention was made of this. Particularly given the recent escalation of fighting in Kyaukme township (directly east of Nawng Khio), where the Burma Army has launched a large scale offensive, with airstrikes, against Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army positions just north of the Upper Yeywa dam site, we regard this as an inexcusable omission,” the statement noted.
In a report released earlier this year by the three groups the role of the Norwegian government and the state owned firm SN Power, in the controversial project was cited a proof that Oslo was pushing ahead without giving proper consideration to the situation on the ground. The report claimed that Norway, who is a major donor to Burma’s on-going peace process, is “opportunistically partnering with Naypyidaw to profit from ethnic conflict areas before peace has been reached.”
SN Power dam study overlooks dam impact say activists
Sai Khur Hseng, a representative from the Shan Sapawa Environmental Organisation, one of the three groups that issued yesterday’s statement, said that he and his team have frequently visited the area where the dam is set to be built and are very aware of the situation on the ground.The SN Power failed to disclose the information to villagers who will be affected by the project.
“If they did a survey, they should report it to the public. But, this has never been published,” he explained.
“If they did a survey, they should report it to the public. But, this has never been published,” he explained.
According to the statement the survey conducted by SN Power overlooked many of the impacts that the Yeywa dam and the other dams slated to be built on the Namtu River will have on the environment and the community. The statement noted that the “Initial Environmental and Social Impact Assessment only focused on the section of the river where the Middle Yeywa dam and its reservoir are planned. There is no consideration of the cumulative impacts of the cascade of five dams on the river, which is going to drastically alter the ecology of the river, and all those living along it. It is thus very misleading that the study states that a baseline for “all key environmental aspects” has been established,” and that the “River and inundated not a major source of food or resource.”
Reached for comment Sai Kheun Mai, of the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF), told SHAN that many villages will likely be flooded by the dam. In one village alone more than 100 homes and about 200 fields are expected to be entirely submerged when the Upper Yeywa Dam is completed.
“There are 118 houses in Tarlong village and 472 residents will be affected by the dam,” he said. “All of their fields will be damaged.”
The groups say they want the Upper Yeywa Dam and other dam projects on the Namtu River to immediately be halted.
“Any future plans for hydropower development on the Namtu River must involve a transparent strategic impact assessment along the entire river,” said the statement.
The Middle Yeywa dam is one of four planned hydropower projects that are planned for the Namtu River. It is estimated that the Middle Yeywa dam will have the capacity to generate more than 700 megawatts of power.
BY SAI AW / Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)
The now much talk about 21st Century Panglong Convention, initiated by Aung San Suu Kyi, is literally confronted with the military's notion of national reconciliation, which is embedded in negotiated surrender and/or total annihilation of the ethnic resistance armies, coupled with continued Bamar supremacy tendency on one hand; and the hazy federalism promises of the NLD, which no one knows what it really has in store, for failing to spell out clearly on how the party envisioned federal union should look like, on the other hand.
But her treatment of the ethnic nationalities armed and unarmed as not being so important or insignificant was viewed as a betrayal to the common cause and not taken lightly. Suu Kyi has only negotiated intensively with the military regarding national reconciliation, but not with ethnic nationalities so far, even it has all along been agreed that the three most important stakeholders – the military, NLD and the ethnic groups – should interact with each other.
This dissatisfaction is compounded by the 8 States versus 14 States and Divisions/Regions controversy, as the NLD's top leadership have shown, on several occasions, that they were on the same page with the USDP-Military clique. This in turn lead to the suspicion of Suu Kyi and the NLD being on the same boat with the military, where policies related to the pursuing of Bamar ethnocentrism and denial of national equality for the ethnic nationalities are concerned.
As such, it is not a wonder that the ethnic nationalities rank and file are so reluctant and even pessimistic of the Suu Kyi initiated Panglong-like convention that is supposed to take place in a month or two.
Given such a backdrop, only a bold initiative of Suu Kyi would be able to dispel such distrust.
Firstly, it should make a declaration of NLD position on federal union, which is in line with the 1947 Panglong Agreement, 1947 Union of Burma Constitution and Ethnic Federal Proposal of 1961. Of course with necessary innovation to be in tune with the present political reality.
Secondly, a unilateral ceasefire declaration of the government should follow, as it is the only way to create a level playing field, where non-signatory ethnic armed groups could participate, in an all-inclusive manner.
But whether the military will cooperate or come on board for such decisive bold action will be totally dependent on how Suu Kyi would negotiate and handle the situation, as half-measure undertakings like those of the former Thein Sein regime would bring the country nowhere, but only continued warfare and heightened ethnic tension.