Northern Burma Update: Burma Army Divides Kachin

In August 2016 the Burma Army began a major escalation of operations in northern Burma, Kachin State, with daily attacks against Gidon and Lai Hpawng posts in Waingmaw Township.  The purpose of this offensive is to cut off crucial Kachin Independence Organization (KIO – a political body representing the Kachin people) access to IDP camps north of the road and divide southern and northern Kachin State.  These attacks occurred despite Burma’s supposed transition to a civilian-led democratic government that claimed it would prioritize the peace process once again. The Burma Army employed large numbers of ground troops, mortars, artillery, helicopter and jet strikes in these attacks and on the 16th of December, exactly four months after the attack began, Gidon Post fell to Burma Army forces.

The full force of Burma Army mortar and artillery power, coupled with repeated ground assaults from the Burma Army’s position at N’Khram Village and including troops from other positions, was then focused on the Lai Hpwang Post, which fell within the month.  The value of these posts in the defense of the people became immediately evident following their capture, when the Burma Army, on the same day, turned its attack on the Zai Awng IDP camp, firing mortars on the more than 1000 men, women and children living at the camp and forcing them to flee.

The capture of Gidon and Lai Hpawng posts gives the Burma Army a strategic advantage against Kachin Independence Army (KIA – the KIO’s defense force) north of Laiza by effectively cutting Kachin State in two.  Laiza, a major city in Kachin State, is currently one of the few free cities in Kachin State that is unoccupied by Burma Army forces.  The Burma Army’s indiscriminate targeting of civilians and attacks against IDPs, continued hostility and unwillingness to cease fire against ethnic resistance forces, and offensives which move the Burma Army closer to Laiza are creating a growing humanitarian crisis that undermines all efforts for the peace process in Burma.

An update from Wunpawng Ninghtoi (WPN – translates as “Light For The People”), a Kachin humanitarian aid organization providing critical assistance to people displaced by war in Kachin State.

“Intensive fighting between the Myanmar Government Armed Forces (Tatmadaw) and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) continues in Kachin State. The recent fighting in Laihpawng area has resulted in the relocation of IDPs from Zai Awng/Mugga Zup camp to Lungbyen area and on the road between Hkau Shau and Mungga Zup.

On 10 January 2017, fierce battles involving air strikes and heavy artillery took place around KIA’s 3rd Battalion position in Nagyang area – close to Zai Awng/Mugga Zup and Hkau Shau camps. This has prompted some 4,000 IDPs and local civilians from the areas, most of whom are women, children and elderly people, to cross the border and flee to China. Due to security concerns, the IDPs started crossing the border around 4 am this morning.

The situation has been extremely chaotic and precarious. The IDPs are deeply shaken by the experience, and having been forced to relocate several times, they are completely weary. Some elderly IDPs with health problems, such as high blood pressure, are particularly bearing the brunt of the hardship. As they had to flee in urgency, they were not able to bring much with them, including medicines and food. As of the release time of this statement, the IDPs have not been able to eat.

The security of IDPs in Magayang camp has also been compromised, and hence, they are preparing to flee elsewhere.

The Chinese security forces were checking/processing the IDPs who crossed into China. It has been reported that they have pushed the IDPs back into Myanmar. The primary and urgent concerns at the moment are of safety and security of the IDPs.”

August – December 2016 Clash Account
Clashes – 505
Burma Army Jet (Attack) – 106
Burma Army Helo (Attack) – 41
Burma Army Jet (Recon) – 231
Burma Army Helo (Recon) – 83
Burma Army Drone (Recon) – 16
Burma Army actions against civilians:
Civilians Killed – 55
Civilians Wounded – 27
Civilians Tortured – 27
Civilians Extorted – 7
Civilians Robbed – 4
Civilians Forced into Labor – 8
Civilians Property Destroyed – 13 Houses, 2 Rice Patties, 2 Barn, 1 Cattle
Civilians Detained (without reason) / Abduction – 41
Displacement: 4000+ IDPs
***The figures above are limited to reports from FBR teams and do not represent the totality of military battles, supply, or human rights abuses perpetrated by the Burma Army.

Burma Army Units Involved in Gidon and LaiHpawng Offensives

Bureau of Special Operations 2
Military Operations Command (MOC) 3
Infantry Battalions (IB) 40, 276, 121 and Light Infantry Battalions (LIB) 381, 382, 383, 384, 385, 386, and 388
Artillery Battalions No. 364, 366, 371, 408, 901, 905, and 906

Gidon Post Falls

On 16 December between 0518-1000 on 16 December 2016 the Burma Army fired more than 700 mortar and artillery rounds from Kagam, Nhkram and Sama road junction toward Gidon Post, Waingmaw Township.
At 0845 two jets dropped four bombs on Gidon Post.
At 1016 one jet made two bombing runs on Gidon Post.
At 1138 one jet made two bombing runs and two helicopters made three strafing runs on Gidon Post.
Between 1330-1700 Burma Army conducted three troop raids from three sides on Gidon Post. Kachin Independence Army soldiers decamped from the post following the third Burma Army raid.

Lai Hpawng Post Falls

On 21 December between 0855-1700 the Burma Army fired 250 mortar and artillery rounds from Dabak, Point-1103 and Dingga toward Lai Hpawng Post.
At 0900 two jets struck Lai Hpawng Post.
At 0920 four jets struck.
At 1000 six jets struck.
At 1020 two jets struck.
At 1230 two helicopters struck.
At 1315 two helicopters struck.
At 1325 two helicopters struck.
At 1445 two jets struck.
At 1515 two jets struck.
Between 1415-1700 Burma Army troops assaulted Lai Hpawng Post with ground forces and overran the post.
On 27 December between 0740-1700 the Burma Army fired over 300 mortar and artillery rounds from Dabak, Point-1103 towards Lai Hpawng Post.
At 0945 two jets struck Law Hkum Post and Lai Hpawng Post.
At 1155 two jets bombarded Law Hkum Post and Lai Hpawng Post.
At 1420 the Burma Army combined forces from IB 38, 252, 260 and LIB 16 raided Lai Hpawng Post and overran it.

IDP Camp Attacked

On 27 December the Burma Army fired seven mortar rounds from Point-1103 toward Zai Awng IDP Camp, Waingmaw Township.

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SNLD cites bribery concerns at Hsenwi checkpoint

Citing concerns about corruption and graft, representatives of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) have petitioned the central government to reconsider the status of a checkpoint in northern Shan State that was reopened on January 16.

A military checkpoint in Shan State
The Nam Oon Gate, located between Lashio and Hsenwi townships, was closed down during the tenure of the Thein Sein government because locals claimed they had been threatened by checkpoints guards and forced to pay bribes.

According to Sai Wan Leng Kham, an MP from the SNLD representing Lashio Township, 40 of the party’s MPs had signed the petition against the reopening of the checkpoint, and had submitted a letter to the union government on January 16.

“As we are the representatives of the people, we have to listen to their collective voice,” he told Shan Herald on Tuesday. “People are against this checkpoint, and we agree with them.”

He explained: “This gate will create more problems rather than solving them. There will be more traffic. People will not able to travel freely. Sometimes they have to travel at night, but if there is a checkpoint they cannot. If locals have an emergency, it could exacerbate the problem.”

The SNLD lawmaker added that local people are worried that they will be checked every time they pass the gate, and that this procedure could lead to a black market and an increase in drug problems in their area.

The Nam Oon Gate currently hosts officers from 11 different departments, including customs and finance.  

Last Thursday, a group of traders in Muse Township also released a statement opposing the gate’s reopening. According to a report from Shan Herald on its Shan-language site, the traders cited concerns over delays and excess fees.

By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)

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WAR IN ETHNIC STATES: Is the Tatmadaw waging a just war?

Lately, the military bloc's supporter, obviously made up of Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP) members, former and active soldiers in civil and sympathizers have staged demonstration to support the Military's or Tatmadaw's “war of justice” or “just war” in Rangoon (Yangon), Moulmein (Mawlamyaing) and recently in Mandalay. Similar events would also take place in other cities according to the news sources.

The demonstration or rally in Mandalay, on January 15, was said to be attended by some two thousand people marching from Mandalathiri football stadium to Manawyaman park, where speeches were delivered and letters of support for the justified war occasion were read out, sent from some small nationalist parties, which some of them also attended.

Although the last two rallies that supported the military offensives against the Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) in Shan and Kachin States, which claimed to be a justified war, were peaceful, the recent one in Mandalay has not been the case.

An anti-war motorcyclist Ko Thae Nit Aung bearing an anti-war vinyl banner, at the back of the seat, passing through the demonstration crowd was manhandled and the Irrawaddy’s photographer Zaw Zaw was also attacked for photographing the assault on the lone protester.

The incidents might be small ones, but if this could lead to the political division among the mass, like protest and counter-protest of the red and yellow shirt major groupings that had paralyzed Thailand, leading to the military coup. Similarly, Burma might have added another facet of ideological mass conflict of pro-war and anti-war, apart from the ethnic and communal conflicts, which wouldn't benefit the ongoing peace negotiation process and national reconciliation effort in any way.

Let us have a close look at this war of justice rhetoric and how it could affect or influence the political climate.

Anti-war rallies

Massive anti-war rallies held in Kachin State of Myitkyina last year October and a peace rally held also last year July, in Rangoon were aimed at pressuring the government to stop the wars in ethnic States of Kachin and Shan, which are still ongoing without any sign of let up.

The Tatmadaw offensives on Kachin Independence Army (KIA) positions, notably along the Burma-China border where the Kachin headquarters Laiza is located, started in earnest on the heels of the State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi initiated 21st Century Panglong Conference (21CPC) of August  31 to  September 3, last year.

After enduring some three months of the Tatmadaw military onslaught, the KIA thought out a strategy to take the heat away from its besieged forces in Kachin State, decided to launch a counter-offensive in Muse Township of northern Shan State together with the Kokang or Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Arakan Army (AA), calling itself Northern Alliance – Burma (NA-B), on November 20 last year.

Consequently, the Tatmadaw heightened its attacks on the KIA positions in Kachin State and to date has overrun seven bases in total, including two strategic mountain outposts – Lai Hpawng and Gideon, using airstrikes, heavy artillery bombardment and massive infantry deployment at a tremendously high human toll and financial cost.

But the collateral damage resulting from the armed engagements in Kachin and Shan States were squarely placed on the shoulders of the NA-B by the Military, to justify its policy of total annihilation and escalation of the armed confrontation, under the banner of a just war.

Just war

Accordingly, the supporters of military offensives echoed the line of Tatmadaw tagging the NA-B members as terrorist organizations that have to be eliminated, as they are infringing on national sovereignty and disrupting, destroying individual and public properties, aside from levying taxed or protection money, as the Tatmadaw is inclined to term, on the population, among others.

This sentiment or reasoning, repeatedly used to attack the EAOs by the Tatmadaw, was aired and reiterated by Hla Swe of USDP, a former parliamentarian MP during President Thein Sein government, who was also one of the leading participants and an orator during the Mandalay's just war demonstration recently, on January 15.

Prior to this, in a BBC Burmese discussion program of “Global and Burma Affairs” on January 13, where Hla Swe, Khun Ja of Kachin Peace Network, and ethnic affairs observer and analyst Maung Maung Soe participated,  Hla Swe gleefully said: “In Sri Lanka the Tamil Tigers that had stood on the three point position of no ceasefire, no negotiation and fight for independence were totally eliminated (by the government troops) and there is no one left now. I see that if the golden opportunity invitation now is taken (by the EAOs) they will be better off.”

During the discussion earlier, when asked what should be done to be all-inclusive in the peace process, he replied: “It depends on the leaders. If the 21st Century Panglong Conference is called and there is no (positive) result, the EAOs could be crushed.”

The Commander-in-Chief has time and again also made known publicly the Tatmadaw's stance of surrender for the excluded three EAOs – MNDAA, TNLA and AA – and pressuring the KIA, which is also head of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) without alteration, so that they will be allowed participation in the 21CPC or Union Peace Conference (UPC).

Criteria of a just war

The brief and summarized explanation of the just war theory is written by Richard N. Haas, President, Council on Foreign Relations, in his short piece “When is War Justifiable?”, in May 5, 2009, as follows:

·         Just war theory today is a composite that has evolved from ideas developed by various religious figures. In the 5th century, St. Augustine discussed in City of God the circumstances under which killing could be justified and empires legitimately expanded. In the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas laid out a more elaborate just war doctrine in his Summa Theologica. He wrote that three conditions were necessary to make a war just: it must be ordered by a competent authority; the cause must be just; and the combatants must have "a right intention, so that they intend the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil."
·         Modern just war guidance involves both the decision to go to war (jus ad bellum) and how to fight one (jus in bello). This latter set of criteria focuses on proportionality (how much force is used), targeting (avoiding non-combatants), and means (avoiding certain classes of weapons).

Assessment of the Military's just war rhetoric

If we look at the recent conflict situation between the Tatmadaw and the EAOs, the decision to go to war from the part of the former is hardly appropriate and convincing, seen from the given set of just war criteria.
Firstly, it was not ordered by the competent authority as the Tatmadaw is not the government, but pursuing its own policy and implementing it, within the mode of “a state within the state”. While the NLD civilian government is tight-lipped on the Tatmadaw's offensives on the EAOs, for whatever reason it might have in store, it has never officially declared war or spelled out that it supported the Tatmadaw's actions. In contrast, the NLD official position is all-inclusiveness participation of all the EAOs and ending the war through peaceful negotiation, while the Tatmadaw is for the exclusion of the three EAOs – MNDAA, TNLA and AA - that it dislike and using military means to force the remaining EAOs that are yet to sign the NCA give in to its prescribed conditions.

Thus, the Tatmadaw is in no way a competent authority to wage or order a just war.

Secondly, the question of whether the cause is just from the point of the Tatmadaw going to war against the EAOs, it is quite clear that is not the case.

Most of the EAOs went into rebellion, during the late 1950s and early 1960s, to wrestle back their rights of self-determination, which were hijacked or stolen from them by the successive military and also Bamar-dominated civilian governments and treated them as if they were colonial possessions.

In trying to right this wrong the EAOs are now ready and set to negotiate through political means peacefully, as the military solution is not tenable, and are just waiting for the agreement of the Tatmadaw to accept all-inclusiveness participation that have been denied to some, coupled with waging war on them.

Thus, this war cannot be a just war, as there are many peaceful solution available and the Tatmadaw is choosing war, to gain political edge and not interested in a fair deal to end the conflict.

Thirdly, the question of whether the Tatmadaw has "a right intention, so that they intend the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil," one has to say it doesn't cater to any of the mentioned reasonable intention.
The Tatmadaw intention is to lord over the ethnic nationalities without consideration of agreeing to their aspirations of equality, rights of self-determination, democracy and establishment of a genuine federal union.
Thus, the war is waged with ill intention of subjugating the ethnic nationalities and just to continue the rule over them.

Fourthly, on the questions of proportionality (how much force is used), targeting (avoiding non-combatants), and means (avoiding certain classes of weapons), indications are also not positive.

The proportionality of arsenal used are lopsided, as the Tatmadaw is employing advanced military aircraft and heavy artillery against lightly armed EAOs, begging the question of whether it is internationally acceptable to use jet fighters and helicopter gunships in a civil war.

Avoiding to target non-combatants is simply not the strong point of the Tatmadaw, as it sees the ethnic population hostile to its occupation troops and is convinced that most are sympathetic to the ethnic resistance armies. The Tatmadaw has indoctrinated its troops to treat the ethnic peoples along this line. Thus, the many extra-judicial killings, aerial and heavy artillery bombardments on ethnic settlement causing damage to properties and human lives have become the order of the day for the Tatmadaw in its occupation of the ethnic states.

The human rights violations on ethnic population is nothing new to the Tatmadaw, in its war of occupation that has been going on for decades and it is not about to be enlightened and become civil, in the sense of taking orders from the civilian government and turned into the protector of democratic principles.

The decades-long human rights abuses are well documented by reputed international rights organizations. But the toning down of the United Nations and European Union on human rights' score, so as to encourage the Tatmadaw to endorse democratization is just a wishful-thinking and only embolden the Tatmadaw as the license to commit gross human rights violations.

Some of the recent following episodes would shed real light on the outcome of this misleading concept.

·         Three civilians were killed and seven injured, including two women and a five-year-old child, when two Burma Army jets indiscriminately bombed Pang Mark Mur village, Kyaukme township, northern Shan State, on December 26, 2016. (Shan Human Rights Foundation - January 16, 2017)

·         Two people were killed and eight were wounded when an artillery shell landed on a civilian house in Namhsan Township, Shan State on January 12 morning, according to local sources. One of the dead was an eight-year-old student who lived in the house, and the other was a dance instructor who had traveled from Mandalay to teach. The two deceased victims were killed instantly, according to Namhsan Township lawmaker Mai Win Htoo. (The Irrawaddy – January 13, 2017)
·         Air strikes destroyed the buildings of civilians in the Mong Koe town and four civilians were killed in the clashes. According to official reports, the number of civilians injured so far has reached 63. At least 5000 have been displaced by the fighting, including more than 3600 who, Chinese state media has said, fled over the border. (Myanmar Times – December 6, 2016)
·         Some 80 civilian hostages were taken by the Tatmadaw, during the NA-B siege of Mong Koe in November last year, which were said to be used as human shields to protect its outpost, according to the NA-B sources. They were later rescued by the NA-B. (NA-B Facebook)
·         A battalion of Tatmadaw soldiers, who arrived in Mong Yaw sub-township on June 25 looking for Shan rebel troops, shot dead five villagers during an interrogation near a cornfield where some of them were working and dumped their bodies in shallow graves. (Radio Free Asia – July 21, 2016)

All in all, the call for supporting the just war rings hollow, as it is design to advance the program of the ethnocentric Military and Bamar political class, continued political monopoly, no justification could be found and the act would only be like pouring more oil in the already burning flames of animosity and hatred.

The people that support this just war rhetoric would be well advised to refrain from endorsing it further, so that not become the culprit of creating another pro-war and anti-war ideological conflict that would split the mass into two, further driving the country into destruction and abyss.

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Thai passport agency cheated us, say 40 Shan workers

Some 40 Shan migrant workers in northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai province say they have been cheated by the Thai Isara Construction Company when applying through the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) passport process, according to a representative from the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF).

Shan migrant workers submit a petition to Chiang Mai’s Labour Protection and Welfare Department on January 16.
HRDF’s Mwe Oo Nanta, who is also assistant advisor to the Migrant Workers Federation (MWF), said that her migrant rights organization is assisting the Shan workers on this case after receiving their complaint on January 10. She said that the migrants had collectively paid the Thai Isara Construction Company last month to administer their MoUs, but have been given the runaround and received no documentation.

“The migrant workers said that they were deceived by the company about their MoU process,” she told Shan Herald. “For an MoU passport, the migrants were asked to pay 16,000 baht per person for the entire process. On December 5, each migrant paid them between 6,000 and 7,500 baht, and the following day they were taken to a passport processing office in Kengtung Township, eastern Shan State.”

Mwe Oo Nanta said that the migrants claim they paid the remainder of the fees to the company on January 1. They say that the Thai Isara staff transported all the migrants to the city of Pa-an in Karen State to sign the MoU, after which time they returned to Chiang Mai to wait for the next step in the process. However, on January 7, they were told by a colleague that some migrants who went through the same process with this company in Yangon had been cheated out of their money. They were apparently left in Yangon to fend by themselves.

“Some migrants had to stay at a Buddhist temple because they had no money left,” Mwe Oo Nanta said. “Some of those who still had some money left came back to Thailand; others were compelled to go back to Shan State to seek help from their families.”

After the 40 migrants realized they had been deceived, they tried to contact the Thai Isara agency but found that its office was closed.

“The migrants didn’t know what else to do, so they came to us,” Mwe Oo Nanta said. “However, only 18 of them were present to register their complaint. We took them to Chiang Mai’s Labour Protection and Welfare Department on January 16 and requested help from the government.”

The Burmese migrant rights defender said that a representative of the Labour Protection and Welfare Department named Mr. Chakri Hunpho had promised the migrants that the department would try to help, and that it would investigate the agency in question.  

On January 27, 2016, Shan Herald reported that 121 migrant workers were laid off by the Perfetto Ltd Partnership Company. Those workers submitted a petition to both the Chiang Mai governor and the Chiang Mai-based Consulate-General of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, claiming compensation of some 3.5 million baht (US$97,700) in back pay.  

However, there has been no progress to date on this case, said Mwe Oo Nanta. 

By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)

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To Hopeland and Back, the 25th trip

Day Two. Tuesday, 9 January 2017

How does the sea become the king of all streams?
Because it lies lower than they!
Tao Teh Ching, Chapter 66
John C.H.Wu translation

Today, our friends go over what they had learned yesterday. And here are some of their comments:
§  The Tatmadaw wants unity and we want unity. But what they want and what we want are different like oil and water.
 What the Tatmadaw wants is Unity in Uniformity, the kind some scholars liken to a melting pot, and what the Abhidhamma calls Sampayutta Paccaya (Supporting each other by merger).
What we want, on the other hand, is Unity in Diversity, the kind some scholars liken to a salad bowl, and what the Abhidhamma calls Vippayutta Paccaya (Supporting each other while maintaining each’s identity, like matter and spirit)
§  But, we, the EAOs, lack consistency. With others, we want Unity in Diversity. But among ourselves, we want Unity in Uniformity.

Challenges facing EAOs

1.       Top-down practice in the peace process, eg. The Union Peace and Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) that organizes political dialogues and the UPC 21 CP. As a result, the first two conferences had been more of being theaters than being serous dialogues for peace.
2.       The government’s new negotiating team is still learning its trade by doing it the hard way. The result:

While, with the unpopular USDP government, it was easier to negotiate, it has become a real challenge negotiating with the popular NLD government, although it has been outwardly singing the same tune with the EAOs: constitutional change to fit in with the aim for establishing a democratic federal union.

§  The more the non-signatories refuse to sign the NCA, the more they are dancing to the Tatmadaw’s tune
Dr Sai Oo
§  Both the Tatmadaw and the NLD will never accept the Wa’s “One country, two systems”  position
§  With the Tatmadaw, it doesn’t trust any EAOs, not even the KNU. But instead of scheming to weaken them, it should meet more often with them, talk to them about its concern and ask questions. Then they have a chance to reach understanding and agreement

In the afternoon, I have another meeting with the Pyidaungsu Institute Yangon (PIY), led by Dr Sai Oo whom I have known for more than 20 years as Sai Lao Leng.

Though it has only 5 permanent members (one of whom deals with the dreary but essential administrative details), 1 part timer and 1 intern, it has done quite a lot last year: research, strategic studies, publication, capacity building trainings, and providing technical assistance to the EAOs’ JICM, JMC and UPDJC.

This year, with the PI Chiangmai having been downsized, the PIY will be hunting for more researchers, they tell me.

On the publication side, a few booklets are expected to come out in a few months: Federal Glossary, Comparisons of 3 Constitutions (1947, 1974 and 2008) and 3 Draft Constitutions (AFPFL, NCUB and FCDCC), and Compilation of Bilateral Ceasefire Agreements, to name a few. “We are also working on the local government systems that we hope will answer the current calls for new statehoods,” says Sai Oo.

We have dinner with him and his newlywed wife in the evening.

I haven’t much to say for Day Three, except that I make a call at the office of one of the brightest young scholars who used to work with The Irrawaddy in Chiangmai. He is hoping to pick my brains, but the day ends up with me doing that to him.

Day Four is also good. The traffic in the city has become wonderfully less congested during the 4 days I’m there. I ask the driver what’s causing it.

“It’s the Japanese,” he says. “They’ve been helping the city fathers with a better traffic light system. Thanks to them, you’ll be at the terminal in a few minutes.”

And so I am.

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INVITATION: Professor Kenneth Holland of BSU to speak at JGU

Download PDF File here : Invite Public Lecture on 8 Feb 2017

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3 killed, 7 wounded by Burmese air strike in Kyaukme

Burmese military fighter jets killed three villagers and injured seven others in a bombing mission in Kyaukme Township, northern Shan State, the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) said in statement released today.

Photo by SHRF- Nang Khin Than Nu was injured by Burmese army air strike.
According to SHRF, the air strike took place in Pang Mark Mur village on December 26 last year. It said that Burma’s Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 506 used jets to attack the village.

“A bomb landed directly on the house of [villager] Lung Jeak Da, killing three men instantly, including Lung Jeak Da, and injuring two women, a 5-year-old boy, and another man. A cow was also killed,” read the statement. “Three bombs landed around the village monastery, injuring four monks sheltering under the temple building. Apart from the monastery, altogether 16 houses in the village were damaged by the bombing.”

Monday’s report said that Burmese soldiers buried the bodies of the deceased immediately upon entering the village.

“The troops did not let the villagers hold a proper funeral ceremony,” said the statement. “The bodies were simply wrapped in mats and buried.”

Sai Hor Hseng, the spokesperson for SHRF, emphasised that human rights abuses, including killings and the destruction of private property, continue to occur across Shan State, particularly in the northern region.

“The government should take responsibility for these people’s losses,” he said. “Since this incident, there has been no report about support from the government. Only local charity groups are helping the victims,” he said.

“Villagers are intimidated and afraid as the Burmese army is still stationed in their village.”

Sai Hor Hseng noted that Yanghee Lee, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights, is currently on an official visit to Burma, but that Shan State is not included on her itinerary.

He said that the Korean diplomat’s report on the human rights situation in the country will not accurately portray the abuses in Shan State.

Shan Herald has reported throughout the past month that hostilities between government armed forces and ethnic armed groups have compelled hundreds, if not thousands, of families to flee their homes.

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To Hopeland and Back, the 25th trip

(8-11 January 2017)

This time even before the journal on the 24th trip was properly finished, I was back in Burma/Myanmar again.

And since the strategic planning meeting, due 9 January, was postponed at the request of two signatory organizations, there was only a few other informal meetings left for me to attend.

As usual no individuals, organizations and places will be named so I don’t end up killing the goose that is laying a golden egg for all of us each day.

Day One. Sunday, 8 January 2017

A great country is like the lowland toward which all streams flow.
Hence, if a great country can lower itself before a small country, it will win over the small country;
And if a small country can lower itself before a great country, it will win over the big country.
The one wins by stooping; the other by remaining low.
Tao The Ching, Chapter 61,
John C.H.Wu translation

The government Peace Commission and the
 United Wa State Army, including vice chairman
 Xiao Mingliang, in Panghsang on Dec 30, 2016. / UWSA / Facebook
My arrival in Hopeland is followed by mutual updates of information with friends. As always, I have much to learn from them, most of whom are younger, energetic and eager for peace.

Here are some of the things I have learned and would like to share with all:

§  During the December visit to Panghsang (officially, Pang-Kham), the United Wa State Army (UWSA) reportedly for the first time spoke about signing the NCA. Their problem however was with the DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration) which, according to the Tatmadaw’s presentation at the (31 August-3 September 2015) 21st Century Panglong, must come first. U Thein Zaw, the government’s chief representative, was able to relieve their worry by convincing them that although the DDR first is the Tatmadaw’s expressed wish, what is certain is that the EAOs would implement the DDR only at the 7th and final phase of the NCA roadmap.

For those who are unfamiliar with the NCA, an official translation of the political roadmap in the NCA is reproduced here:

 The political roadmap

20. The Republic of the Union of Myanmar Government and the Ethnic Armed Organizations shall abide by the following political roadmap:

a)      Signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement
b)      Drafting and adopting the “Framework for Political Dialogue” by representatives of the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and the Ethnic Armed Organizations.
c)       Holding national political dialogue based on the adopted Framework for Political Dialogue, and negotiating security reintegration matters and undertaking other necessary tasks that both parties agree can be carried out in advance.
d)      Holding the Union Peace Conference.
e)      Signing the Pyidaungsu Accord.
f)       Submitting the Pyidaungsu Accord to the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw for ratification.
g)      Implementing all provisions contained in the Pyidaungsu Accord, and carrying out security reintegration matters.

(According to the 36 resolutions attached to the NCA, “security reintegration matters” means SSR ‘security Sector Reform’ and DDR)

The Wa leadership then proposed a visit to Naypyitaw to present a 7 point proposition to the State Counselor and the Commander-in-Chief, if possible, before the Chinese New Year (28 January).

Note To this date, the visit is yet to take place.

§  Relationship between the SD and the CinC has yet to improve, despite a meeting in November. which produced a statement eulogizing the Tatmadawmen. “When the hero and the heroine are locking horns against each other,” says a friend, “anything can happen, like beating somebody up just to spite the spouse.” That, several express concern, may adversely affect the peace process.
§  One encouraging but unconfirmed report is that the CinC was not reacting negatively to the idea of constituent states having their own constitution, after the inter governmental workshop on federalism was held on 13-15 December.
“If he’s going to go along with another one: The Right of Self Determination, that is the right to exercise three political powers (executive, legislative, and judiciary) in accordance with the agreed common principles for the Union constitution, the rest will be plain sailing,” comments an academic. “Because other principles are just Ta-Nwe-Ngin-Tazin-Pa (Pull one string of the creeper and the rest will come along).”
§  The problem is that none in the room is sure whether or not the Union Peace Conference (UPC) #3, aka 21st Century Panglong (21CP) #2, is going to take place in February at all.
Apart for the “lover’s tiff” between the SC and the CinC, there is fighting up in the north, where China and Wa are suspected of involvement, and the UNFC saying if it is invited only as observers it won’t come. Economy is yet another “big,big headache,” calling for prompt action. “She needs some notable achievements,” says one. “Right now, there isn’t anything to show.”
§  Interestingly, there is difference of opinion as to how powerful the CinC is:  In 2011, when he was pulled up from the bottom of several other senior generals to become the Senior General by the outgoing Senior General Than Shwe, it was clear, he was entirely dependent on “the Old Man” to be able to command. But some think the situation has changed. “He has removed most of the officers senior to him throughout the past 4 years and replaced them with his own men,” says one. “Today, if U Than Shwe speaks 100 words to him, I’ll be surprised if he listens to more than 10 of them.”
Others however point out that incidents like the overthrow of U Shwe Mann, and later, U Thein Sein, as heads of the USDP, followed by the appointment of Gen Myint Swe as Vice President, wouldn’t have come about without personal intervention by the former strongman.

All in all, everything seems to be hanging in the balance, some are betting that there’ll be no UPC 21 next month.

One bright side is that the National level political dialogues (ND) is starting to take place, beginning with the PaOs and Karens. The Shans and others are due to follow soon. “We will know what our people want it said, whether or not there is a Panglong in February,” declares a Karen friend. 

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