Learning to share: The CSSU Annual Meeting, 4-5 May 2017

Every man is my superior in some way.
In that I learn from him.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

It was an honor to attend, observe and advise the Annual meeting of the almost 4 year old Committee for Shan State Unity (CSSU), the association of 3 political parties, 2 armed resistance armies, and 6 CSOs, in Chiangmai.

As usual, I’m reporting what took place there, topics that were discussed, and decisions that were taken at the event. For I believe that the better the people are informed, the surer their decision-making will be.

But, as usual, I have to be careful of what I disclose, as carelessness may lead to killing the goose. If I say nothing, nothing will be known.  But if I say everything, everything will be ruined.

I hope my policy: to disclose what is useful but not too sensitive, but to refrain from saying anything that’s too delicate works for all.

Day One. Thursday, 4 May 2017

Strangely enough, the NCA that forms the basis of the current peace process does not contain the terms “reconciliation” or “national reconciliation” anywhere in the text. However, it significantly refers to the Spirit of Panglong, which has come to be seen as the historic starting point of reconciliation in Myanmar.

Aung Naing Oo, Myanmar times, 27 April 2017

Khun Tun Oo gives is opening  
speech (Photo: Irrawaddy)
The outgoing chair Khun Tun Oo gives his opening speech in Burmese, for the sake of media representatives, who are present at the Ratanakosin Hotel’s meeting room on the 6th floor.

Recently, we’ve been hearing things we had never heard of before:

§  The order from the government not bring back (ugly) past incidents (in other words not to rattle any skeletons in the closet)
§  The declaration by 1990 Members of Parliament Union (MPU), the United Nationalities Democratic Union (UNDU), and 3 others (on 2 May) to sue the government for holding the 2008 referendum on the present constitution based on inaccurate population statistics. (The then military claimed there were 57 million, but the 2014 census found only 51 million)
§  A report coming across the Sino-Burmese border says another united front, calling itself the Seven States Liberation Union (SSLU) is either in the making or has been formed.

If we are not united and at peace with one another, there’s a chance the Irrawaddy could become the border between India and China.

I therefore solemnly urge you to seriously keep in mind what I have said in our 2 day deliberations on our struggle for equality and self-determination.

Here are excerpts from speeches delivered by other leaders:

§  The CSSU objective is three-fold: Unity among the Shans, unity with other ethnic nationalities in Shan State, and the attainment of self-determination.
§  Out of 55 townships in Shan State, Shans are majority in less than half of them. This we need to consider when planning for the 2020 general elections.
(More than a million were estimated to have either been displaced or gone into exile since the 1996-98 forced relocation campaign waged by the then military government —Author)
§  Everyday, new settlers from lower Burma are coming to Shan State. They are issued house registers within 6 months, but tens of thousands of Shans are without house registers or ID cards.
§  In Chiangmai, there are about 100,000 Shans, but only 60,000 have proper ID cards, passports and work permits

Participants of the CSSU Annual.
 Photo taken on 4 May 2017.
Next, a progress report is submitted by the secretariat headed by Sai Nyunt Lwin, the outgoing Secretary General.

For those who are not familiar with the CSSU, I hope the following summary explains its nuts and bolts:  The CSSU was formed on 17 October 2017. Its 12 guiding principles were adopted at the summit meeting in Bangkok in October 2014. According to its constitution adopted in 2015, all chairpersons of each member organizations form a presidium, and take turns to preside over meetings for one year. Secretaries of each member organization meanwhile form a secretariat which is headed by the Secretary General, who is also the general secretary of the member organization whose chairperson is serving as president on rotation. All major decisions are made by consensus.

The following are the extracts from the report:

§  The original member organizations are;
1.       Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS)
2.       Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP)
3.       Shan State Joint Action Committee (SSJAC) which is made up of three organizations:
Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD),
Shan State Progress Party (SSPP),
 and Shan People’s Militia
4.       Shan State Lawyers Network
5.       New Generation Shan State (NGSS)
6.       Shan CBOs Thailand
7.       Tai Youth Organization (TYO)
8.       Tai Nationalities Association-Thailand (TNA)
During the 2016-17 period, the CSSU gained two more members: Eastern Shan State Development and Democratic Party (ESSDDP) and Tai Youth Network (TYN)

§  The CSSU, among others, held one public consultation and one ethnic Shan-based pre-National Dialogue (ND). It is still negotiating with the government-Tatmadaw for a venue to hold a proper ND before the 24 May Union Peace Conference 21st Century Panglong (UPC 21 CP).
§  On 1-2 June 2016, the CSSU held the Seminar on National Reconciliation, Peace Process, Democracy and Federalism in Taunggyi which was participated by 21 political parties, that included among others the NLD and the USDP, and 3 CSOs.
§  The Secretariat ends its report with a 3 point proposal: a 2 year tenure for the rotating president and secretary general, to find a  suitable  mechanism for small member organizations to be able to serve as rotating presidents and secretary generals
§  Increased mutual sharing of information among members

The rest of the day is spent in self-evaluation. The following are extracts from the discussants:

§   Shans have their strengths (which need not be mentioned here.) But their greatest weakness is disunity.
§  The non-Shans, because of Shans’ disunity, are demanding separate statehoods
§  They used to speak Shan, but they no longer do.
§  The Wa took over leadership on the peace process, and we were unable to say ‘No’.
§  We have many talented people, but they need to be united.

And several more.

The  day ends with an agreement for the leaders to hold a separate meeting in the evening, the results of which are to be reported on the next day.


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