To Hopeland and Back (Part II)

Day Four (12 June 2013)
After breakfast, we started out for Rangoon from Naypyitaw, 205 miles (332.5 km) away.

At 15:00, we entered the city. Escorted by a traffic police officer, we arrived at Hotel Yangon on the 8th mile junction. The MAS officer who served as a guide to the delegation told us until 2004 it used to be the headquarters of the notorious national intelligence agency headed by Gen Khin Nyunt. It had been reopened as a hotel just two years ago.

At 19:00 we had dinner at the Chatrium Hotel. Chairmen Yawdserk (RCSS/SSA), Hkun Htun Oo (SNLD) and Sai Ai Pao (SNDP); Lt-Gen Hso Ten (patron to SSPP/SSA); and Harn Yawnghwe (Euro Burma Office) ate in a separate room and afterward held a “summit” meeting.

According to Yawdserk, the meeting had agreed a representative body should be formed to speak for the Shan State during the upcoming political negotiations.

Day Five (13 June 2013)

Meeting at the UNODC office, with Jason Eligh, followed by another meeting with diplomats from Germany, the EU and Japan. Interestingly, many seemed to think politics could not be separated from drugs, though they were carefuled to say it in public.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Eligh stole the show at the joint press conference held later, outshining Yawdserk. The latter said later he didn’t mind. “He’s the guy who’s seeking funds for our projects,” he commented.

Meeting with top officials from US, UK, and EU embassies, including Derek Mitchell. It was a closed-door affair. No video cameras and no audio recorders to allow the participants to speak freely. Most of the discussion focused on current dialogues between Naypyitaw and various armed movements.

Day Six (14 June 2013)

Meeting with representatives from 12 political parties, 8 civil society organizations and 16 media organizations at the Royal Rose, which have become a familiar rendezvous for activist movements.

As I climbed down the mini bus, I ran into a vendor selling xeroxed copies of “The Kyat Pyay scandal” (Part 1, 2, 3 and 4) and an unflattering commentary on a book on Senior Gen Than Shwe. Unlike in Lashio where I visited in March, he was selling quite openly. Our security officers wouldn’t have missed me buying a copy of each from him, but no one seemed to mind.

The discussions were mostly about the peace process and the amendment to the constitution. Yawdserk said the two must go together.

At 14:30 the delegation separated: one, led by chairman, Yawdserk went to meet the Norwegian ambassador, and another, led by RCSS joint secretary Sai La, visited MPC. I went along with the second group.

At the MPC U Hla Maung Shwe, Dr Min Za Oo, and Dr Kyaw Yin Hlaing received us, among others.

The MPC, we were explained, is not a policy maker but a technical advisory body to advise:

  • How to get an agreement
  • How to implement an agreement
  • How to follow up an agreement

The RCSS was encouraged to discuss their problems with the MPC that can help reduce cumbersome red tape.

When I asked him about the tenure of the MPC, U Hla Maung Shwe said the new president should be inaugurated in January 2016, following the elections in late 2015. As the MPC was set up by executive order, only another executive order can terminate it. But he hoped the Center would be an established institution by then.

Day Seven (15 June 2013)

I was visiting the Shwe Dagon, buying books in Pansodan and visiting long-time-no-see relatives today and missed the Aung San Suu Kyi-Yawdserk meeting.

What Chairman Yawdserk told me later appeared to be what had impressed him most:

  • She said since the common goal is to set up a federal union, we can only do it by amending the constitution
  • When I remarked that President Thein Sein appears to be a good man, she responded by saying being a good man is not enough; one must be able to put his words into deeds, and deeds into results

At 18:00, a dinner party was hosted by U Aung Min in honor of chairmen Yawdserk and Mutu to Sayphoe of Karen National Union (KNU) who with his delegation arrived from Myawaddy yesterday.

The following comes from my notes taken at the informal meeting held before the party:

U Aung Min:        For reconciliation in Karen State, we have requested Gen Mutu spearhead it, just as we have requested Hkun Htun Oo to do the same in Shan State.
Yawdserk:           I would like to know why there is a need to sign a second ceasefire agreement since we have already signed one.
U Aung Min:        The difference is that at the second signing, it will be witnessed by dignitaries all over the world. All those concerned will sign it. Afterward, nobody will be able to renege on it and reverse the trend even if he wants to.

The minister added that the nationwide ceasefire ceremony would be held as soon as main problems with the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) are fixed.

I left for Taunggyi the next day (16 June) to call on my ailing sister and her children. On 17 June, I was back in Thailand, which, as Neil Diamond sang, is “fine but it ain’t home.”


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