Day Three (4 March 2014)
Meeting my match
If I was happy with my short presentation on the peace process today, it was short-lived.
A young political analyst who has already made a name for himself by his critical articles in Unity, True and D.Wave, told me forthright I could afford to have been more forthright with my remarks.
“This is the government’s deliberate attempt to delay the political dialogue,” he said speaking on the three stages that the government’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC) and the resistance coalition Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), namely: Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) signing, Framework for Political Dialogue negotiations and Political Dialogue. “Had it declared a unilateral ceasefire like Gen Ne Win did (in 1963), we would have been engaging in political dialogue for more than two years now.”
“Firstly, investors are still concerned about the ongoing fighting,” he said. “Secondly, business laws in Burma are still posing as stumbling blocks. Even the CMLV (Cambodia, Malaysia, Laos and Vietnam firm) have packed their bags and gone. Thirdly, the government is talking about combining the FDI (Foreign Direct Investment law) and the citizens’ investment law to make a new law, even though the FDI has just been ratified and enforced. The total investments in the country, as a result, are just a child’s pocket money, compared to those in the neighboring countries.”
He also added that the people are now worse off than they were two decades ago, when new inland and offshore oil and gas fields were discovered.
The day started with opening speeches by Sao Aung Myat, Shan State Chief Minister, and U Paik Htwe, deputy union information minister.
According to the latter, censorship has gone forever since August 2012. And since April 2013, there are 18 private dailies and 389 weeklies, among which are 9 ethnic journals.
One panelist, Nang Calyar Win aka New Thewdar, a member of the Interim Press Council (IPC) urged the 250 plus participants to join in the drafting of the new press law being drawn whose first draft was published last year. (Ratified by Union Assembly yesterday)
In the afternoon, they were off to the Inlay Hotel Zone, leaving me to attend the funeral of an old friend Khun Pang (Unfortunately I missed it by 15 minutes) and then to visit another friend who I found was entertaining Dr Yan Naing Thein.
We talked for two hours before we parted friends.
I don’t know whether or not he had benefitted from the meeting. (I had told him The Three Kingdoms, a Chinese historical romance , where the righteous and most popular leader was beaten by his rival, who was bad and much hated, but who also turned out to be a better planner and prepared man.) But I decided I emerged from it a much learned man.
CHAING MAI- March 6. Chiang Mai Governor Wichian Puttiwinyu is
pushing to open Lak Teang gate on the Thai-Shan State border for
The Chiang Mai governor and the Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce held a Thai-Burma border committee meeting in February 2014, pushing to open Lak Teang gate, on the border of Wianghaeng district, northern Chiang Mai province.
The Chiang Mai governor will propose the plan to the Thai Ministry of Interior, then approach the Burma government. The Thai side is ready to open, as roads are well constructed, and it reported that on the Burma side, construction is underway of the road which connects to Lak Teang.
Over 500 Shan refugees are sheltering in a camp on the Thai side near Lak Teang gate, which has been closed since 2002.
They fled from fighting between the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) and joint Burma Army-United Wa State Army forces in 2002.
It is not known what impact the opening of the border gate will have on the refugees. In 2012, there were plans to resettle the refugees at Mong Taw-Mong Hta across the border in Shan State. However, the plans were halted after Shan CBOs voiced concerns that the area was still heavily militarized and there was no guarantee of safety for returning refugees.
Day 2. 3 March 2014
Old days still learn new tricks
During breakfast, I was informed that Ta Hsarm Pu, the Pang crossing that leads into Kunpang (Pang Island), a strategic area that lies between the Pang and the Salween, was taken by the Burmese Army on 28 February. Without a fight, because the Burma Army, instead of fighting, had resorted to charm. It had reportedly asked the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) guarding the crossing to temporarily move out, white its troops were going across. And after the SSA had graciously complied, it simply took over the positions, where it has remained until now.
I couldn’t decide whether I should cry or laugh, after the report was conveyed to me.
The highlight of the day is the press launch of the United States Institute for Peace (USIP)’s “Media and Conflict in Myanmar. Opportunities the media to advance peace”, held in the hotel’s dining room.
The presenter Stephen Gray, who had done a 6-month survey, said there has been a lot of “misinformation” and “misunderstanding” among the people. And the media has the opportunity to support peace by providing accurate and reliable information in a way that is understandable to them.
He suggested, among others, conflict sensitive training for journalists as well as government, CSO and ethnic leaders. He especially warned against online hate speech.
Then there was dinner attended by Shan State chief minister Sao Aung Myat and deputy union minister for information U Paik Htwe, who took trouble to shake hands with us, more than 100 of journalists and activists, before getting back to his table.
It was there I ran into old friends and new friends, among whom was Sao Haymar Thaike, one of the surviving daughters of Sao Shwe Thaike, Prince of Yawnghwe and the first President of the newly independent Union of Burma (1948-1952).
You can bet I had a good time and lose. Because I went to bed early, though a bit later than I usually do.
CHIANG MAI- March 5. SHAN in collaboration with Burma News
International (BNI) held the second ethnic media conference in the Shan
State capital Taunggyi. The conference started on March 4 and is
scheduled to end on March 6, 2014.
U Pike Htwe said, “The central government follows the constitution and provides freedom of expression; there is no more censorship. So far, there are over 300 journals registered and have got permits, and 9 journals in ethnic languages.”
However, Sai Hark Khur, an ethnic reporter said, “Ethnic media do not have full freedom of expression. For instance, when registering, the news agency has to sign a paper, saying they take responsibility for every word in the newspaper or journal they publish.
Furthermore, the authorities ask for ethnic publications to be translated into Burmese for them.”
According to BNI secretary Khin Maung Shwe, the conference was scheduled to discuss development of democratic media, women and media, and ethnic media.
The first ethnic media conference was held in Mawlamyine, Mon State, in April last year.
CHIANG MAI- March 4. The Shan State Progress Party/Shan State
Army-North lost a strategic base while its leaders were attending a
census meeting in Naypyitaw.
The Burma Army’s Central Eastern Command in Kolam sent a letter to SSPP demanding that the SSA-N troops withdraw from Tar Hsarm Pu base, because the Burma Army would use that route. On February 27, the SSA withdrew from the base as demanded, but on February 28, the Burma Army seized and occupied the base.
An SSPP officer said, “The Burma Army sent a letter to us, demanding our troops withdraw from the base so that the Burma Army could use the route. Our high ranking officers at the headquarters believed that it was time to make peace and the Burma Army was sincere, but the Burma Army then deployed more troops and occupied our strategic base.”
According to SSPP spokesperson, Sai Hla “Tar Hsarm Pu base was like our backbone, where we collected transportation tax and mining tax, so we defended it with our lives in the past.”
Tar Hsarm Pu is an economically and militarily strategic base of SSPP/SSA where it connects to its ally the United Wa State Army (UWSA).
Meanwhile the Burma Army has deployed more troops in SSPP-controlled areas and engaged in fierce fighting in Nong Keaw, from February 28 till March 1st 2014. The villagers in Nar Kew have fled into the jungle and villages nearby.
According to a villager at Nar Kew, dozens of Burmese soldiers were killed in the battle, because they were not familiar with the location, and many SSPP/SSA soldiers were injured.
About 1,000 soldiers have been deployed in SSPP/SSA controlled areas, reportedly in an operation named Shan Thit (Shan 1) under the command of Major Myint Aung from the 77th Light Infantry Division of Bago.
By: Sai Wansai
Friday, 28 February 2014
So far as the first point is concerned, all know that the 2008 Constitution has been manipulated from the beginning of its formulation to the nationwide referendum, to be able to achieve the military supremacy stance in Burma political arena for as long as possible. And there is no denying that this is the core problem that needs to be addressed and tackled.
The second point is whether the unitary presidential system, which is centrally controlled, is compatible to the people’s desired genuine federal union, where political decision-making power is shared between the centre and the states.
Amending a few paragraphs here and there is definitely not going to solve the political woes and accumulating, nationwide problems. Eventually, all the people residing within Burma would have to come up with a reality of formulating their own desired constitution and political system they aspired and not just amending the military-drafted constitution, a little here and there, so that the military won’t be upset.
The people concerned with the well-being of country should now try to think of replacing the military-driven vehicle with its own driver at the steering wheel, rather than just being passive passengers with no real say in plotting the journey and destination.
Announcement of 'Consortium of Development Studies in Southeast Asia' (CDSSEA) Scholarships, Year 2014
RE: Announcement of CDSSEA Scholarships for Applicants from Cambodia,
Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand Wishing to do a Master’s Program in
Development Studies at the Asian Institute of Technology, Chiang Mai
University or Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, 2014
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CDSSEA booklet yr2014.pdf
Again I’m on my way to Taunggyi via Kengtung. The plane in Yangon Airways, flight YH 737.
It seems to have raised its prices. In September I must have paid something like 69,000 kyat ($69). Now it’s 77,200 kyat ($77). My Burmese cash has run out but fortunately the airport at Tachilek accepts Thai money. So I got away with it.
All in all, I have been given a near VIP treatment by the officials from Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), Immigration and Military Affairs Security (MAS) until I’m at last seated in the plane. So I have only appreciation for that and nothing to complain.
As usual, I’m up to my usual truck, when I’m on a plane, looking up for something to read.
And I’m not disappointed, because there is a new in flight bi-annual magazine Swosone waiting for me, And there was a lot to read and kill time during my nearly 2 hour flight to Heho, known by Shans as Haiwo: about current Kachin situation, the current Pyu cities and the upcoming Kekku festival in Taunggyi, among others:
The reader is reported that renewed fighting broke out between the two sides “after the Tamadaw tried to force the KIA (Kachin Independence Army) to withdraw from the site of the Depein Hydropower plant being built by a Chinese company.” Only just short of saying that it was the Tatmadaw (government military) that violated the ceasefire. Luckily the publication may be getting away with it too.
On Sriksetra, Hanlin and Vishnu (Aeikthano), long known as Pyu cities, the writer repants of the recently published “History of Myanmar since ancient times” written by Michael and Maitoii Aung-Thwin, who have argued that what is commonly called “Pyu period” should instead by referred to as the “urban” period, despite evidence the Pyu had their own language based on Sanskrit.
Which reminds me of Mr Aung-Thwin once writing that the “Threi Shan Brothers” who became prominent during the late Pagan period were not Shans.
Well, as my history teacher once said, history is about facts and who’s telling the story. I just hope he got his facts right.
A week from now, the Kekku festival celebrating the 2,000 small pagodas in Kekku, 42 km (26 miles) south of Taunggyi, is going to start.
The writer says architectural style suggests that they were built in the 16th century. It did not say who built them. But it is likely that they were discovered by the PaO who are the dominant nationality in the area.
Shans however say it was their cousins Tai Yan coming from the east who were the real originators of the Kekku pagodas. In fact, Shans in that area speak a dialect which is closer to the Tai Yan than the standard Shan, known as Tai Long.
I was welcomed by an airport official U Soe Win Kyaw at Heho and my sister.
It was an hour’s drive from the airport to Taunggyi and the Taunggyi Hotel where I’ll be making my home for at least 4 days.
As we enter the city’s center which looks busy, I ask my young assistant who is going to be my camerawomen throughout the media conference, 4-6 March, “Well, how do you feel?
“I feel right at home now,” she answers. She has been with SHAN for 5 years now.