The way to peace: Practise what The Buddha preaches



The 16th of April is regarded as the New Year for most of the people of Burma who are Buddhists, although Buddhist scriptures have not mentioned April as New Year. Indeed, for real Buddhists, the New Year begins with the end of the Full Moon Day of the Kasone (The 6th Lunar Month for Shans) that falls either in May or June, when the Buddha passed away into Nirvana.

The event epitomizes, one may say, the time-honored weird custom of the Buddhists of Burma to revere somebody without observing his/her teachings.

The Buddha has taught that one has three duties:

  • To strive for one’s own enlightenment
  • To strive for the good of one’s community
  • To strive for the good of the world
At the same time, He has indeed maintained that supporting one’s community as one of the highest blessings.

But ever upholding the Middle Way, he has never said one should only love one’s community and hate others. On the contrary, He has urged His disciples ‘Just as a mother would protect her only child even at the risk of her own life, even so let one cultivate a boundless heart towards all beings.’ (From What The Buddha Taught, by Walpola Rahula)
He had also warned them not to form excessive attachment to one’s own community.

However, while most of the people of Burma are proud of being Buddhists, few of them can claim to be following in His footsteps. That is, one may say, one of the reasons why the country has being at war with itself for the past 66 years. One may even say that is the fruit of being a nation of hypocrites.
Water Festival (Potrait: U Ba Kyi)

The answer therefore is simple: Let us all listen and follow His teachings of loving-kindness starting with our leaders:
  • Reduce our extremist nationalism
  • Love all the people of Burma, whether they be Bamars or non-Burmars, Buddhist and non-Buddhist
Then we are sure to witness a peaceful and prosperous nation that rises out of turmoil just as a lotus rises out of a marshland before long.
A Happy Burmese New Year!


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Shan village signpost demolished by unknown assailants



CHIANG MAI-April 11. A Shan village signpost in Nawng Khio, northern Shan State, was demolished by unknown assailants on April 9, to the anger of some Shan cyber-users.

Nawnglong village signpost before it was demolished. (Photo: Loi Kham) 

“The signpost was quite big, so it could not have been destroyed by cows or buffalos. It was done by some assailants,” commented Sai Htwe on facebook.

Sai Zin Min Aye said: “Whoever destroyed the signpost should be arrested, as it violates the constitution, which is aimed to consolidate national unity.”

Sai Hla Kyaw said: “They (the Burmese military authorities which demolished the Keng Tung palace in 1990) destroyed our Shan palace; it is not enough for them. Now, they have even destroyed our village signpost.”

The signpost was for the village of Naunglong village, in Nawng Khio township, north of Mandalay, in northern Shan State.
Nawnglong village signpost after it was demolished by unknown assailants. (Photo: Loi Kham) 

The signpost which was destroyed was written in Shan, as Nawnglong village on the top and in Burmese as Inn Ma village at the bottom.

The signpost was built by the Shan Literature and Culture Association-Nawng Khio.
Most of the signposts of villages and township in Shan State have their names written and designed in Burmese, which does not represent the local language and style.


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An Old Guard leader returns to the fray



Very few at the “historic” (according to Kachin general Gun Maw) meeting on 5 April in Rangoon, where 21 armed resistance movements (ARMs) in Burma had sent their representatives, knew or heard of him.

Many of them, both Burman and non-Burman alike, were more familiar with Mongla’s top leader, Sai Leun aka U Sai Lin aka Lin Mingxian, his two deputies, Hsan Per and Hsang Lu, and former General Secretary Min Ein, who was gunned down near Mongla’s Oriental Hotel on 27 January 2010 by an assassin who is still at large.

Kyi Myint, on 16 November 1968, directing the operations in Hsi Hsin Wan, Muse township (Photo: Land of Jade, Bertil Lintner)

His assassination, taking place at the height of tensions caused by Naypyitaw’s demand that all ARMs that had concluded ceasefire agreements since 1989 transform themselves into Burma Army-controlled People’s Militia Forces (PMFs) or Border Guard Forces (BGFs), had created a sensation.

The National Democratic Front (NDF), the predecessor to today’s United Nationalities Council (UNFC), issued a statement on the next day saying a secret order to assassinate leaders of ceasefire groups that had resisted government demand to become PMFs/BGFs came out from Naypyitaw following the Tri-annual meeting held there in November.

Following Min Ein’s untimely demise, a Shan, Sai Hseng La, was appointed in his place. Three years later, Kyi Myint aka Zhang Zhiming, now 64, returned to Mongla after more than a decade absence. By the end of 2013, he was appointed to replace Sai Hseng La, who became head of the local administration.
Kyi Myint, on 5 April 2014, speaking at the ''historic'' meeting (Photo: RCSS)

It was after his return that Mongla began its call for a self-administered status, a right currently enjoyed by Wa, Danu, PaO, Palaung, Kokang and Naga. Indeed at the meeting in Rangoon, Kyi Myint, as Mongla’s spokesman, spoke in favor of its ally the United Wa State Army (UWSA)’s demand for a separate statehood and reiterated its own call to be elevated to a self administered level. “It was as though the Wa and Mongla had had a rehearsal together before coming,” commented a participant.

Kyi Myint, according to Bertil Lintner, was born in 1950 in Wanding, opposite Shan State’s Panghsai near Muse. He joined the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) in 1968 as a Red Guard volunteer along with Lin Mingxian. He was regarded as one of CPB’s ablest commanders. His departure from Mongla, a few years after Lin concluded a ceasefire in 1989, was said to be “because he couldn’t get along with Lin Hongshen (aka Min Ein).”

Now that he’s back, it is clear Mongla is in the hands of a man with better political acumen. Whether it will make the work of peacemakers more difficult or easier is anybody’s guess at present, though.


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2008 constitution and Wa call for statehood



If Wa wants a separate from the Shans, it is not by antagonizing them, but by waging a charm offensive, according to the military-drawn constitution.

The Wa, together with PaO, Palaung, Kokang and Danu, has been granted a Self Administered statues with 6 townships in Shan State, of which 4: Pangwai, Mongmai, Napharn, and Panghsang (Pangkham) are under the control of the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and 2 (Hopang and Markmang) under the Burma Army.

In addition, the northwestern part of Mongyang township (designated Mongpawk sub-township by Naypyitaw), and some parts of Mongton and Monghsat townships on the Thai-Burmese border are effectively under Wa control.



wa-mongla-areas

Map: Wa and Mongla controlled areas

Moreover, Mongla that has demanded an Akha Self Administered status, if approved, will virtually become a Wa vassal.

So what does the 2008 constitution has to say about this?
Article 53 has outlined the following procedure:
  • The first step is prior consent of the electorate residing within the (affected) township (s) must be obtained. More than half of the total number of the electorate will be necessary
  • The second step is consent of three-quarters of the total number of representatives of the state/region legislature concerned. The President shall then “de-lineate the territorial boundary of the Region or State concerned”
  • In the event the state/region legislature concerned has decided against the delineation, the resolution of the Union Panglong must be obtained
Since only 15 out of 55 townships in Shan State enjoy non-Shan self administered status, it is quite clear the Wa can win this battle only by blarney and not by brawn, unless they have a higher authority to appeal to.

But since 2 April, the UWSA’s 171st Military Region, known as its southern command, has crossed the Salween to the west bank under the Shan State Army (SSA)’s sway to set up outposts that would guard its gold dredging activities on the river. Inevitably, an armed confrontation has taken place.

Loi Taileng, the SSA headquarters, says it has notified both Panghsang and Naypyitaw to observe the ceasefire that had been concluded since 2011. So far neither the UWSA nor the Burma Army appears to have taken notice.

2008 constitution or not, one thing seems to be certain if this sad deterioration of relationship between the Wa and the Shan continues: The Shan can forget their struggle for greater autonomy and the Wa their struggle for a statehood. Because the ultimate winner can be no other than the Burma Army leaders who still cherish their dreams of establishing the 4th Burmese empire.


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The Nu Jaing, or Salween or Nam Khong River is the Life Force of millions of People in China, Shan State, Karenni, Mon and Karen States



By Sao Noan Oo

“Shan civil society organizations are concerned and are calling the Burmese government to halt dam projects on the Salween and Nam Ma rivers in Shan State. The groups expressed concern that the dam projects are likely to have negative impacts for local people.

Sao Noan Oo
According to the joint statement released by the Shan civil society organizations on April 1 of 2014, representatives of Burma’s Ministry of Electricity, International Group of Entrepreneurs Co., Ltd. and Hydrochina Corporation held a public meeting with villagers in Tarngyan township on March 17, to promote plans to build the Nawng Pha dam on the Salween river and the Mann Toung (မၢၼ်ႈတူၼ်ႈ) dam on the Nam Ma river, a Salween tributary.

The Shans are very concerned of the likely negative impacts on the environment and on the communities that live along the length of the river. We therefore strongly urge the Burmese government to immediately halt the dam projects on Salween and Nam Ma Rivers in Shan State.”

The statement also said: “The Salween and Nam Ma rivers have sustained the livelihood of Shan State people for generations. They are a precious resource which should not be sold off to China by the Burmese government.”

I endorse the concern of Shan civil society organisations and support their call to the Burmese Government to halt the dam projects on the Salween and Nam Ma Rivers in the Shan State. Furthermore I request International Governments and Communities to support our call.

Although dams are being designed based on past hydrological patterns and principles to produce electricity there has been little thought of how it will affect the environments and the lives and well being of citizens whose livelihood depends on the river on which the dam is to be built.

China's three gorges Dam is the world's largest hydroelectric dam based on generating the amount of electricity. After many decades of planning it came into operation in 2009, but continuous adjustments and additional projects are still going on. There is no denying that the three gorges dam will provide China with the growing demand of electricity, but its construction has created an assortment of problems for the country.

In order for the dam to exist, over 100 towns had to be submerged, resulting in relocation 1.3 million people.

Beijing (CNN) -- In a rare admission, the Chinese government has said the Three
Gorges Dam -- the world's largest hydropower plant -- is having "urgent problems," warning of environmental, construction and migration "disasters" amid the worst drought to hit southern China in 50 years.

Man-made droughts are nothing new to those who live downstream of big dams. Some people living on the dry side of dams have suffered from massive ecological and hydrological changes. They experience both man-made droughts from dams holding back the river's flow and in some cases, to the point of the river disappearing completely from some of its course, and man-made floods caused by poor dam design and management.
By building dams on the river Salween the people living downstream in the Shan Karenni, Mon and Karen States are likely to suffer from drought.

It was believed that the main environmental benefit of the Three Gorges Dam is the reduction of carbon emission. However, it has been found that the dam does cause greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. In reservoirs, the breakdown of vegetation and organic material that becomes blocked and accumulated behind the dam also release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The hydroelectric dam also serves as a physical barrier that disrupts the river ecosystem. In addition, the three gorges Dam area is rich in archaeological and cultural heritage. Many cultures have inhabited the areas that are now under water, making it impossible to conduct future archaeological and paleontological studies.

The Salween River, "is an international river, the source of which was debatable until recently. In 2011 a team of CERS (China Exploration & Research Society) led by Wong How Man discovered the source of the Salween River to be in Qinghai, a province in N W China where the Yangtse Caing and Lan Jang also rise. These three important, great rivers of China are also international rivers, used in ancient times by migrants as routes to follow to settle in different parts of the world. According to a Chinese legend these three rivers were the “The Three Sisters of the Tanggula”, that came down and settled in the watersheds of Qinghai, where during spring , the whole area is like a green carpet, dotted with colourful little flowers. The three sisters then travelled south, parallel and side by side until they reached Yunnan. Once in Yunnan each of the sisters chose to travel their own separate way.

The Salween or Nam Khong flows down the Tibetan Plateau, along the Western border of Tai Khong (Dehong Prefecture) in China. It enters the Shan State at the Northern tip of Hsenwi and flows from north to south, the whole length of the country and then through the Karenni, Karen, Mon States and finally into the Indian Ocean at Moulmein. The Salween River and its many tributaries serve productive and industrious Shan farmers with water for irrigating rice fields. Rice cultivation has been Shan culture for generations and most importantly, it is their livelihood.

Therefore, the people fear that if the river ceases to flow the Shan State as we know it will be lost forever. The Nham Kong River is as important symbolically to the Shan as the Irrawaddy is to the Burmese People.

The dam will not only have devastating social and environmental impacts: large area of farmlands will be inundated and countless people will suffer.

People who have lived and visited the Shan State has described it as “A naturally beautiful country”. It has rolling downs, mountain ranges, waterfalls and ample water supply from the Salween River and its many tributaries. The country also has many natural resources, minerals, forests of good quality timber. I would like to call on all global Governments and Communities to please support us in our quest to conserve our National and Cultural heritage, which has been kindly endowed to us by Mother Nature

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


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Opening of Mekong unbolts doors for Uighurs fleeing China: Thai immigration



China can blame nobody but itself for opening up the Mekong that was once crammed with treacherous cascades, according to Thai immigration officials on the Golden Triangle, where the borders of Burma, Laos and Thailand converge on the Mekong that originates in China.

Suspected Uighurs from China's troubled far-western region of Xinjiang, rest inside a temporary shelter after they were detained at the immigration regional headquarters near the Thailand-Malaysia border in Hatyai, Songkhla March 14, 2014. About 200 people rescued by police from a human smuggling camp in southern Thailand on Wednesday are suspected Uighur Muslims from China's troubled far-western region of Xinjiang, say Thai police. (Photo: Reuters)

They were commenting on recent reports of more than 300 Uighurs from China’s Muslim-dominant Sinkiang (Xinjiang) province being detained in Thailand:
  • 220, including 78 men, 60 women and 82 children, on 12 March, in Songkhla, one of the kingdom’s southern provinces (Bangkok Post)
  • Another 112, later in Sa Kaew near the Thai-Cambodian border (RFA)
According to an informed source in Maesai, most of the Uighurs are coming down the Mekong by boats. “They get off the boats when they are approaching a checkpoint, and, conducted by a guide, will skirt it on foot, then climb back into their boats when they get to a safe distance,” he said. “They are later discharged at Muong Mom on the Laotian side of the Golden Triangle. Afterward they are carried across the river to Chiang Saen (Chiangrai province).”
Map of China (Map: www.eslweekly.com)

Trafficking of Uighurs, according to him, are different from that of the North Koreans. “The North Koreans usually announce themselves upon arrival on the Thai soil, so they can be detained by the police and picked up by the South Koreans later,” he said. “But Uighurs never do that. They are just quietly transported by their contacts to the South (of Thailand), where sizeable Muslim populations are located. From there, they are taken to other countries.”

Authorities initials said they believed the groups were Turkish, because they claimed to be from Turkey, reported Bangkok Post.


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All roads lead to Rangoon



Representatives of the armed resistance movements’ Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) as well as non-NCCT groups are heading for Rangoon where they are scheduled to hold the first meeting of the Joint Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement Drafting Committee (JNDC) at the Myanmar Peace Center the day after tomorrow, according to sources.

mpc-ncct-rg
Meeting between the NCCT and UPWC on 9-10 March 2014. (Photo: NCCT)

“The 8-men party led by Nai Hong Sar (NCCT leader and Deputy JNDC leader) is on the way (from Chiangmai) to Tachilek, where they will be met and escorted by U Nyo Ohn Myint (MPC official) to Rangoon,” said Hkun Okker, JNDC member. “Myself and the rest will be flying in.”

The 6th meeting between the NCCT and the government’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC) on 9-10 March had agreed to form the JNDC with 9 representatives from each side plus 5 non-NCCT organization that have signed initial ceasefire agreements, namely:
  • All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF)
  • National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), better known as Mongla
  • National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN)
  • Restoration Council of Shan State / Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA)
  • United Wa State Party / United Wa State Army (UWSP/UWSA)
The NDAA has dispatched a 7-men delegation, while the UWSP/UWSA is on the way to Rangoon with 18 of its members, according to an MPC official.

Meanwhile, the 3 men RCSS/SSA team will be led by Col Sai La. It is also due to fly to Rangoon from Tachilek today.

The main topic of the meeting is expected to be to draft a single text document for the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).

The planned signing is to be followed by negotiations for Framework (FW) for Political Dialogue and Political Dialogue (PD).


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Shan rights groups call for Burmese government to halt dam projects



CHIANG MAI- April 2. Dozens of Shan civil society organizations are calling for the Burmese government to halt dam projects on the Salween and Nam Ma rivers in Shan State. The groups expressed  concern that the dam projects are likely to have negative impacts for local people.

According to the joint statement released by the Shan civil society organizations on April 1 of 2014, representatives of Burma’s Ministry of Electricity, International Group of Entrepreneurs Co., Ltd. and Hydrochina Corporation held a public meeting with villagers in Tarngyan township on March 17, to promote plans to build the Nawng Pha dam on the Salween river and the Mann Toung dam on the Nam Ma river, a Salween tributary.

Sai Khur Hseng told reporters about the dam projects at the press conference. (Photo: SHAN)

The statement said:  “We are very concerned at the likely negative impacts on the environment and on the communities that live along the length of the river. We therefore strongly urge the Burmese government to immediately halt the dam projects on Salween and Nam Ma Rivers in Shan State.”

The statement also said: “The Salween and Nam Ma rivers have sustained the livelihood of Shan State people for generations. They are a precious resource which should not be sold off to China by the Burmese government.”

According to the statement Hydrochina Corporation has signed an agreement with the Ministry of Electricity for a 40-year concession for the hydropower projects. 90% of the electricity will be exported to China and 10% will be used in Burma.
The map showing location of Nawng Pha and Mann Toung dams 

Additionally, the statement said: “About 100 people from 10 villages situated about 30-40 miles from the dam projects were invited to attend the meeting, but villages which are very close to the projects and likely to suffer the most negative impacts from the dam projects were not invited to participate.”

The statement said: “There has been no transparent impacts assessment for the dams, and no free, prior informed consent of local people, who remain in fear of the Burma Army.”
Sai Khur Hseng said, “Every battle in Shan State is related to conflict of interest and dam projects.”

The joint statement of concern was issued by Shan civil society organizations, including the grouping of Shan Community Based-organizations, Tai Youth Network,  Shan State Youth Network Committee, Shan Students Union-Thailand and thousands of individual signatories from 15 townships in Shan State and Mandalay.


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