Learning to Share: Three days in Shan Shine

Day Two. Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.
Martin Luther King (1929-1968)

The RCSS/SSA, also known as SSA “South,” has 5 main bases along the Thai Burmese border:

·       Kawng Moong Mong        Homong sub-township, opposite Thailand’s Maehongson (Muang)
·        Loi Taileng                Homong sub-township, opposite Thailand’s Pang Mapha district
·       Loi Lam                                  Monghta sub-township, opposite Thailand’s Wiang Haeng district
·       Loi Hserm Hsip                    Pongpakhem sub-township, opposite Thailand’s Fang district
·       Loi Gawwan             Monghsat township, opposite Thailand’s Mae Fa Luang district

(RCSS/SSA) annual meeting at Loi Taileng, 22 February 2017.
Its troops are active mostly on the west bank of the Salween, and until late 2015, in the southern part. A small base was set up in 2006 in Namkham township, on the Sino-Burmese border a year after the Burma Army’s forced disarmament of Palaung State Liberation Army (PSLA) and forced ejection of the SSA North’s Third Brigade north of the Mandalay-Muse road. Then after an attack by the TNLA, the PSLA’s successor, in 2015, its troops have spread over the north to maintain its supply and communications line. Attempts at negotiations so far have not been fruitful.

To maintain liaison with local government units and the people, it has since 2012 set up liaison offices in 9 towns: Taunggyi, Kengtung, Mongpan, Kholam, Mongton, Monghta, Tachilek, Muse and Kyaukme. The last two are officially still “economic” offices.

The day is spent in reviewing the progress made during past year. And these are some of their comments:

·        There’s a Shan saying: Where there is no fish, the price of frogs rise. But it seems, according to our experience, even the price of tadpoles are rising. (The comment aims at more capacity-building for RCSS/SSA members engaged in political negotiations which most of them are not familiar)
·        More information sharing with the liaison offices that are required to communicate with the local Burmese units, necessary. Sometimes, when problems like being attacked by a Burmese patrol come up, we find we don’t have sufficient information to counter the Tatmadaw’s accusations
·        We have different interpretations of our bilateral and multilateral agreements with the Tatmadaw. The sooner we straighten them out, the easier our job will be

There is a call in the evening from the KNU on the subject of choosing appropriate dates for the upcoming Union Peace Conference #3, also dubbed 21st Century Panglong#2.

“The Tatmadaw’s representative thinks 1-5 April should be okay,” the KNU’s advisor Saw Htoo Htoo Lay. “But the KNU (whose Congress begins on 14 March) thinks 26 April (that is after the Burmese New Year) would be better.”

The RCSS, still wrangling with Naypyitaw over the ideal venue for its ethnic based National Dialogue, leaves the matter entirely to the KNU.

Day Three. Thursday, 23 February 2017

We always like to say what liars the Burmans are
But we never like to admit what suckers we’ve been.

A Karen leader, 18 February 2017

(RCSS/SSA) officers after annual meeting at Loi Taileng, 23 February 2017. (Photo: PI)

Today’s morning session is spent in the review of the past year. More comments:

·        If we are not allowed even to treat drug addicts, signing the NCA is meaningless
·        We want to change the constitution. The NLD wants to change the constitution.
On the other hand, it was easier to deal with the previous (quasi-military) government. But it has been more difficult to deal with the NLD government.
·        To Tatmadaw wants us to withdraw from the north. But the people there say we must not. They won’t feel secure living in the north anymore, if we return to our southern bases
·        We need to inform the people its not we who are violating the terms of the NCA
·        The review session is not for finding fault with one another. It is for finding fault with what is being done.

(RCSS/SSA) dinner party at Loi Taileng,
 23 February 2017. (Photo: PI)
323 members are promoted, including 284 non-commissioned officers.

One advisor, former Lt-Col Paimoeng Laihsai, then proposes promotion of Sao Yawd Serk to full general, which is supported by the meeting.

Plans approved for the next year include: reorganization of the administrative department as well as the army. How the RCSS is going to do it is something we should wait and see.

The meeting ends with a dinner party in the evening.


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