An Open letter to Mr. Cameron

To, the Honorable Mr. D Cameron
The Prime Minister of Great Britain,
Leader of Her Majesty's Government,
White Hall
London SW1A 2AS

7 February 2013

Dear Mr. Cameron,

I am a Tai/Shan, citizen of the United Kingdom. I represent the voice of the Tai/Shan communities and have been campaigning on their behalf for decades.  I am not a politician but over the fifty years, by following the dire political situation of the Shan and other ethnic groups I have learned a lot about politics and human psychology. I am making a special request to you, as leader of Her Majesty's Government to offer to mediate in the peace process of Burma between the Burmese dictatorial government and the non-Burman nationalities.

Sao Noan Oo
During the British rule in the Shan States three generations of my ancestors, my great grandfather, grandfather and father served under His/Her Majesty's Government. Contrary to the Burman's version that the cause of the trouble in Burma was due to the British policy of divide and rule, according to my people, the British rescued the Shan States from the tyranny of the Burmese kings, and the Shan Sao Hpas (princes) requested that the Shan States should not be incorporated into Burma Proper (Central Burma). The British ruled the Shan States indirectly, through the 34 Shan princes (Sao Hpas) and brought peace to it, introduced law and order as well as good governance.  Thus, the Shan States were autonomous, a country in its own right, with a separated government from Burma Proper; and in 1922 became “the Federated Shan States”.

On the 4th.of January 1948, when the Shan joined the Burman ethnic for independence the Shan Sao Hpas and the British government parted amicably. My ancestors’ feeling of respect and fondness for the British has rubbed off on me, and now as a Brititish citizen I am proud to be British.

At the same time I am disappointed and sad that the non Burman ethnic nationalities in Burma have been side-lined, and their political position has not been addressed by the any of the superpowers. Britain should know better, but like all world governments you have let the ethnic Burman in power convince you that non- Burman ethnics are a minority.  In fact, the non-Burman ethnics make up over 50 percent of the population, and the ethnic land mass, rich in natural resources occupies a huge area along the borders forming important international trade routes.

Unlike the French, successive British governments have kept Britain distant from their colonial past. They have ignored and kept silent about the Burmese military wrong doing in dishonouring the Panglong Agreement and violating its principles, especially when representative of His Majesty's Government acted as a witness when the agreement was signed. If the Panglong Agreement had not been thrown out, Burma would not be in such a mess for more than fifty years, and would have prevented the loss of countless lives and the suffering and plight of millions of people.

The Burmese did not only dishonoured the Panglong Agreement but did a lot of harm and damage to the Shan and other ethnic nationalities, and the depth of their suffering is indescribable. The dictators robbed the ethnic nationalities of their homelands, resources and rights. They want the homelands but not citizens who were not identifiable with the ethnic Bamar in language, culture or religion, so they committed ethnic cleansing, genocide and other crimes against humanity.

During the last year or two, there has been a few changes in some parts of Burma, and the Western powers have regarded this as something wonderful and hastened to praise, reward and engage with the Thein Sein government although it is still being powered and driven by the dictatorial generals. While ignoring the voice of those who are the victims of aggression and human rights violations, Mr. Hague, wasted no time in announcing that Britain is ready to set up a Foreign Office in Naypyidaw, the soul-less capital built by the dictatorial generals using money from the sale of opium and resources from ethnic states.

The Thein Sein government's present policy is, for Burma to undergo democratisation only to the level acceptable to Western Governments, so as to gain a legal government status. The regime also want a greater military control and complete submission from all the ethnic nationalities, including their homelands, rights and freedom. This is seen in the present war against the KIO and civilians, and continual expansion of dictatorial army in the Shan State. Once they have crushed the Kachins their aim would be to attack the Shan, Karen, the Wa or the Chin, one at a time.

In spite of the cease-fire agreement we cannot foresee that there will ever be a genuine democracy in Burma, not if the military is bent on being the power and driving force of the Thein Sein government. Neither can we foresee the dictatorial armed forces loosening control over ethnic states, unless the West put pressure on them. When interviewed by the BBC on Hard Talk in the U S Thein Sein said, “the military cannot be excluded from Burma politics”.

At the same interview he tried to justify the use of violence in ethnic states. He said, “they did what they had to do”- Do they have to kill, rape, confiscate homelands, imprison innocent people?  He blatantly lied and denied that human rights violations against ethnic citizens had never taken place by the Burmese soldiers and officers. He said the Burmese soldiers were good, well disciplined and they had no reason to commit any crime, when there are so much evidence recorded by the UK Amnesty, UN and other Human Rights foundations. Or does he not understand what human rights mean?

To the dictators 'Peace' means the non-Burman ethnics must completely surrender their arms, their freedom, rights and homelands; stability means complete control over all ethnic regions and nationalities by force of arms; negotiation and reconciliation mean the non-Burman ethnic nationalities must obey their every demand or term. The regime's excuse in attacking the Kachins after 17 years of cease-fire was “We, the Tatmadaw [army], have to fight the KIA because they have not accepted our terms."

The Thein Sein Government has convinced Western powers that reform in Burma is complicated and will take a long time, and they can help to accelerate the peace process by lifting their economic and financial sanctions. While lifting sanctions and giving the ethnic Burman legitimacy to govern, the West has marginalised the non- Burman ethnic nationalities, and this will put them in a more politically disadvantaged position. They have also ignored the most important issues in Burma by failing to address the war-like attack on the Kachin, huge presence of the dictatorial armed forces in all ethnic states, attack on their cease-fire armies, and the confiscation of ethnic homelands and resources, and restriction of their human rights.

The 1947/1948 Constitution provides that the sovereignty of the Union is vested in the people, the People's Representatives elected by citizens of the whole union.

The Panglong Treaty and the Constitution were dishonoured and thrown out by the successive Burmese military dictatorial regimes. In other words, non- observance and violation of the core of Panglong Agreement and the Constitution mean they have excluded the Panglong Agreement signatories. In such circumstances, the non- Burman ethnic states have reverted to their original status, and are no longer members of the Union of Burma. Any self- appointed governments, either military or civilian has no mandate to govern or rule over them. They are at liberty to proclaim independence in their own respective definite territories.

It is a fact that the Panglong Agreement is the root cause of the conflict between the Burmese military regime/politicians and other ethnic nationalities. If there is to be any future in the Federal Union of Burma, it must be based on the Panglong principles, and only then can the whole of Burma get back on the right track and move forward.  There is no reason why the Burmese politicians cannot agree that the Panglong principles are fair and in line with democratic principles. It seems the dictators are afraid to be on an equal footing with other ethnic nationalities, because they are scared of fair and just competition. If the dictators feel that they are so superior and are unable to accept that all human beings are born equal, and that everyone should have rights to freedom, their homelands, property and farmlands then they should walk away and leave others to form their own devise. The ethnic nationalities could put their case to the UN and apply for an independent status, which is within their rights politically and lawfully. Failing this, they could together form a federation, without the Bamar.

The Thein Sein government will have to make a choice. After more than fifty years of suffering under the military/fascist regime the ethnic nationalities are prepared and determined to fight for their rights, homeland and self-determination.

Having heard our grievances and our feelings I hope you, Mr. Cameron, as  the present leader of Her majesty's Government, will have better understanding of the root cause of the dire political situation in Burma and make your decisions, based on based on justice and fairness.

May I now make the following request that:

  1. Your Majesty's Government offer to mediate between the military and non-Burman nationalities in the discussion of the Panglong Agreement.
  2. You and the EU do not grant legitimacy to the Burmese military or civil government to rule over other ethnic nationalities. If the Bamar politicians wish to form a Federal Union of Burma with the ethnic nationalities, they should be prepared to accept the principles of the Panglong Agreement: Genuine Federal Union, with equal rights for all members, and the rights to self-determination.
  3. To pressure the Burmese military armed forces to withdraw from all ethnic states.
  4. To put to the Thein Sein government that the ethnic nationalities have the right to their homelands, resources, land and property.

Thanking you in anticipation and I hope you will not fail us

Yours respectfully,
Mrs. Nel Adams

Sao Noan Oo on behalf of Shan Communities


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