Shan leader: Business a name without the game

Meeting U Aung Min, Minister for President’s Office and Vice Chairman #2 of the Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC) on Saturday, 7 September 2013, in Chiangmai, Sao Yawdserk, leader of the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), had lodged complaint that there had been no progress on the business front.

The group, as suggested by U Aung Min, had set up a business firm, Shan Taungdan Cherry, and applied for concessions on several projects: agriculture, mining, tourism, road construction and power distribution, among others.

U Aung Min and Sao Yawdserk at dinner party in Chiangmai, 7 September 2013. (Photo: Nyo Ohn Myint)

“Despite permits issued by the government, we have been facing official red tape in the regional level,” he was reported as saying by a source who had accompanied him to the meeting at Larn Kham Village, near the well known tourist haunt, the Night Bazaar.

The minister, in response, informed him that security concerns had caused some delay. “The 5,000 acre land on the bank of the Mekong, for instance, is right in the middle of the Triangle area crisscrossed by drug traffickers,” he was quoted as saying. “But the decision that came out before I left is that since you are a citizen of Shan State, you also bear the responsibility to fight against drug trafficking. So I suggest you resume your agricultural project there.”

Yawdserk, 54, insists the business projects are for the people and members of his movement and that no personal interest is involved. “I know there are a lot of unfounded speculations going around,” he told SHAN. “But despite the adverse publicity circulating, little progress has been made on this front.”

One source commended, “It’s like the Burmese saying Na Mey Gyi, Htamin ngad (Famous but going hungry).”

Larry Jagan, former BBC correspondent, reported last week that “Yawdserk believes part of the problem is the military’s economic interests in the areas where they are fighting” despite the ceasefire being signed.

“The President’s office issues licenses and the military doesn’t allow them to be implemented,” he told Jagan. “This has to change, if there is to be genuine reconciliation. Only then can there be progress toward a political settlement.”

According to the draft Comprehensive Union Peace and Ceasefire Agreement presented to the government on 13 May, the ethnic armed groups (EAGs) had proposed that during the transitional period of the peace process, they should be “granted access to resources, either through:

i.    Tax collection
ii.    Engaging in business activity
iii.    Receiving aid from the Government or international donors, or
iv.    Receive sharing from mega-projects in the territory of EAGs”

The joint Karen-Shan technical team is currently in Rangoon to work out a draft Nationwide Ceasefire Accord together with the Government’s Myanmar Peace Center (MPC).

Among the armed groups that have concluded ceasefire with the Burmese government since 1989, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the PaO National Organization (PNO) are reported to be the most self-sufficient.


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