Burma's ethnic states await outcome of Scottish referendum

Scotland Decides for Independence or Better together

Scotland decides for “Yes Independence” or “No, thanks we are better together”. The Ethnic States in Burma, the Kachin and the Shan States are waiting interestingly to see the outcome of this referendum.

I am not a Scottish nor English by nationalities, but as a Shan British citizen, I am familiar with both the situation of Scotland and the ethnic States in Burma. I was born in the nineteen thirties, when the Shan States were under the protection of Great Britain. In spite of being colonised, the Shan States was peaceful, where there were good governance, law and order and most of all the right of internal self-determination. In Central Burma too the Burmans stopped fighting with and bullying others. When the British, left things deteriorated and by 1962 hell broke loose.

In the case of Scotland, at least the people of Scotland have a choice to decide whether they want independence or stay together, where as neither the Kachin nor the Shan State are fortunate enough to have that freedom of choice. The Shan States, according to the “Panglong Agreement had the right to secede, so the Burmese Military by force of arms invaded the Shan States to stop the Shan States from secession from the Union, although the Federated Shan States were not intending to.

The Scots and the English have fought several international wars together for more than 300 years, and they are part of what had made Britain great. They have explored and conquered and together became the British Empire. They have made mistakes, but the British have always try to learn from the past. It has one of the best democracy and Parliament in the world, although they are not perfect. The people enjoy freedom, which is lacking in many countries of the world.

I can also understand why Scotland wants independence, but if Scotland becomes independence, both countries will become chaotic especially in the financial and industrial institutes, as seen by the gradual falling of the sterling pounds recently. Although different in nationalities I am sure the ordinary Scottish and the English peoples as a whole have the same values, and both English and Scots work and live in each other's countries. It will be sad to use the differences in nationalities and the past grievance to divide the UK into two.

No doubt the present Government in White Hall needs to change their policies: to think of people as humans rather than commodities, and make societies more equal. After all, people just need enough food, shelter and jobs to be happy and contented. In order to make the world a happier place the British Government will also have to change their Foreign policies, be stricter and more consistent in their principles when dealing with all rogue Governments, and not sell arms to them, and refrain from supporting them for its own economic reasons at the expense of human rights victims. They should realise that crimes are crimes and terrorists are terrorists whether they hide behind the curtain called Governments just because they have powerful weapons.

It would be good if Scotland continues to be a member of United Kingdom and together, the United Kingdom can teach the world to be a better place, not by colonisation but by examples of high principles and values, especially in the present troubled times all over the world. Many Scots that came to the Shan States during the 1886-1948 had good reputation of being excellent administrators and advisers to the local Sao Hpas of the Shan States.

Why then do I want the Shan State to be independent from Burma Proper? It is because the Burmese military has treated and treating all the ethnic nationalities most atrociously since 1962, and their desire to control other ethnic nationalities by force of arms has not altered. They are still attacking ethnic armies and villagers in spite of the cease- fire process.. The ethnic nationalities are still subjected to extreme suppression, they have no rights of freedom, equality or self-determination- in fact they have no voice or rights at all.

In Burma, if the Ethnic Nationalities have the same privileges that Scotland has as member of the United Kingdom then there would be no reason why the Shans would want to secede from the Union of Burma. The more force the Burmese Military regime uses, the more the people of the ethnic States will rebel. It is human nature. Peace and reconciliation can come to Burma only when the Burmese Military/politician can mend their superior and authoritative attitude towards other ethnic nationalities. Until now the Burmese Military have not yet shown any remorse or regret for the criminal and terrorist acts they have committed against countless ethnic citizens of Burma and they have not shown anything attractive for the ethnic nationalities to want to work with them.

The contributor is the daughter of the ruling prince of Lawksawk and the author of “My Vanishing World”.

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Shan News agency founder leaves for UK

Khuensai Jaiyen, President and Founder of Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN) is leaving for London for a special talk on the ongoing peace process in Burma.

The presentation is to be held on 10 September 2014, 17:00-19:00 at the Khalili Lecture Theater, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. It is organized by the Center for South East Asian Studies.

“There can be no winners and losers in peace, but only winners,” the e-poster that has been released quotes him saying, echoing the Dhammapada (Path of Truth) maxim:  

The conqueror begets enmity
The defeated lie down in distress
Only those who give up both victory and defeat rest in happiness

The talk will be followed by a three day ASEASUK 2014 Conference, 12-14 September at Falmer Campus, University of Brighton, Room TBC, where 9 papers are to be read:

09:00-10:30 Panel 7. Shan Studies: Manuscripts, Beliefs and Current Affairs (3 papers)
11:00-13:00 Panel 7. Shan Studies: Manuscripts, Beliefs and Current Affairs (2 papers)
14:00-15:30 Panel 8. Constitutional politics of Burma (4 papers)
16:00-17:30 Panel 21. Burma Panel

Khuensai says he should be back by the end of next week.

He is also the managing director of the Pyidaungsu Institute (PI) for Peace and Dialogue, an independent research center based in Chiangmai, with a branch office in Rangoon. 

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Scottish Independence Referendum: What Burma could learn from it

News media are filled with pros and cons opinions on the Scotland's independence referendum. But the arguments boils down to just two crucial points. While the pro-independence crowd has argued that an independent Scotland would be able to exercise democracy, rights of self-determination, with full political decision-making power as a nation, the status quo or pro-union camp has argued that the union has lasted over 300 years for one reason: because it works; and why throw away the security and benefits of staying with the United Kingdom.

On 18 September 2014, about 4 millions of Scots will vote on whether they want their country to become independent or remain part of the United Kingdom.
According to a YouGov poll of 1 September, the lead for the no campaign at six points, down from 14 points in the middle of August and 22 points early last month. Excluding those that are still undecided, 53 per cent would vote no, while 47 per cent would vote yes.
The Guardian's essential guide on  “Scottish independence”, dated  23 April 2013 wrote that 4 million people, officially registered to vote in Scotland, including those aged 16-17, will be eligible to vote; polls will open from 7am until 10pm on September 18 and voters will be faced with a single question: should Scotland be an independent country? They will only be able to vote 'yes' or 'no'.; only a simple majority vote of 51 per cent is needed to secure victory;  and votes will be counted overnight in each of Scotland's 32 local authorities and the results will be announce on the morning of September 19.
Brief historical backdrop
Scotland's relations with England have been marred by independence movements, crowns unification of the two political entities, political union and recently, the independence referendum movement. Following are important historical mile stones that form the contemporary political development of the today.

•    William Wallace and then Robert the Bruce led “wars of independence” 700 years ago.
•    In 1314,  Edward II, then attempting to subjugate Scotland, at Bannock burn was defeated by the Scottish.
•    In 1513, Scotland was defeated by the English at Flodden.
•    In 1603, the Scottish and English crown unification, when King James IV became overall monarch of the British isles.
•    In 1707, political union of England and Scotland and political power moved to London.
•    In 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie, led the Jacobite revolt against Hanoverian rule by London.  It ended in crushing defeat at Culloden in 1746.
•    After several failed attempts, notably in 1913 and 1979, a Scottish parliament was established in 1999.
•    In May 1999, Scotland held its first election for a devolved parliament and in July the Scottish Parliament held session for the first time since the previous parliament had been adjourned in 1707.
•    In May 2011, Salmond and the Scottish National Party (SNP) unexpectedly won an historic landslide victory giving the nationalists majority control of the Scottish parliament
•    On 15 October 2012, the Edinburgh Agreement (full title: Agreement between the United Kingdom Government and the Scottish Government on a referendum on independence for Scotland) was signed between the Scottish Government and the United Kingdom Government at St Andrew's House, Edinburgh, on the terms of Scottish independnece referendum 2014 (Sources: The Guardian & Wikipedia)

Key arguments and supporters
The status quo camp argued that the UK is the most successful economic and political union of modern times, and that change needs to be slow and careful. The UK brings security and shared risk, and common values. It is supported by Ruth Davidson, Scottish Tory leader; Lord Forsyth, former Scottish secretary; Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former foreign secretary.

Devo-plus – devolution plus - camp said that Scotland needs to take responsibility for the taxes it spends, and mould policies to its needs and raise the taxes to match its spending. It is backed by Reform Scotland think tank; Scottish Liberal Democrats; possibly Alistair Darling; devo plus campaign; senior figures in Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.
The Independence camp reasoned that there is no reason why Scotland cannot control its own destiny, become equal to England, and take its full place in the world. Scotland and England would remain firm friends. It is backed by  Alex Salmond, Scottish National party, Scottish Green party, Sir Sean Connery, Sir Brian Souter, Stagecoach owner, the Scottish Socialist party and Solidarity.

Ethno-national referendums
According to Matt Qvortrup in his research piece titled, “The History of Ethno-National Referendums 1791–2011”, he writes:“There have been 157 ethno-national referendums since the Second World War. Thirty-four of these were held between 1989 and 1993 and were all more or less direct consequence of the fall of communism. That such momentous events shake the political kaleidoscope is not surprising, nor, perhaps, is it surprising that the developments left their mark on legal practice. There is a bit of a sea change in the new doctrine adopted after 1989. As Matthew Craven has observed, “Of the new states that were to emerge in the 1990s … most held plebiscites or national polls by way of authorization.”

But cautioned that  not all the ethno-national referendums held after 1989 are related to the end of the Cold War. The referendums in Canada in 1992 and in Quebec in 1995 are a result of an internal dynamic, and the same is true for the polls held in St. Kitts and Nevis in 1998 and the plebiscite in Burundi in 2005.

He further pinpoints the fact that democracy and rights of self-determination goes hand in hand as follows:

“The history of ethnic and national referendums started in the wake of the French Revolution. Nationalism and self-determination went hand in hand, and this was resolved through referendums. E. H. Carr, the British historian and theorist of international relations, observed correctly that Self-determination and democracy went hand in hand. Self-determination might indeed be regarded as implicit in the idea of democracy; of if every man's right is recognised to be consulted about the affairs of the political unit to which he belongs, he may be assumed to have an equal right to be consulted about the form and extend of the unit.”

Also touching on the issue of “Independence Referendum”, Wikipedia has collected  data, which are highly interesting.

Accordingly, from the period between 1990 to 2014, there have been 26 independence referendums, which mostly gained independence, with some achieving de facto independent status. The up-coming or expected independence referendums are to be held in Scotland, Catalonia, Kurdistan, New Caledonia and Bougainvillea. All will be recognized referendums by the concerned state, except for Catalonia, which is part  of Spain, and Kurdistan, belonging to Iraq.

Scottish secession drive
With the poll indicating that the pro-independence trailing behind closely the pro-union campaign, the outcome could go either way. If the pro-independence prevail, a new nation-state will be born and political and economic adjustment will follow, especially between the UK and Scotland, followed by fine tuning of international relations and commitments. Other than that, the status of UK in UN security council and its international relations would have to be reviewed. If the pro-union camp wins, the “devo-plus”- devolution plus - and “devo-max” - devolution maximum - will likely follow, so that the Scottish desire to be independent could be softened or dampened, even if it is going to be for the time being.

According to an opinion piece in The Guardian, on 4 September, Simon Jenkins, who also admitted to be a pro-independence supporter, pointed out that “ the no campaign offers merely stasis. Even with devo max, Scots would remain in political shackles. It’s time to break free.”

He further said that the result “ will be nothing like the alarms or promises made by both sides. Pick apart the no vote’s “devo-max” and the yes vote’s “independence-lite”, and the practical differences are not great. Both will deliver a distinctive Scotland yet one still close to England. Whatever deal follows whatever vote, there will be joint citizens, open borders, a common currency, joint banking, arrangements on welfare, security, tax-gathering and broadcasting. Scotland may set its taxes differently, but the scope for drastic change will be limited.”

The beauty of the Scottish independence referendum is that it is so matured, civilized and democratic, all nation-states facing such ethnic self-determination should take it as a model for various ethnic conflict resolution.

What can Burma learn from Scottish experience
Lately, a report in SHAN, in an opinion piece, on 19 August 2014, highlighted a point regarding secession issue troubling the USDP-Military regime, which is in the midst of nationwide ceasefire negotiation with the ethnic armed groups, striving for more rights of self-determination.

One of the problematic issue, from the nine sticky points highlighted by the report, regarding the nationwide ceasefire agreement draft, is “the Panglong spirit and Panglong promises”, which the USDP-Military government  had rejected the latter saying it contains the right of secession.

President Thein Sein, meeting with leaders and representatives of the political parties, at Mingala Hall of Yangon Region Government, on 29 March 2014, said:
“The door is kept open to discuss all matters except matters related to secession from the Union of Myanmar, and issues that can harm national sovereignty.”
On a lot of occasions, during the ceasefire talks between the ethnic armed organizations and the government, this line of argument has been repeatedly aired, making it the principle fall-back position of the regime.

But the interesting posture is the recent linkage of the secession clause, written in 1947 Union of Burma Constitution, and the Panglong Agreement, openly rejecting the “Panglong Promises” as the foremost obstacle and hindrance for the ongoing peace process.

To wrap up, first, the ethnic self-determination or ethnic upsurge is very much alive and the tendency is increasing, rather than decreasing. Second, if the count of ethno-national referendums, specifically, the independence referendum, are of any indication, the stateless or non-state nations and ethnic groups will continue to exercise and struggle for their rights of self-determination, if given the chance. If not, open conflicts would continue to pop-up. Third, all ethno-national referendums are not only striving for secession and many will be happy to practice harmonious, peaceful co-habitation, if there would be a proper give-and-take, power-sharing mechanism,  like genuine federal union for example.

Last but not least, the Burmese government should learn from all these episodes that by merely pressuring the other ethnic groups to refrain from leaving the union coercively is no guarantee that it won't exercise their rights of self-determination in the future, as the recent Scottish independence referendum has explicitly shown. And the best way to do it is to ask for voluntary participation, which is already the case now for non-Burman ethnic nationalities, and try to grasp the existing opportunity to cement it by being fair and equal to all the other ethnic groups, in power-sharing, resources-sharing and all other political aspects.

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Statement by Shan Community Based Organizations

Namkham farmers’ protest highlights urgent need for moratorium on resource extraction during peace process.
Silica mining in Namkham Eng final2
The anti-mining protest by over 3,000 villagers in Namkham, northern Shan State, on September 5, 2014, highlights the lack of protection against damaging mining, and the urgent need for a moratorium on resource extraction in ethnic areas until there is genuine political reform and peace in Burma.

Since 2012, six companies have been mining silica in the hills south-east of Namkham for export to China. Large amounts of mining waste have been dumped in the Nam Siri Stream, which nine villages rely on for farming as well as domestic use. This has polluted and clogged the stream, causing it to overflow into nearby fields, destroying crops, irrigation channels and weirs. At least 100 acres of fields have been destroyed so far.

10-wheel trucks have been transporting the minerals day and night to China, passing through residential areas, damaging roads, creating dust pollution and causing accidents, killing several villagers.

In August 2013, about 5,900 farmers in Namkham signed a petition to the Naypyidaw government calling for the mining to stop. After this, the Shan State Mining Minister Sai Aik Pao personally came to inspect the damage, and ordered the mining companies to stop operations. However, the mining has continued.

The Namkham Shan Farmers’ Group therefore organized the protest on September 5, demanding an immediate stop to all mining in Namkham. They also demanded that the stream and surrounding fields be restored to their original state, and proper compensation paid for the damage to farmers’ fields. Members of the Shan Farmers’ Network from eleven townships joined the protest to support the Namkham farmers’ demands.

Namkham is an active conflict zone, with Burma Army attacks against Kachin, Ta’ang and Shan resistance forces causing further displacement this year. Silica mining is being carried out with the protection of local pro-government militia. Mining companies in this area with links to militia include Myanmar Mya Oo, Ngwe Kabar Kyaw and Ban Thissa, which is connected to the Pansay militia, led by USDP MP U Kyaw Myint. The first company to carry out mining in the area was GSM, linked to former Minister U Aung Thaung.

Shan CBOs are gravely concerned at the lack of transparency around these mining operations, the failure to protect local communities from damaging impacts, and ongoing militarization and conflict linked to security for resource extraction projects in this area, including the Chinese oil and gas pipelines.

Damaging mining operations such as these are taking place throughout Shan State, even though political negotiations have yet to begin over control and management of natural resources under the peace process.

“Naypyidaw is selling off all our valuable resources even before getting to the negotiating table. By the time a settlement is reached, there will be nothing left,” said Shan CBO spokesperson Muay Noom Hom. Shan CBOs urge the authorities to comply with the Namkham farmers’ demands. They also call for an immediate moratorium on all resource extraction in ethnic areas until a negotiated peace settlement is reached that leads to political reform and ensures the protection of rights of local communities. Shan Community Based Organisations include:

Shan Human Rights Foundation
Shan Sapawa Environmental Organisation
Shan State Development Foundation
Shan Students’ Union (Thailand)
Shan Women’s Action Network
Shan Youth Network Group
Shan Youth Organisation (Taunggyi)
Shan Youth Power
Tai Literature and Culture Society
Tai Youth Network, Workers’ Solidarity Association,
Contact persons:
Nang Muay Noom Hom: +66 81 992 8683 (Burmese)
Hor Hseng: +66 93 264 9487 (Shan and English)
Website: www.shanhumanrights.org, www.shanwomen.org
Attachments: a map of the Namkham mining area, and photos of the mining impacts

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Putao: Myanmar’s treasure house of ethnic diversity

Reinhard Hohler, Chiang Mai (14.08.2014)

Nearly every traveler to Thailand knows the “Golden Triangle”, where Myanmar, Lao PDR and the Kingdom of Thailand border together. Geographically, this is an area that widely reaches into the Shan State of Myanmar, includes the provinces of Northern Laos such as Luang Nam Tha and Phong Sali and also comprises the whole of Northern Thailand with Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai und Nan. This is the home of the hill tribes, which traditionally produced opium and practiced shifting cultivation.

Lesser well known is “The Triangle”, which marks the area, where Myanmar, China und India meet. Since some time now it is possible to travel to this border area in the uppermost Northern Myanmar, but important to do this is that you need to have a special permit.

In the middle of July, in the midst of the rainy season, I had the chance to travel to “The Triangle” to see, if also in this region the hill tribes produce opium, such as they use to do along the Chinese border in Myanmar’s Shan State. To follow media reports, the drug trade in Myanmar is still surging, while in Thailand und also Laos the production of opium was successfully eliminated.

To Putao it is only possible to travel by airplane, but in the office of Air Bagan in Chiang Mai it is not possible to directly buy a ticket to there, because it is necessary to have a permit for travel to Putao. Thus, I flew on July 13 first to Yangon (300US return) to apply a special permit for Putao via an old friend Mr. Rakwi Pung, a Rawang from Putao, who was once Managing Director of Snowland Travel & Tours and now retired being 70 years old.

After many days of waiting, I then received the special permit on July 20 via e-mail to be able to travel to Putao. As a tourist and in company of an American couple it was necessary to book a package tour with a licensed guide. The package tour swallowed 1859USD per person to include all flights and meals and cover 2 nights in a guesthouse in Putao as well as a 5 day trekking tour to the hill tribe villages, namely Lisu, who also live in Northern Thailand. The permit was issued by the Myanmar Government, namely by the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism in Nay Pyi Taw. 

On July 22, we then flew with Air Bagan from Yangon via Mandalay and Myitkyina to Putao, what altogether lasted 4 hours. To Putao some 13 passengers were on board with us only as foreign tourists. At the airport in Putao we were well received by some immigration officials and had to give them 9 passport and visa copies each. After that our guide Ahyin, an English speaking Rawang from Myanmar Frontier Travel & Tours, drove us in a Pajero car to one of the guesthouses in Putao called “Htawan Razi”. In the same-named restaurant opposite the market we then had our dinner - Chinese style.

For planning the next days, we met in town with a so-called “Lisu Cultural Committee”, several old men, who invited us to their villages, where all were Christians. The Lisu possess a so-called bible script, which had been especially developed by an English missionary in China in the 1920’s. Most of the Christians of the Lisu here in Putao belong to the “Church of Christ” and learn in special bible schools. The following Lisu villages were visited: Mulashidi, Muladi, Pamati, Mansakun, Sitilaw, Pangkhaing, und Dagushu Tsar. “Homestay” was organized and it was possible to learn more about, how intimate life was in a village. About opium, nobody seemed to know anything. A good Christian also does not drink alcohol.

I took enough time to explore Putao, which was called Hkamti Long (“Golden Place”) in the past. Commercial and social centre was the daily market, which is open from 6.00 o’clock in the morning to 17.00 o’clock in the evening. A small street heads north to Lisu villages and muddy tracks lead to the distant icy mountains, which only carry snow in the winter months. The main street to the east heads from the elevation, where Putao is located, down to the plain of the wet rice valley (Nam Tun) of the Buddhist Hkamti Tai farmers and to the airport and from there farther to the township of Machanbaw, a settlement, where mainly Jinghpaw people live. The street is asphalted and sometimes pebbled - only some 3m wide – and ends at a suspension bridge 14 miles on at the Malikha River, which separates Machanbaw from Putao. It is possible in the dry season to take a boat upriver towards Nam Khan and visit a large Rawang village, where the American missionary Robert Morse had lived several years in the 1950’s and started growing citrus trees there. To continue towards China is no more possible, but there is an active smuggle of mainly Mahogany trees from here into China.

At the airport splits another main road towards the south through the jungle to reach first Mulashidi, where you can still see the abandoned compound of the large Morse family clan, who lived here until 1965. Right at the Mula River there also was built the luxury Malikha Lodge, but which is closed now to renovate during the rainy season. The Myanmar Government is building now a solid stone bridge there, because the bad and muddy road leads via Sumprabum farther to Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State. For that, vehicles need around 3 days so far.

Before you leave Putao, you can see on top of the elevation the impressive Roman Catholic St. Anthony Church, where the Jinghpaw priest “Peter” does the services every Sunday. He gave me a new printed book, telling about the 500 years old history of the Catholic Church in Myanmar (1514-2014).

From the market in the south direction you pass the offices of the airlines, which nowadays fly to Putao: Yangon Airways, Asian Wings Airways, Air Bagan, and Golden Myanmar Airlines. Together with the stately Myanma Airlines, they all regularly supply Putao with Myanmar Beer and other necessities from Myitkyina. But except only a few open guesthouses to cater to tourists, there is nothing else to find.

There also is a temporary office of the UNDP organization, where I could find some important and new data about Putao:  

Putao Township is 2,105 square miles large und has some 82,806 inhabitants. Within the countryside 14 village wards are counted and altogether there are some 83 villages.

Putao borders are near India in the west and reaches near towards Tibet in the north and Yunnan in the east. Actually, the town is located some 500m high and has a subtropical climate, a little bit comparable with Mae Hong Son in Thailand. The distance south towards Myitkyina is 218 miles, but Myitkyina is normally only reachable in the dry season.

There is wet rice in the plain and dry rice in the mountains. Citrus trees and vegetables in the house gardens are very popular. Pigs, chicken, goats, cattle, water buffaloes and transport horses abound. The villagers look and gather herbal medicine plants, washing gold in the rivers, hunt in the forests and produce charcoal for their homes. Bartering is common. Electricity is on only 5 hours in the evenings per day. The ethnic composition is: 8,69% Jinghpaw, 31,91% Rawang, 50,79% Lisu and 7,17% Hkamti Tai (Shan). Burmese here are only 0,78%, mainly police and military. 

The ethnic diversity is obvious, but as mainly all the hill tribes are Christians and dress in common Burmese cloths, there is not much local color in Putao. Only during festival times, the several hill tribes wear their costumes. Also, most of the villages are mixed and stick together by marriage contacts. I was told that most of the villagers took the Christian religion - except the Buddhist Hkamti Tai – when there was a deadly and devastating earthquake in nearby Assam/India in the year of 1950.

Health problems arise in the form of malaria und respiratory diseases. There is 1 Public Hospital,  but in the same time 77 Primary Schools, 4 Middle Schools, 2 State High Schools and 1 Public Library. Also, there is a prison with circa 40 inmates at the moment (Lisu und Rawang).

Finally, it is interesting to note that in the western neighboring area of Putao in the direction to India there are valuable amber mines, which are already used and worked economically.

Putao is indeed a kind of Shangri-La in Myanmar, which is crowned by a chain of mountains, of whom Hkakabo Razi with 5,889m seems the highest one - at the border to Tibet in China. Interesting to note is that there are nearly no Indians or Chinese in Putao. The old British bastion called “Fort Hertz” is seen lonely, burnt out and abandoned on a small hill overlooking the broad valley of the Hkamti Tai in the north of Putao. Nearby is also a worth seeing museum exhibiting the local flora and fauna of the Khakabo Razi National Park, which is already an ASEAN heritage site. It is sponsored by the Ministry of Environmental Conservation & Forestry. Another “cultural museum” about the Rawang people is in the making.

Khakabo Razi National Park is located in Naungmung, the northernmost township in Kachin State in Myanmar, and was established in 1996 for eco-tourism activities and has the following to offer:

Forests include evergreen trees, hill pines, and are moist upper mixed deciduous forests. In addition to rare species such as takin, musk deer, blue sheep, and black barking deer, there are a lot of insects and butterflies. Climbing snow-capped mountains and studying the environmental impact at the origin of the mighty Ayeyarwady River system is best. The “black orchid” is a botanical wonder. Last but not least, the culture and living of the local tribes, such as the Rawang, Lisu and other Myanmar-Tibetan tribes, makes Putao an important entry gate into one of the last paradises on earth.
On July 29, we had to leave Putao by plane back to Myitkyina, where we visited the 45km far distant confluence of the Malikha and N’Maikha Rivers - in Myitsone, where the Ayeyarwady River starts and the Chinese still plan to construct a large dam. Also here, there are the different villages of the Kachin tribes, which one can see and study in the Kachin State Cultural Museum. The Kachin have been mainly converted since hundred years by the Baptist Church and the following 6 tribes are actually Kachin: Jinghpaw, Law Waw, Rawang, Lachik, Zai Wa, and Lisu. The Lisu immigrated from Yunnan Nujiang in Western China and settled down in Myanmar as the last ones. In Myitkyina, there is also the central headquarters of the new Lisu National Development Party - showing a crossbow on the party flag.

Lisu villages can then be seen in Waingmaw, a township opposite Myitkyina on the eastern side of the Ayeyarwady River. The small town is also an active trading ground for goods, which reach Myanmar from across the border in China. An alleged very good road leads from here towards the Chinese border and then over a pass to Tengchong in Yunnan, where jade from Hpakant will be delivered and worked on. 

After a two-year stop because of the rebel activities of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the annual festival of the “Manao” in Myitkyina will now be revived again, where all the Kachin tribes will meet within a cultural park. This will happen on January 10, 2015. Thus, there will be a reason to come back to Myitkyina and travel within the pacified Kachin State again.

Besides the airport in the western part of Myitkyina, it is possible to travel by train from Yangon via Mandalay to the town or take a new highway directly from Mandalay in the south. Furthermore, you can take the government boat from Mandalay to Bhamo on the Ayeyarwady River - some 4 days - and then board a bus from Bhamo to Myitkyina in order to cross the bridge in the north of the town. This all proves that Kachin State has a great potential in the future for welcoming the surging tourist arrivals in Myanmar.

After 3 nights at the New Light Hotel in Myitkyina (included in the package) I flew back on August 1 via Mandalay back to Yangon and on Sunday finally back to Chiang Mai.

In the upcoming tourist season (Oktober-April), Asian Wings Airways plans to fly directly from Chiang Mai to Mandalay and return. This makes a stay in Yangon not necessary and brings traveling to Kachin State even nearer than until now. The necessary tourist visa for Myanmar (28 days) you can get with the help of a travel agency in Chiang Mai (Nam Khong) for 2,500Baht, what normally takes 4-5 days time.      

For further information, please contact GMS Media Travel Consultant Reinhard Hohler based in Chiang Mai/Thailand by e-mail: sara@cmnet.co.th

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The UNFC: A “Non-partisan” view

If what was published by SHAN on Wednesday, 3 September, voiced a pessimistic view on the 12 armed organizations’ alliance, the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) and the article which followed on the next an optimistic one on it, what I’m going to write here offers a realistic once-over, according to a UNFC member who considers himself a non-partisan in the controversy that arose between the UNFC and the Karen National Union (KNU) that has suspended its membership in the 3 year old pact.

The positive sides of the UNFC, he says, include:
·      The 11 parties remain at least arguably united despite the KNU’s hopefully temporary parting (“Unity especially at this juncture is the key,” he says)

The KNU still agrees to work in the 16 member Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) where UNFC members form the majority. Padoh Kwe Htoo Win, General Secretary of the KNU, is one of the two deputy leaders of the NCCT that is negotiating with the government’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC)
·      Khu Oo Reh, the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP)’s Vice President, who has been elected as the alliance’s General Secretary, is seen as a leader acceptable to both UNFC and non-UNFC armed organizations
·      The alliance continues to enjoy moral and material support from the Nippon Foundation, whose head Yohei Sasakawa was appointed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as special representative to help achieve national reconciliation in Burma in February 2013.

 “Nevertheless,” the “non-partisan” argues, “the KNU, I believe, had not overreacted as some people believe.”

His arguments are:
·      The alliance operates not on consensus as desired by the KNU and others who collectively are in the minority but on majority decision (“The arrangement may be okay for small groups but not always for bigger organizations,” he claims)
·      The KNU had proposed that a supervisory committee, made up UNFC and non- UNFC armed organizations, to give guidance to the NCCT’s negotiations with the UPWC (The UPWC has the Union Peacemaking Central Committee, made up of cabinet, military and legislative members. “The UNFC, however, has ‘hijacked’ the NCCT,” he charges)
Please see Statement of First United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) Congress (3 September 2014):
#5. The Congress resolved that with respect to ceasefire, the NCCT is a working group formed of representatives of the UNFC member and associate organizations, and that working group is performing for achieving a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, in accordance with the principles and political laid down by the UNFC.     
·      At least two of the UNFC Executive Committee of the UNFC do not appear to meet the requirement of the UNFC Constitution that they must be on the central committee of their respective movements (“That is not quite an encouraging  precedent, “ he says)

The “non-partisan” is also concerned about the old way of thinking,that old solutions still apply to the new circumstances.

“Forming an alliance to fight and forming one to make peace while preparing for the worst,“ he says “are quite different. For instance, the UNFC wants to represent the ethnic nationalities in the proposed Tripartite Dialogue (between the Government, Democratic Forces and Ethnic Nationalities as recommended by the UN in 1994). But the democratic forces as once represented by Aung San Suu Kyi is no more. And ethnic parties that were almost strangled to death under the military regime are now alive and kicking. But the UNFC had invited only chosen CSOs and parties to the Congress.”

Another concern of his is that there are elements both within and without the UNFC who are pushing for political dialogue instead of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) that the NCCT and UPWC are negotiating.
“They are suggesting that the NCA be delayed until the post-2015 elections government is in place,” he says. “If it is signed now, the West may lift all its sanctions and the USDP, riding the crest of its success, may be re-elected.They think the ethnic nationalities are going to get a better deal with a non-military affiliated party government.”

He is likewise troubled about the leadership. “There has been a lot of reports that in the UNFC nothing is agreed until the chairman agrees,” he says. “I hope we will not witness any repetitions in his second term.”

The “non-partisan”, meanwhile, is not without concern about the KNU. “I hope both factions are able to come to terms with each other,” he hopes. “I also hope we don’t see emergence of new DKBAs and new KPCs (groups that split away from the KNU).”

The KNU has called a CEC meeting for the next month.

So now that you’ve heard “your side”, “my side” and even “neither side” of the story,, what do you think is the truth?

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