Over 2,000 flee homes while 2,000 held captive in Kyaukme Township

Over 1,500 civilians fled their homes due to the ongoing clashes between the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Restoration Council of Shan State/ Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA).

Sai  Than  Maung, a representative from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) in Kyaukme Township, said that more than 800 IDPs came to Kyaukme. They are staying in Kobya Yartha, Thiho Temple, Saya Aung Supan Temple, Namsilin Temple and Honam Temple.

“Today, more than 1,500 IDPs are still arriving at the site,” he said. “So far, there’s no group providing aid to them yet.” The IDPs are only receiving relief from local people in Kyaukme.

“About 2,000 villagers are being held captive in the Chinese temples of Taw sang village,” he said. “The villagers said the TNLA troops looted the villagers’ houses and took their properties.”

Sai  Than  Maung also stated that people in the township are going to offer aid such as food, blankets and clothes.

The conflict between TNLA and RCSS/SSA also known as SSA-South, erupted in late November last year.

The Ta’ang Women’s Organization (TWO) and Ta’ang Students and Youth Organization (TSYO) on Wednesday accused RCSS/SSA, one of the eight groups that signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in October, of abusing against citizens such as rapes, robberies, arrests and many acts of violence.

Col. Sai La, spokesperson of RCSS/SSA, claimed that the Ta’ang groups are feeding false information to the public. He said such kind of things made their organization look bad.
“We’ve ignored the allegations that they (TNLA) have said about us in the past, such as the Burma Army transporting our troops by army trucks, and forcibly relocating villagers from their homes,” he said. “Now, we feel that it is time for us to clear things up by addressing these allegations and telling our side of the story. ”
The RCSS/SSA spokesperson also said that with regards to the current fighting they had contacted the TNLA for talks.
“But, we have yet to get a response from them,” he added.
“Without negotiation, citizens wonder what the future holds for the IDPs,” Sai  Than  Maung  said.

 “I strongly recommend that the Ta’ ang group regardless if they took part in the ceasefire signing or should pay attention to the IDPs.”

The TNLA could not be reached for comment at the time of reporting.

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USDP rules Shan State Parliament

Representatives from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) were selected as the speaker and deputy speaker of the Shan State parliament on Monday.

Sai Lone Seng of the USDP, representing constituency one in Keng Tung Township, was chosen as the new speaker. The deputy speaker appointed was Sao Aung Myat, the current Shan State parliament chief minister who represents constituency one in Ywar Ngan Township.  The speaker chairman is Lt. Gen. Aung Than Htut who won the state assembly seat in constituency one in Laokhai Township.

Nang San San Aye, a new Shan State parliamentarian from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), told SHAN that the party had competed for the seats but lost to the USDP.
“We (SNLD party) competed for all three seats; chairman, speaker and deputy speaker,” she said. “We could not win because the votes from NLD (National League for Democracy) and SNLD together are still only half of what USDP has.”

She said there are 46 representatives from NLD and SNLD all together, but the representatives from USDP, the military and other parties totalled 88 votes.

U Soe Nyunt of the NLD in Kalaw Township said that even though the vote process was democratic, it was impossible to win the USDP because they dominate the parliament.

“We knew that we could not win, but we just wanted to know what the military representatives were thinking,” he said. “We want to know whether there is any change or not.”

136 representatives attended Monday’s session including 102 newly elected representatives, including 34 from the military. Others came from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), National League for Democracy (NLD), Ta’ang National Party (TNP), Pa-O National Organization (PNO), Lahu National Development Party (LNDP), Wa Democratic Party (WDP), Lisu National Development Party (LNDP), Kokang Democracy and Unity Party (KDUP), Wa National Unity Party (WNUP), Akha National Development Party (ANDP), and some independent of affiliation.

BY SAI AW / Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)

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Aung San Suu Kyi's dilemma of presidential election and national reconciliation

These days, the nomination of presidential candidates, especially by the National League for Democracy (NLD), and the election of speakers and formation of the State and Region governments are important issues that have been making headlines.

Hardly have the two Lower and Upper Houses speakers been elected, after the parliamentarians met on 1 and 3 February respectively, the first show down between the military clique and the NLD is brewing, regarding the waiving of paragraph 59(f) that would enable Aung San Suu Kyi to take over the task of presidency personally.

It all comes about as the naming of presidential candidates speculation is constantly pushed to the forefront, with the end Thein Sein era coming to an end by 31 March, and the NLD hard-pressed to do the naming.

The NLD reportedly said, to presumably ward off the pressure of having to name the presidential candidates for the Upper and Lower Houses, that it would fix the date to publicize the names.

On 8 February, convening the Union Parliament for the first time, its Speaker Mahn Win Khaing Than of the NLD said the Lower House, Upper House and bloc of military-appointed lawmakers, which together constitute the country’s electoral college, would discuss their respective nominations on March 17.

The Union Parliament will then meet to elect a president from among the three candidates, the remaining two of whom will become the country’s vice presidents. With the NLD holding a majority in both houses, the party will be able to select two candidates. 

It seems although the NLD is tight-lipped, neither saying that it is tabling the motion in the parliament, to waive the 59(f) clause that bars Aung San Suu Kyi from being the president, nor rejecting the speculation,  Aung San Suu Kyi, the chairwoman of the party,  might be leaving the opportunity open, hoping that she could change the situation to her favour in time before the   presidential candidates' nomination.

Regarding this, although the military, also known as Tatmadaw, top brass have not taken a clear position, its mouthpiece, Myawaddy newspaper had run an article against the idea of waiving the said 59(f) clause that would allow Aung San Suu Kyi to take over the presidency, saying in effect that the constitution should not be amended “for all eternity”, which means “individual influenced by foreign power, one way or the other, should not be president.”

Aung San Suu Kyi was married to the late Michael Aris, a British scholar, and have two sons together, who are also British citizens.

Whatever the scenario's outcome regarding the presidential candidates' nomination, Suu Kyi seems to be implementing her own version of national reconciliation scheme.

The mostly procedural process of Lower and Upper Houses Speakers' selection and the two Committees – Bill Committee and Public Accounts Committee - where 13 ethnic MPs are employed, seems to suggest that Suu Kyi's version of national reconciliation is in action, albeit it is just a token to show largesse and in line with her national reconciliation scheme, according to her own confession.

Elected ethnic  leaders' opinion

But quiet a number of ethnic MPs were in an upbeat mood, even though the ethnic parties as a whole won't make much of a difference, given their insignificant number of votes when it comes to parliamentary decision- making or voting in a particular motion, so to speak.

Mahn Win Khaing Than, the new upper House Speaker briefly addressed the lawmakers in a speech saying, “Myanmar is a resource-rich country, unrivalled by any other country in the world in that regard. Ours is a country which should be a developed and rich nation. But in reality, that has not been the case.” 

He stressed: “In order to transform our nation into a prosperous and developed federal democratic union, it is exceptionally crucial to first implement internal peace, rule of law and national reconciliation, and to do so, we need the right legislation,” and continued that since the upper house is part of a legislative branch which is one of the three branches of government, it should work to enact the legislation necessary for peace, rule of law and national reconciliation.

U Aye Thar Aung, an election winning MP from the Arakan National Party (ANP) was appointed as deputy-speaker of the upper house, who is also a long-time ally of Aung San Suu Kyi, stressed the importance of an eventual federal union for Burma.

“Most importantly I will focus on implementing ANP policy and ethnic issues. I want to see an end to civil war, internal peace and the establishment of a federal union where all national ethnic groups can live harmoniously. These issues I‟ve worked on consistently,” Aye Thar Aung said.

The making of state and regional governments

After the task of the Upper and Lower Houses Speakers' election had been made, the task of the election and formation, including speculation, of the state and regional governments have  become  the talk of the whole nation.

In all the 14 States and Regions, NLD won with an absolute majority except for the Arakan State, also known as Rakhine State, and Shan State. And it is at these two states that the bargaining and jockeying have been most visible.

In Shan State, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and appointed military representatives occupy 66 seats, while the NLD , Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) and other small ethnic parties combined amount to just 61 seats. But in Arakan State, the ANP with 22 seats is the majority, with NLD 8, USDP 3, independent 1 and appointed military having 12 seats respectively.

While the situation in Shan State is quite clear that the USDP and military combined could formed the majority in the state parliament, giving the coalition to form the government in normal circumstances, it would depend on whether the would be NLD-led President would endorse the State Chief Minister herself/himself or give a green light to USDP and military coalition endorsed MP as the Chief Minister.

On 8 February, as expected the parliament elected Sai Lone Hsaeng from USDP as House Speaker, Sao Aung Myat, USDP,  as Deputy House Speaker and Aung Than Htut, also from USDP as Chairperson.

Sai Lone Hsaeng competed against Sai Kyaw Thein of SNLD and won with 88 to 48 votes; Sao Aung Myat competed against Sai Kyaw Ze Ya of SNLD and won with 88 to 45 votes; and U Aung Than Htut competed against U Soe Nyunt Lwin of NLD and won with 83 to 53 votes receptively.

The SNLD had nominated all the three candidates, two from SNLD and one from NLD, since the NLD has given it the responsibility to do so, according to Sai Nyunt Lwin, the secretary general of the SNLD.

As for the ANP case in Arakan State, the party lack two votes to get the simple majority of 24 seats . There is one independent seat won in the Arakan State.

On the same date of 8 February, Arakan State Parliament elected U Zaw Zaw Myint of USDP as Chairperson, U San Kyaw Hla of ANP as House Speaker and U Pho Min also from ANP as Deputy House Speaker.

Reportedly, the nine MPs from NLD congratulated the ANP for the election of the two House Speakers position.

As the parliamentary House Speaker and Deputy House Speaker are from the ANP, it is not clear what is going to happen with its ultimatum that it would go into opposition, if it is not allowed to form the government and given the executive position of Chief Minister, which appears questionable for the moment. Chief Ministers to the 14 states and regions are to be appointed by the President.

Paragraph 59(f) and presidential election

After the task of parliamentary elections, both at Upper and Lower Houses, followed by the State and Region parliaments, the focus has now shifted to the presidential election, which is to be held on 17 March.

For Suu Kyi, overcoming the barrier of 59(f) is imperative to realize her political conviction, if not a live and death matter. To do this, three options are open, such as to install a proxy president and try to amend the 59(f) clause embedded in 2008 constitution; to table the motion of suspension or waiving the said clause within the parliament; and to file for approval within the parliament, the exceptional status that the clause won't have an effect on her as a sole individual.

The third option is said to be based on the fact that the majority of some 80 percent have given her the mandate to lead the nation in the election and thus the appeal for exceptional status as an individual not to be barred by the said clause, in the interest of the people.

According to Myanmar Times of 8 February, NLD sources said that the party was negotiating with military leaders on the shape of the new government, including the positions of chief ministers.

It is being widely speculated that as part of a broader power-sharing agreement the Tatmadaw could agree to change or suspend section 59(f) of the constitution barring Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency. In return she would give key posts to the military, such as chief ministers of some regions and states, possibly including Yangon, Kachin, Shan and Rakhine.

But aside from the Myawaddy newspaper opinion piece of rejection a week or so earlier, on 9 February, a military representative for the parliament, Colonel Kyaw Kyaw Soe told the media that while the Commander-in-Chief didn't give exact directive regarding the issue, the military would only adhere to the constitutional procedure strictly. Meaning: the military 25 percent veto power will be used in any important amendment of the military-drafted constitution.

Min Aung Hlaing, during the recent four monthly meeting of the military officers had also said that the military will not amend the 59(f) or suspend it.

Shan, Kachin and Arakan States as bargaining chips

Whatever the rumours might say, the lobbying and jockeying to circumvent the 59(f) is still in full swing and nobody knows how it will unfold.

According to The Myanmar Times of 8 February, the NLD sources said that the party was negotiating with military leaders on the shape of the new government, including the positions of chief ministers.

It is being widely speculated that as part of a broader power-sharing agreement the Tatmadaw could agree to change or suspend section 59(f) of the constitution barring Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency. In return she would give key posts to the military, such as chief ministers of some regions and states, possibly including Yangon, Kachin, Shan and Arakan.

Regarding this at least one senior source within the NLD is of the opinion that a military officer could be in line for the post of chief minister of Shan State, where the Tatmadaw and the USDP have a combined majority in the state assembly.

“There will be no argument if a military representative becomes chief minister of Shan State because the ethnic parties in the state have good relations with the army,” said the source, adding, “She is making good relations with the military a priority. The incoming Union government and the state and regional governments will have military representation.”

This political posture won't go down well with quite a number of stakeholders, especially the armed groups that the NLD wants to draw into the peace process.

Colonel Sai La, spokesperson for the Shan State Progressive Party, which came under heavy Tatmadaw attack late last year, was said to be worried about Shan State being led by a chief minister with a military background.

“We can’t do anything to influence the appointment, but I think it is not appropriate to appoint a military officer. Shan State has too many problems, especially armed conflict,” he said.

Political commentator U Yan Myo Thein said chief ministers should represent the citizens and reflect the people's will, saying, “National reconciliation should be correctly interpreted. The Tatmadaw should focus more on gaining the trust of the ethnic armed groups and ethnic citizens rather than aiming for chief ministerial posts.”

Likewise, yielding to the military's demand, where appointment of chief ministers in Kachin and Arakan states are concerned, won't be to the liking of the ethnic nationalities, especially the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs).

Summing up

Given such complication, coupled with sensitivity, the art of lobbying and jockeying to circumvent the 59(f) clause is easily said than done.

Aung San Suu Kyi must tread a fine line not to antagonize the ethnic nationalities, especially the EAOs, and also try to make a deal with the military that it could not refuse, so that her goal of overcoming the 59(f) clause could be fulfilled.

For now it seems, Suu Kyi is left with an only option of filing for an exceptional status that the said clause will have no effect for her as a special case, to circumvent the barrier, while not stepping on the red-line of amending or waiving the clause that the military is so obsessed to keep it in tact, for  whatever reason it might have in store.

The military, while it has so far insisted that it wants no change to the constitution, it would not countenance Suu Kyi's presidency ambition, according to the Reuters report of 6 February.

Speculation have been rife that Min Aung Hlaing might be tempted to yield to Suu Kyi demand, in exchange for the NLD regime leaving the military's economic interest and conglomerate alone, apart from promising no retribution on the military for its decades-long human rights violations. Besides, accordingly he could as well burnish his legacy, for such a move would also put responsibility for fixing an impoverished country riven by decades of ethnic conflict squarely on Suu Kyi, according to the well-informed diplomatic sources.

Paragraph 261 of the constitution gives Suu Kyi the rights to appoint the Chief Ministers in ethnic states and regional governments. If she considers to fulfil the ethnic nationalities desired candidates to head the state governments, harmony with them will be achieved. But if the military insisted to have their men placed, particularly in Shan, Arakan and Kachin states, she will have to calculate the pros and cons on how the outcome of such a decision will affect the ongoing internal armed conflict, not to mention the feeling of the ethnic peoples that are being oppressed by the military for decades.

For now Suu Kyi might be facing the dilemma of whether to compromise with the military's demand to circumvent the 59(f) section, if this is really the term of bargaining basis, or fulfil the ethnic groups' desired candidates for Chief Minister positions, to pave the way out for ending the ethnic conflict.

Still there is another option for Suu Kyi and that is to work out a strategy of "escaping between the horns" from the dilemma she is now facing. In other words, advocating a “win-win” outcome for all stakeholders.

Suu Kyi being an able strategist, as has been shown in her election campaign that won her a landslide victory with the slogan of “don't look at the candidates, just vote for the party, if you want change”, will again come up with a brilliant move to overcome this. We only need to wait and see.

The contributor is ex-General Secretary of the dormant Shan Democratic Union (SDU) — Editor

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Back to Tell’s Land (Day-8,9,10)

Day Eight. Friday, 22 January 2016

Federalism should be a meeting point of all groups
Khil Raj Regmi, former Prime Minister of Nepal

Dr Andreas Ladner
Today, a jolly professor, Dr Andreas Ladner  from the University of Lausanne is our resource person on federalism.

Switzerland may not have so many ethnic races like Burma, but it has 3 other important differences that took centuries for them to overcome: religious denominations, wealth and political disagreements.

At one point, he is asked why Switzerland did not choose to become a union of 3 units based on language (Romansch is spoken by less than 100,000). His reply is forthright: 3 units will make one canton too strong, which in turn will create negative spontaneous reaction from the other units. Having several cantons significantly reduces that kind of risk.

For those in Burma advocating 8 states or 14 states configuration, his answer may well ring a bell.

I think it is also him who tells us why his country doesn’t have a popularly elected president as in the United States. “Only Germans will be elected,” he says. “And, that is not good for the union in the long run.”

He is not one who sings only the praises of federalism. It has its own downside, he reminds us. “Federalism costs money and time,” he says. “Sometime it is also very difficult to implement a national policy, as each canton does it differently.”

Nevertheless, I think the Swiss know it’s the price they have to pay for their union. So I don’t think they’ll trade federalism for a unitary state, whatever the faults of the former are.

Meanwhile, he doubts China will ever adopt federalism. “Their psychology doesn’t work that way,” he muses. “In their minds, China is the center and the rest are its peripheries.”

In the afternoon, we visit Geneva, 94.7 km away. It is pleasantly sunny, the first sun since our arrival.

I visit a bookstore called Payot which has several English books. After more than an hour, I choose one. To my regret, the store refuses to accept dollars. So I return to our hotel empty handed.

Day Nine. Saturday, 23 January 2016

Today is the day for review of what we have learned and how we can put them to use. Which I will not bother the reader with.

Except for one thing: We have learned some, but not as much as we want. Because time has been a great constraint. Maybe a refresher trip is what we need in the near future.  Remember Alexander Pope’s much quoted and misquoted words, that “A little learning (not knowledge) is a dangerous thing”?

Chateau Chillon
Chateau Gruyerse
In the evening, we are out on the bank of the Geneva Lake, just a 100 paces out from the hotel, decked in Shan costumes, for a photo session.

We are sort of like a novelty in town. So naturally many towners take photos with/ of us.

Day Ten. Sunday, 24 January 2016

Today we visit two castles: Chillon and Gruyerse. And then the local hydropower plants.
Our escort  Mr Antonie Dubas whose company works in Burma says: Shan State, like Switzerland, has a lot of streams and lakes. Small hydropower plants should be initiated by the local people. He is critical of the World Bank’s mega projects.

Again when I put the question to him about Bern’s peace efforts in Burma and his company’s involvement in hydropower projects, he is not disturbed. “The politicians do their job there,” he smilingly replies. “And we businesspeople do ours.”

Two days later, we are back in Chiangmai, our home away from home.

By SAI KHUENSAI / Director of Pyidaungsu Institute and Founder of Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N)
All views expressed are the author’s own

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Shan to celebrate 69th National Day

Shan people around the world will celebrate the 69th anniversary of the Shan National Day, which falls on February 7.

The Shan National Day was proclaimed on February 7, 1947 by the prince of Tawngpeng, Sao Khun Pan Jing, who served as the President of the Federated Council of Shan States.

The main venue of the celebration is traditionally Loi Tai Leng, the Thai-Burma border headquarters of the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA-S), in which hundreds of people participate every year.

“Shan National Day is unity day,” said Lt. Gen. Yawd Serk, the chairman of the RCSS/SSA-S. “It’s the day that everyone meets and talks to each other to build unity.”
Lt. Gen. Yawd Serk also said that there are three purposes in holding the Shan National Day. The first is to pay respect to “patriots” who have fought for the nation. The second is the unity of Shan people. And the third purpose is to think about the future of the Shan.

“Our new generation has to think critically. We have to learn our mistakes from Panglong Agreement,” he continued, referring to the agreement that was signed by Shan, Kachin, Chin and Burman representatives in 1947 in order to demand independence from British as a unified country.

Townships across Shan State such as Muse, Namkham, Mong Pan, Kesi and Taunggyi are also reportedly holding events to mark the 69th anniversary of the day. Shan communities living in the United States, Thailand, and Japan are also organizing commemorations.

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

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Back to Tell’s Land (Day-7)

Day 7: Thursday, 21 January 2015

If Germans and French, who used to hate each other so much, can live together, I don’t see any reason why you (the nationalities of Burma) cannot.

Georges Martin, Deputy Secretary of State, FDFA, Government of Swiss Confederation

We are to move out today from Murten to Montreux, which is nearer to Geneva, the international capital of Switzerland. So we all are up early to pack our things and get ready to check out from the hotel.

At 09:00, we are at the meeting hall of the Fribourg cantonal parliament, made up of 130 representatives who meet 8 times a year. Fortunately, it isn’t in session.

Here we are received by Mr. Lorenzo Brancher, External affairs; and Mr. Thomas Plattner, deputy cantonal physician.

The following are some of the things we learn from them:

·         Fribourg, name for both the canton and its capital (16.9 km from Murten), is 1,671 square kilometers, nearly twice as big as Jura
·         Population is 303,377, out of which 67,708 (22%) are students and apprentices
·         Unlike Jura, which is uni-lingual (French), it is bilingual: French (63%) and German (29%). The cantonal constitution stipulates that partner language is the first foreign language to be taught in school.
Each official language, for administration, is translated in the other partner language. And trials are carried out in courts in the language of the districts concerned
·         The cantonal government is made up of 7 councilors (ministers) who are all elected
·         The canton has 7 districts: 5 French, 1 German and 1 bilingual
·         Every person living in the confederation must enroll in one of the 90 health care insurances. Every insurance must pay for every curative health service prescribed by a physician. For low income families and children, there must be premium reductions

The reader who may take notice of the cantons having districts as an administrative level, as we do, may be confused, as we do. Because so far, we have been hearing only 3 levels of government: federal, cantonal and communal. And the answer is this:

Most cantons, except 8, including Basle and Geneva, used districts as an intermediate level for administration and court organization for convenience. But a number of them have already reduced its number or even considering its abolition. (Maybe we can do the same back home?)

At noon, we are off to Bern again, 34.3 km away, for the last visit. This time we are attending presentations by two experts: Mr. Bruno Rosli and Mr. Albrecht Schnabel, on the role of the military in a federal state and SSR/DDR, the very topics the whole delegation has been gearing up to listen. And we are not going to be disappointed.

Typical Swiss citizen
The following is the gist of what we have learned throughout the four and a half hours with them:

·         Switzerland has no standing armed forces.
Active duty personnel 2,755
Doing annual refresher training                          120,000                 (Age 20-34)
Undergoing basic each year                                 20,000                  (Age 20-34)
Reserve                                                                 80,000                  (Age 20-34)
Total                                                                   222,755

·         The Councilor for the Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection and Sports (DDPS) is the acting Commander-in-Chief in peace time. The Commander-in-Chief is appointed only in wartime
·         The Armed Forces is made up of land forces and air force 
·         The land forces comprise the following:
11 brigades (infantry, 2 armed, I log and 1 C2)
4 territorial regions
7 training units (4 for land forces and 3 for air force)

·         The history of its evolution is, I think, something we can all take a leaf from. In 1848, there were only cantonal forces, commanded by a combined federal general staff. In 1872, a popular vote was taken for centralization of military affairs, but it was turned down. It was only recently, in 2004, after 156 years, that the cantonal forces were disbanded. (I’m sure Burma won’t take that long, if an SSR that is mutually acceptable has been negotiated)

As for the Security Sector Reform (SSR), the first thing one should know, says Mr. Schnabel, is: who are part of the security sector. Only then we can consider the reform. They are, according to him:

Having a cost effective and transparent security sector, he says, has its advantages:
  • Security institutions will be seen as “assets” by the population
  • Positive reputation
  • Creation of friendly environment
  • Protection of rights, security, stability and rule of law
  • Conflict-prevention
On the other hand, ineffective and in transparent security sector will create suspicions, rumors, abuses, fear and distrust which will in turn give way to, crises and violent conflicts, the very things the SSR is trying to prevent.
As for DDR, Mr. Schnabel interprets them this way:
  • Disarmament is for the non-state actors (NSA) forces
  • Demobilization is for the state forces, as they no longer need to fight anyone
  • Reintegration will be for ex-combatants from both sides
Naturally, our delegation is confused by our resource persons’ words that the Swiss Armed Forces adhere to a “militia system”: which to them means every citizen become a soldier when called for, but to most of us from Burma means a civilian carrying arms and working for the army. The misunderstanding is of course cleared away soon enough.

Another question from the delegation is: What language do they use in the army, especially when issuing military drill commands? In four languages, as they do in the parliament?

No, only one language is the answer. As units are formed in accordance with the languages the soldiers use, there is no need to give one’s command in several languages. “I used to be the commander of an Italian unit,” recalls Mr. Rosli, a Swiss German. “The language I used was Italian. In our country, officers speak the language of rank and file, not the other way round.”

(Sao Yawd Serk remarks that when the six ethnic armies launched a joint officers training course on the border, more than a decade back, they had solved the problem by using only military commands in English.)

As to my question, how can a country like Switzerland and Burma be allowed to stay neutral by the neighbors who are hostile to one another, Mr. Rosli has this answer:
  • First of all, the neighbors must all agree that our country’s neutrality is in their interests
  • On our side, we have to show them, not only by words, but by deeds, that we are not taking sides (For instance, Switzerland is not a member of EU or NATO)
  • Like Switzerland, maybe you can institute one of your cities as an international peace making center
(Another answer was given by someone before we left: For Switzerland to take sides, it has to risk its own breakup. Because some of us are going to take sides too, and it may be the other side.)

At 17:30, we all climb into the bus to the new hotel in Montreux, 91.2 km away, with our heads still full of questions.

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