Burma Army Detains Civilians in Shan State

Seven villagers in Kunhing Township were detained for more than a day after renewed fighting between the Burma Army and the RCSS/SSA.
On the morning of August 25, seven residents from Zaikhao tract, Kunhing Township were taken from their village by Burma troops after military clashes with the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA).
The men were held in an unknown location before being released yesterday. There has been no update about their condition since their release.
The seven detainees are identified as follows:
  1. Loong Nanta ( the headman of Zaikhao tract)
  2. Loong Kawli
  3. Sai Arh
  4. Ko Toon
  5. Sai Naratta
  6. Sai Kawntinya
  7. Sai Khurharn
clashes preceded the men’s arrest, said Sai La, spokesperson of the RCSS/SSA. They occurred in two villages: Peng Khan and Wan Lao. The fighting broke out when RCSS/SSA troops entered Kunhing Township after traveling from Namzang Township in southern Shan State.

Nang Wa Nu, Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP) Member of Parliament, reported that she has contacted U Aung Min, the Vice Chairman of the government’s Union Peacemaking Working Committee, in writing, expressing concern for the detainees’ security and that of local civilians, particularly during Burma’s ongoing peace process. She said that people in Kunhing are now fearful and worried for their safety since the detention of the seven local men.

Villagers are also concerned by a recent increase in the number of Burma Army troops in the area.

Arrest and detention of civilians by the Burmese military during conflict has been previously reported and documented throughout the country.

“When there was a fighting in local area, the Burma Army would allege villagers’ involvement in assistance of the Shan army,” said Sai Hor Seng, of the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF), an organization that documents human rights violations in the region. “In many cases [of detention], the Burma Army forced the villagers to be their porters, and tortured or even killed them.”

In March of this year, the Shan Herald Agency for News reported on the detention of Sai Hsai Khur, a teacher from Wan Nar Kun village in Mongnai Township. He was arrested on his way to a teachers’ meeting at a temple in the area. The Burma Army detained him for two days, reportedly tying him to a tree and interrogating him.

“They asked me where the Shan State Army bases are and how many soldiers do they have,” he is quoted as saying. “When I replied that I don’t know anything, they kicked me and pointed a gun at my head.”

In response to such reports, government representatives have remained silent on or denied the practice of unlawful detention, suggesting that evidence of violations be disclosed to local military commanders.

By SAI AW / Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.)

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“It was like an earthquake” – Photographing the Aftermath of Shan State’s Floods

Weeks after flash flooding destroyed homes and farmland, villagers in eastern Shan State find themselves struggling to rebuild amidst the debris.

PHOTOS BY SAI MYO OO / Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.)

July and August’s uncharacteristically strong monsoon floods affected an estimated one million people throughout Burma, reaching all but two of the country’s fourteen states and destroying more than one million acres of farmland. The government has attributed 100 deaths to the catastrophe. The Irrawaddy reported that more than 330,000 people were displaced in Irrawaddy Division, and disaster zones were declared in Arakan and Chin States and Magwe and Sagaing Divisions.

Eastern and northern regions of Shan State experienced flash flooding earlier this month, resulting in lost lives, infrastructure, homes and farmland. On August 18, Sai Myo Oo, a Shan Herald Agency for News photographer, traveled to Tachileik District in the eastern region of his home state to document the impact of the disaster once the water had receded.

“When the flooding came, it was like an earthquake,” recalled one villager, describing the early morning of August 4, when the waters of the Nam Paeng river burst its banks in eastern Shan State’s Tachileik District. Nine villages along the river suffered damage, and the residents of the area continue to sift through debris and rely on community-sourced aid as they struggle to rebuild.
Photo 1
Photo by S.H.A.N.
Streets remain clogged with debris in the village of Nam Gai. After heavy rainfall on August 3, flooding began in the early morning on the following day. “It wasn’t big at first,” said locals who claim the area had never flooded in the past. But by 4:00 or 5:00 a.m., water rushed in, carrying large stones, sediment, and most notably, logs and uprooted trees. Most locals heeded a warning from the village head and fled their homes before the river rose, but there were still four casualties in the village of Nam Gai: three women and one young boy passed away in the disaster. The water level dropped after only one hour, revealing the extent of the destruction.
Photo 2
Photo by S.H.A.N.
After this bridge was washed away by the river on the morning of August 4, a footpath was rebuilt from bamboo by the villagers of Nam Paeng.
Photo 3
Photo by S.H.A.N.
Once the waters receded, it was revealed that the rice paddies had been destroyed. Most of the villagers in this region are subsistence farmers. They predict that the loss of this crop will set them back two years. In order to make the paddies fertile again, the farmers must remove the rubble and sediment deposited by the flood.
Photo 4
Photo by S.H.A.N.
Stores of rice—a staple food—saved from the previous year’s harvest to feed the village this year, are ruined by the flood. According to traditional Shan methods, farmers harvest their rice crop and consume some of the rice that same year, and store a large amount to eat during the following year.
Photo 5
Photo by S.H.A.N.
In the village of Nam Gai, two men pull a TV out of the mud. They explained that they had saved their money and bought it for their family two months earlier. “It won’t work anymore,” the photographer told them. “Maybe it will,” one man responded. “And if not, we can just display it in our house anyway, for show.”
Photo 6
Photo by S.H.A.N.
Loong Noom, 46 years old, divided his time between Nam Paeng village, where he had built a home for his aging parents, and Tachileik, where his business selling onions is based. Here, he points to the area where his two-year-old custom-designed house stood before being washed away by the river for which the village is named. His parents survived, but his father was caught in the floodwaters, clinging to a floating log until he was rescued by villagers. “I’m lucky that my father is still alive now,” Loong Noom said.
Photo 7
Photo by S.H.A.N.
This is the last remaining photo of the house Loong Noom built for his elderly parents, which completely washed away in the flash flood on August 4. He had bought the land years before, and carefully saved for the house’s construction. “I have to save money again,” he said. “I have to think about where my parents will live.” He reflected that it may be too difficult to build such a structure again.
Photo 8
Photo by S.H.A.N.
Outside the temple in Nam Gai, aid is distributed. Each of the packs includes cooking and eating utensils, dry noodles, salt, oil, blankets and sleeping mats. Funds for the flood victims were collected by local monks, political parties, and Shan associations and communities in Thailand and Burma. The government donated rice and offered free first aid services from visiting nurses from Tachileik.
Photo 9
Photo by S.H.A.N.
Stilts were not able to save this traditional wood-and-bamboo house from the floodwaters. More than 160 houses were damaged or lost in the district, as well as two schools. Two hundred residents are now staying in the local temple or with relatives. Many are surviving on donations. Electricity has not returned to the villages.
Photo 10
Photo by S.H.A.N.
Residents survey the farmland in Nam Gai. They are determined to stay and rebuild, but still require special equipment to remove large logs deposited by the river. It has been suggested that companies mining for gold in the area could lend bulldozers to assist with the cleanup, but no such arrangement has been made yet. Locals also speculate that the severity of August’s flood could be related to the mining industry’s practice of deforestation, which is linked to increased soil erosion and higher water runoff speeds.

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Burmese consul: Opening of new border crossings will come after NCA signing

Speaking to business, academic and administrative representatives from 4 northern provinces on Saturday, 22 August, the head of the newly established consulate general of Burma said Naypyitaw would consider opening new border checkpoints only after the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) has been signed.
Conference banner
The seminar to discuss the planned opening of two border checkpoints: Ban Huey Ton Noon, also known as BP (Boundary Post) 13, between Thailand’s Maehongson and Burma’s Mese; and Ban Laktaeng, between Thailand’s Chiangmai and Burma’s Mongton, was held at Uniserv Hotel, and attended by representatives from Chiangmai, Lampoon, Lampang and Maehongson provinces.
Chana Phaengpiboon
Chana Phaengpiboon
It was opened by Deputy Governor Chana Phaengpiboon, who was quoted as saying, “The planned opening of the two temporary checkpoints will be the forerunner to a permanent opening heralding the launch of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) by the end of the year.”

Meanwhile, U Kaung San Lwin, Burma’s consul general, said the planned opening should wait until after the signing of the NCA, the draft of which was finalized on 6-7 August negotiations between Naypyitaw’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC) and the ethnic armed organization’s Special Delegation (SD) in Rangoon.

The Restoration Council of Shan State/ Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) is active in areas opposite Chiangmai and the Karenni National Progressive Party/Karenni Army (KNPP/KA) in areas opposite Maehongson’s west. Both have concluded preliminary ceasefire with Naypyitaw.
U Kaung San Lwin
U Kaung San Lwin
The delegation from the seminar met the Burmese delegation led by Lt-Col Tin Aung Moe, Commander of Infantry Battalion 65, and Maj Sai Lake, leader of the RCSS/SSA liaison office in Monghta sub-township, Mongton township, at Chiangmai’s Wiang Haeng district on the following day. It was agreed that a weekly market fair will be held every Thursday, starting tomorrow, 27 August, according to a Thai village headman.

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After what had been recognised as successful talks in July that brought the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) closer to fruition only three points remained to be addressed before a binding agreement could be signed. Perhaps crucially the most important for all concerned parties were which groups are to be included in the signing of the NCA. This has become a particularly difficult point to address as the Government and the armed ethnic group leaders have differing views as to the validity of those groups that can be a part of the process at the initial ceasefire stage.

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Over 23,000 Shan State Residents Join Campaign Against Salween Dams

Shan group presents Australian consulting firm with signatures of residents opposed to southern Shan State’s controversial Mong Ton hydropower project.
Photo by-Action for Shan State Rivers. Representatives from Shan community present signature to SMEC at their office in Yangon today 25 August 2015
Photo by-Action for Shan State Rivers. Representatives from Shan community present signature to SMEC at their office in Yangon today 25 August 2015
Today Shan community representatives revealed the signatures of 23,717 Shan State citizens who oppose the construction of the Mong Ton (Tasang) dam on the Salween (Thanlwin) River.
The petition was delivered to the Yangon office of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC), the Australian consulting firm responsible for conducting environmental and social impact assessments (EIA/SIA) of the proposed hydropower project.
Photo by- Burma Rivers Network. Area of the impact o the Dam Building

“The signatures were collected from people throughout Shan State, particularly townships adjoining the Salween, who are alarmed at Naypyidaw’s accelerated plans to dam their river to export hydropower,” stated a press release from the coalition Action for Shan State Rivers, which represents communities along the Salween River.
SMEC policy does not allow the firm to comment on ongoing assessments.
Sai Khur Hseng, a representative of the Shan Sapawa Environmental Organization explained that participants want the signatures included in the final EIA/SIA report, which will be released by SMEC later this month to the three entities behind the construction of the dam: the Chinese Three Gorges Corporation, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, and Burma’s Ministry of Electric Power.
“Our aim is to collect one million signatures. We will continue to collect them. When we get all the signatures, we will present them to Thai and Chinese governments,” Sai Khur Hseng said.
The signatures were collected during a two-week period this month, and extended to the Shan diaspora in Thailand.
Photo by- Burma Rivers Network. Proposed Salween Dam Map

Sai Myo Aung, of northern Shan State’s Kyaukme Township and now working in Chiang Mai, assisted the campaign as a volunteer, collecting signatures from members of displaced Shan communities. “Even though they are now living in Thailand, they are not Thai citizens. There is no guarantee for them to be permanent residents here,” he said of the sizeable migrant population, many of whom fled Shan State’s Salween basin due to fighting between the Burma Army and ethnic armed groups—a conflict which still continues in areas along the river today.

“They will go back to Shan State. And if their areas are flooded, where will they live?” he added.

Nang Lar, a resident of Pong Pa Kam in eastern Shan State, claimed that, like her, nearly all the people in her village offered their signatures to the petition. “We are Shan—we are like brothers and sisters. We don’t want to see them suffer with the flooding,” she explained.
If the dam is completed, the resulting reservoir would flood an area nearly the size of Singapore and would place 100 villages underwater.

SMEC’s environmental and social assessments could influence the future of the Mong Ton project, and is expected to predict, report and analyze the effects of the dam on both local populations and the natural surroundings.

On Monday, The Nation reported that Burma’s Ministry of Electric Power plans to continue dam construction throughout the country despite civic opposition. However, Nyan Tun U, a Ministry representative, cited the use of “public consultation[s]” to provide feedback on the sustainability of hydropower projects, perhaps a reference to the ongoing EIA/SIA conducted by SMEC.

As was reported by the Shan Herald Agency for News in June, the firm has faced criticism from locals and Shan community-based organizations regarding their perceived promotion of the hydropower project and reports of food and utilities being offered in exchange for support for the Mong Ton dam in particular.

The Mong Ton dam is one of five planned hydropower projects on the Salween River and, once completed, would be one of the largest dams in the region; at over 240 meters high, it would surpass even the Three Gorges Dam in China. It is estimated that it will have the capacity to produce 7000 megawatts of power, of which 10 percent would be reserved for use in Burma and 90 percent would be designated for export to Thailand and China.

BY SAI AW / Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.)

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Ethnic summit reaffirms conciliatory all-inclusive signing

The 4 day summit of the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) in Chiangmai which ended yesterday had reaffirmed its stand on the principle of all-inclusiveness, which means all the armed resistance movements must be allowed to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, the draft of which was finalized at the latest round of negotiations, 6-7 August, according to sources returning from the summit.
Summit participants in a group photo, 24 August 2015. (Photo: SHAN)
Summit participants in a group photo, 24 August 2015. (Photo: SHAN)
“One of the 11 resolutions passed at the summit is that the EAOs will stand by its principle for all EAOs to sign the NCA while exploring ways and means to pragmatically implement it,” said a source who requested anonymity.

The resolution appears to be a compromise between “hardliners” who won’t sign unless all are allowed to sign by Naypyitaw and “softliners”, who are ready to sign for their respective organizations but will continue to negotiate to obtain guarantees for the rest that they would not be subject to military offensives by the Burma Army, according to another source coming from the meeting.

Another resolution says the “Big Five” that will travel to Naypyitaw to meet the President and the Commander-in-Chief at the earliest date possible will be:
  • Gen N-Banla Kachin Independence Organization (KIO)                        Vice Chairman
  • Gen Mutu Saypoe Karen National Union (KNU)                                    Chairman
  • Abel Tweed Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP)                       Chairman
  • Nai Htaw Mon New Mon State Party (NMSP)                                        Chairman
  • Lt-Gen Hso Ten Shan State Progress Party (SSPP)                                 Patron
They will be accompanied by 3 Special Delegation (SD) leaders: Naw Zipporah Sein (KNU), Dr Laja (KIO) and Pu Zin Cung (CNF).

No date has been fixed yet for the meeting.

According to The Irrawaddy, Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, meeting with Interim Press Council (IPC) yesterday, was reported to have mentioned that the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) better known as Kokang, Arakan Army (AA), Ta-ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA)’s 4th Brigade (which is active in northern Shan State) must “abandon (their) arms.”

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Drugs in Burma: ‘like gelded chickens’

One of the Shan townspeople met by the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) delegation that spent a month-long tour inside Shan State last month said current government drug policy didn’t work, according to its report submitted late last month.
RCSS/SSA initiated public consultation in Tangyan. (Photo: RCSS/SSA)
RCSS/SSA initiated public consultation in Tangyan. (Photo: RCSS/SSA)
“It is like getting pigs and chickens gelded,” one of the participants at the public consultation in Namlan, Hsipaw township, northern Shan State, said. “The more you geld them, the more fat chickens you are going to have.”
The statement was echoed in other consultations held across the Shan State, between 21 June-22 July tour.
  • Since the fight began, drugs, instead of diminishing, have become more available than ever. (Participant in Kyaukme)
  • In areas controlled by the government and (the government led) People’s Militia Forces, drug use is higher than anywhere else. (Participant in Tangyan)
  • They are selling them at the foothill where Light Infantry Division (LID) 88 is setting up a camp. No drug pushers are reported to have been arrested. (Participant in Namkham)
  • What can the police do? There are 10 drug users to every policeman. Anyway, using drugs instead of bullets seems to be killing more Shans. (Participant in Hsipaw)
  • I volunteered to report to the local police on drug pushers. But when I did, the drug pusher was released. He later framed me for a crime I didn’t do, and I went to jail. (Participant in Kehsi)
  • Drug pushers here pay 3 Kyat for every 10 Kyat they make to the police. (Participant in Mongkeung)
  • Selling drugs here is like selling vegetables. There is nothing to fear. (Participant in Tongta)
  • You can buy drugs here anytime you like. (Participant in Mongphyak)
Not only the government and PMFs are being criticized, but in some cases, even the armed groups fighting against them. “Some of these groups ban drugs,” said a participant from Kyaukme, “but others are selling them.” He didn’t name names.
Asked what they wanted the government and the armed groups to do, they had different answers:
  • Crop substitution programs
  • More schools
  • Treatment centers
  • Support for local anti-drug movements
  • Enlist drug users as soldiers
The drug issue, according to the RCSS/SSA, that has already made two tours since 2012, is the topmost problem among the people of Shan State. “Get rid of it,” it was told during the first tour, “and we will elect your party for the rest of our lives.”
The RCSS/SSA has yet to set up a political party. “Until and unless the 2008 constitution is amended, we won’t even consider it,” said its leader Sao Yawdserk.

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Negotiation-trust relationship in the nationwide ceasefire process: Reflections of an outsider

Should a win-win solution be the focus of the negotiation parties and negotiations?

What is the role of trust in negotiations?

To the author, negotiation is a tool, a technique to seek a win-win solution, making both sides happy, while seeking trust, though essential, is not its primary job.

Trust is not to be sought, but to be built through negotiations.

There is the question: Whether parties should not negotiate when there is a lack of trust. The question is relevant. Because since the start of negotiations in 2011, the Tatmadaw’s offensives and territorial expansion have not stopped. They are valid reasons for the lack of trust by those on the defensive.

This is not to deny the need for trust, which is a contributing factor in the progress and success of negotiation, that can be compared to a conveyor or vehicle. But keeping it as the first and foremost requirement will not move negotiations forward.

Of course, for sustainable peace, trust is essential. That is why trust building has been a by-word in peace processes across the world.

Cambridge Advance Learners Dictionary defines negotiation as “the process of discussing something with someone in order to reach an agreement with them, or the discussions themselves”. Meanwhile, trust is defined as “the belief that you can trust (also believe or entertain hope on) someone or something.” However, the negotiations might be easy or tempestuous, despite negotiatiors having mutual trust.

As a related example, businessmen usually do negotiations aka bargaining to find the best solution. Sometimes the result will be a gain for one party but a loss for the other. The loser party will then try to make up for its loss from the winner party or a third party. As a consequence, this will cause a loss in the erstwhile winner party or a third party.

A vicious cycle of win-lose will follow, due to not seeking a win-win solution. And it could lead to further painful impacts for all stakeholders in the future.

Political negotiations are not different from business ones. That is why a win-win solution is important.

This does not mean that the resulting win-win situation will be the end or permanent. If we want more sustainable win-win situation, more negotiations are in order.

In Myanmar context, negotiations on Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) between the government and the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) therefore will not be the end. Because its signing will lead to further negotiations for a series of political dialogue.

Conducting these negotiations however will not necessarily create trust on both sides that have fought against each other for more than sixty years, one for “inalienable rights” and the other for “perpetuation of national sovereignty.” But one thing is clear. Continued fighting is not going to fulfill either party’s wish.

If both accept negotiations are the only way to resolve their problems, trust should not be the reason for delaying the progress of negotiation.

It may be said that the NCA negotiations were suspended in September 2014 for a lack of trust, but when they resumed in March this year and finally finalized that NCA, does it mean the trust was restored?

Recently on 17 August, Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), Karen National Union (KNU), KNU/KNLA-Peace Council (KPC), and Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) released their joint-statement on signing NCA.

They stated that “We believe that, political challenges should be resolved through political means and that all stakeholders alike should jointly make the effort to achieve this (political challenges and solutions)” and that includes seven guarantees by signing NCA for EAOs, such as (a) We will retain our arms and be able to defend our region and people; (b) We will not be restricted by the Unlawful Association Act, Articles 17/1 and 17/2, and be able to freely seek resolution to political challenges through a political dialogue; (c) We will be able to prevent the recurrence of armed conflict through the joint implementation of a Code of Conduct and the Joint Monitoring of the ceasefire; (d) We will be able to continue to protect the interest of the local population during the political dialogue process; (e) We will be able to have a political dialogue with the government, political parties and all other stakeholders; (f) The political dialogues with the government and political parties will be jointly conducted to ensure that any one group or groups does not dominate; and (g) We will be able to change the 2008 Constitution in accordance with the agreement reached through the political dialogue.

So the questions are: Who had created the said guarantees? Was it because of complete/or partial trust in each other that had brought about the final NCA draft?

The reason for the current obstacle to signing the NCA nevertheless does not mention trust (or lack of it) but inclusivity (or the government’s exclusion of some of the EAOs).

The EAOs have always fought for political means to resolve political issues. Now that the opportunity is here (albeit with a condition) what is keeping us from engaging in it?

Is it because of trust or lack of it?

Or is it because of negotiations or we are fed up with them already?

By: Franklin

FRANKLIN, who is working at Documentation Unit of Pyidaungsu Institute, Chiang Mai and studying International MBA, at International College, Payap University, Chiang Mai.

The reflection title that covers the whole article is the focus of the writer and one of the purposes of this reflection is to strengthen negotiation culture by balancing with the term ‘trust’ and four year old current ceasefire process in Myanmar.

The idea and the reflection of the writer does not necessarily relate to the Pyidaungsu Institute and International College of Payap University.

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