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Burma's exiled ethnic nationalities seminar held in North America

KAOWAO NEWS NO. 90

Newsletter for social justice and freedom in Burma
May 26 - June 14, 2005

BASIC EDUCATION FEES INCREASED

MIGRANTS AND THE ONSLAUGHT OF MALARIA

RICE EXTORTION FOR ARMY FOOD SUPPLY

A tribute to Nai Panthar

FORCED SECURITY ALONG YADANA PIPELINE ROAD

WILL EQUAL RIGHTS EXIST IF BURMA IS A DEMOCRACY?

racism: JUNTA’S BIGGEST WEAPON in WAR

DIALOGUE WITH A SHAN LEADER, H.R.H HSO KHAN PHA

THAI ARREST MIGRANTS AT THREE PAGODAS PASS

READERS FRONT


BASIC EDUCATION FEES INCREASED
(Kaowao: June 14, 2005)

Low-income families are facing difficulty in paying school admission fees and will be unable to send their children to primary school, which starts this raining season, a source from Three Pagodas Pass border town said.

A town resident said the Parent Teacher Association and local authorities are urging parents to send their children to school, but many parents are unable to meet their commitment.  “Every bloc (quarter) has about a hundred children who cannot go to school this year.  About 90 % of the families in the town have a low income and depend on a hand to mouth living,” a businessman from the town said.

The source reported that the admission fees at the border town have increased from last year. Plus border trade has been shut down due to the Thai Burma border closure and families will find it difficult to make ends meet.  The local authorities are asking parents of children from Grade 2 and under to pay 360 Thai Baht, Grade 3 to 4 to pay 480, and Grade 5 and over to pay 500 Baht for admission fees and general expenses.

Last year, schools in Mudon and Thanbyu Zayat townships of Mon State charged 2,500 Kyats for primary school, 2,980 Kyats for middle school and 3,600 to 41,000 Kyats for high school, some schools are asking for about 6,700 Kyats, which includes the fee for renovation.

Parents are also required to pay other costs for textbooks, paper, pens and a yearly contribution to the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) fund.  The books at government schools are twice as expensive as those available in the market, but the students are forced to buy the books from the government schools instead.

Despite education at the primary level being free under the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), many parents cannot afford to send their children to primary schools in Mon State. 


Migrant Watch

MIGRANTS AND THE ONSLAUGHT OF MALARIA
(Kaowao: June 12, 2005)

Hospitals and clinics near the Three Pagodas border are overcrowded with malarial patients according to a Mon medic from Sangkhalaburi border town.

The Palaing Japan hospital administered by the New Mon State Party daily receives about 50 malaria patients seeking treatment for malarial like symptoms.

“The majority are migrant workers waiting to enter Thailand.  This is the most dangerous time for them because of the rainy season and they have no mosquito nets to protect them,” said Ms. Yee Mon.

A social worker from the Thai Burma border who spoke under condition of anonymity said the reasons for the high incidence of the deadly disease is because the migrant workers are restricted to certain areas and are living under poor living conditions, plus they are not allowed to see outsiders.  Last year about this time, many migrants contracted malaria with some dying without receiving any medical treatment or proper food.

Hundreds of migrants are waiting to enter into Thailand along the Three Pagodas Pass Thai-Burma border.  Many contract malaria while making the journey to Thailand because the jungle in this region has a higher than average rainfall that creates swampy conditions for mosquitoes to breed that increases the risk of catching the deadly disease. 

Human rights workers are working on a booklet that will be distributed to migrants in their own language that provides information on precautions when making the journey into Thailand.  Kaowao is asking readers with knowledge of the situation to contribute information that may be included in this booklet.


RICE EXTORTION FOR ARMY FOOD SUPPLY
(Independent Mon News Agency: May 31, 2005)

The Burma Army has been collecting rice from local farmers in Mon State, Southern Burma for their food supplies to stock-pile for the coming rainy season.

A local source reported that Infantry Battalion No.61, which is under the Military Operation Command No.19 based in Ye, is force-selling rice at a low price from local farmers in northern Ye township, Duya and An-Din village tracts.

“They take two baskets (about 66 kilograms) of paddy per acre. They order us to send the rice to them on time. They don’t want paddy. They want us to crush the paddy into rice first and then send it to the Village-tract Peace and Development Chairperson’s house,” a farmer in An-Din village said.

“The battalion commanders say they will pay us 1100 Kyat per basket. But they don’t give us the money,” the farmer said.

Battalion No. 61 officer, Captain Moe Aung Khaing, together with the village-tract headman planned to take 2500 baskets of rice from the farmers in the area. They started collecting the rice on May 20th. The army sets the price at 110, 000 Kyat per 100 baskets of paddy while the paddy price in the market is 200,000 Kyat per 100 baskets.

“We have to husk the paddy with our own money. We have to pay 100 Kyat per basket and send it to the village headman’s home. If we are late, we have to send it to Ye Town with our own transport costs,” the farmer explained.

The villages which sold the rice at a low price and which have not received any money for it are: Plaing-thein, Hnin-sone, Krock-kree, Kaw-krait, Andin, Paw-htaw and Duya village tracts.

Although the Burmese military regime issued a statement back in 2003 that the government authorities would not buy paddy from the farmers, the regime’s armed faction, the Burmese Army in Mon State, started again to force farmers to buy paddy at a low price in Thanpyu Zayat Township in early 2005.


From teacher to military commander, to peace maker

A tribute to Nai Panthar
(By Nai Sunthorn)

Nai Panthar, who passed away on June 4 at his son’s house in Rangoon, bore several titles in his lifetime: a teacher, soldier, carpenter, military commander, Central Executive Committee member for NMSP, monk and finally back to a layman. It grieves us that we were unable to attend his funeral cremation held on June 6, 2005. The Thai Mon Youth community (MYC) paid their respects to two Mon leaders on June 4, 2005; Nai Panthar, and the first president of MYC, Nai Sathit Ngonhom who also passed away recently in Bangkok.

Nai Panthar was born in Ankhae-Waeglong village, Thanbyu Zayat Township where he graduated from high school, he started out as a primary school teacher near his native village. After 2nd World War and before Burma gained independence Nai Panthar found himself caught up in the heady days of Mon political activities, particularly in Mon youth affairs. He organized other Mon youth in his area and found a youth organization. In 1947 he became an active member of Mon Affairs Association (MAA) led by Nai Hla Maung and Nai Ba Lwin (Shwe Kyin) who both later transformed the organization into a Mon armed group.

Nai Panthar, as a true revolutionary, is regarded as the originator of the Mon armed forces during the Mon revolution. On July 20, 1948, a group of 30 Mon youths led by Nai Panthar and Bo Thein seized the police station in Zathabyin Village in the east of Moulmein with only three guns; it was the first time in 100 years that the Mon raised the Sheldrake flag. It was also the beginning of the Mon armed forces to fight for independence and marked the date of the Mon Armed Resistance up to the present day. He led the Mon armed forces together with the Karen in taking Moulmein in August 1948.

He recalled his early military career fighting alongside the Karen in Moulmein: "When the Mon and Karen completely controlled the city, the local people came out to welcome us (Mon soldiers), one of them was Nai Chan Mon, the General Secretary of United Mon Association, led by Nai Pho Cho.  Nai Chan Mon invited me for a breakfast and while eating, I took out a letter from my pocket and read a statement from the UMA which took a strong stance against any Mon youth group who took up arms and went underground. The UMA's position was to oppose armed groups whenever they met and declare war against us as "Tweyar Thinkyaing Darmasaing" (in Burmese).  Because of this attitude, Nai Chan Mon was taken aback and stopped talking.

Nai Panthar was a prominent Mon military commander since the beginning of the Mon armed revolution, but when the Mon National Defense Organization (MNDO) exchanged their arms for democracy in 1958, he was also included in it and was forced to retire to become a carpenter in Rangoon where he worked for many years. Then in 1970 Nai Panthar together with Nai Talamon (deceased) and Nai Rotsa (now NMSP's Vice-President) joined the NMSP led by Nai Shwe Kyin in the jungle outposts. He immediately was assigned to military commander of Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA), later on in 1974 Nai Nonlar joined the NMSP.  Two leaders soon became rivals for the party’s leadership and since then he was downgraded from the important position and was sometimes expelled from the party as a result of Party’s internal struggle.

Nai Panthar stayed several years with Captain Anond Pundharikarpha of Royal Thai Navy in Thailand and later joined with Nai Shwe Kyin in 1981 when the NMSP split into two factions.  Since he had a good relationship with the Thai Mon community, Nai Shwe Kyin's faction was able to settle it base on Thai soil until it reunited with Nai Nonlar's faction in December 1987.  After a bitter battle broke out between the NMSP and Karen National Union (KNU) over territorial dispute in 1988, it was brought in to negotiate a ceasefire deal on the Thai soil.  The KNU came along with two Thai military colonels who were close with the KNU in order to put pressure on the Mon to sign the ceasefire deal. Nai Panthar, therefore invited a Thai Mon with the rank of General to come along with Mon.

Nai Panthar resigned from the NMSP in May 1990 while many NMSP members wanted him to stay on (quoted a former NMSP member Nai Shwe Lwin). Nai Panthar was disappointed when NMSP leaders ignored his demands for a thorough investigation of a joint MNLA-ABSDF military force in 1990 that launched a major attack on Ye town in southern Mon State.  (The counter offensive was launched soon after the Mon’s General Headquarters and Three Pagodas Pass was overrun by the Burma Army.)  The raid unfortunately ended in their being rooted out by the SLORC's military troops with the loss of some forty soldiers several of whom died under aerial bombardment by the Burmese Air force.

A number of civilian casualties were also reported, and according to the MNLA sources, some Mon soldiers who surrendered were later executed by bayonet on the grounds of the Ye Sport Pavilion. The Ye debacle marked the end of ABSDF-MNLA joint military operations, and further strained relations between the Mon nationalist and the students. (Ashley South in “The Golden Sheldrake,Mon Nationalism and Civil War in Burma”). After spending two years in the Mon villages of Ratchaburi, Nai Panthar contacted the Burmese embassy in Bangkok and returned to the legal fold in April 1992. During two years in Thailand he spent his time writing about his lifelong experience in Mon politics.

Nai Panthar sent me a letter after he arrived in Burma, saying, "I did not consult with you about my surrender. I am sure you would have stopped me from doing it.” It was my own decision to do so. I always have thought very carefully about making the right decisions at important junctures in my life, I have done a lot for Mon national affairs, in the remaining days of my life before I die, I want to do good merit and go back home and practice meditation for further enlightenment."

In March 2003, on the occasion of Nai Shwe Kyin's funeral ceremony, I met Rev. Nai Panthar in his yellow robe in a meditation center and it was the last time that I would see him. Together with my fellow comrades, we deeply express our condolences on the passing of Nai Panthar and we regret not being able to attend his funeral cremation. I believe deeply his spirit will continue to live on in the MNLA until it reaches its goal of independence for the Mon people.

Sincerely,

Nai Sunthorn


FORCED SECURITY ALONG YADANA PIPELINE ROAD
(Kaowao: June 4, 2005)

Villagers have been forced to guard the motor road close to the Yadana gas pipeline of Mon State – Tenessarim Division since the third week of April.

Despite a settlement reached in the California courts in March 2005 between Unocal and Burmese villagers in which promises were made to improve human rights for local villagers living in the area, the Burmese authorities are ordering villagers from Aleh SaKhan village in Ye Byu Township to attend the military training to protect areas around the Yadana gas pipeline, the single largest investment in Burma.

“Over 50 Mon, Tavoyan, and Karen villages situated along the motor road are ordered to keep watch while buses are traveling during the day,” a Mon humanitarian worker told Kaowao.

One person per household from ten Mon and Karen villages attended one-month training provided by Burma Army Light Battalions 282, 409, 410 battalions.  During the training the villagers had to provide their own food and drinking water, he said.  Battalion 282 has been responsible for the pipeline since it was first built in the early 90s.

“The Burma Army ordered one unarmed villager per post to protect against any attack by the KNU, they watch out for any troublemakers,” a local villager said. “Some women are also required to keep watch, they have to walk to remote areas along the motor road to get to their post,” he explained.

The Burma Army battalions are also extorting and forcing the villagers to work and using them to porter their supplies.  Those with the money to bribe military authorities pay up to 10,000 Kyat if they want to avoid the training.

The motor road is 100 miles long, 50 of which is located in the northern part of the Tenessarim Division close to the Karen Nation Union (KNU) area where local busses were attacked last April. 


Opinion 

WILL Equal Rights Exist If Burma IS A Democracy?
(By Lawi Weng)

In recent weeks, Burmese society has become familiar with the word “secede” after Shan leaders declared an independent State. “Secede” is familiar even in their society today, though it has its detractors as well as its supporters.

Among the supporters are the ethnic groups who long for the freedom they once enjoyed in the their kingdom centuries before they were colonized by the British.

Even though today they might wish to declare independence, they must consider deeply their unity, geography, and their timing before attempting any such move. If not, declaring independence can place ethnic groups at risk of persecution by the military junta.

People who do not like the word “secede” are mostly Burmese. Many Burmese believe that the ethnic people are trying to split or destroy the “Union of Burma” when they hear the word. After exiled Shan Leaders announced independence for their State, many Burmese exiles, including some media, criticized that the action could create damaging unity among the ethnic groups.

“Declaring Shan independence does not work” is the updated title on the Irrawaddy web site. BBC (British Broadcasting Center) quoted the negative view of U Kanbazawin, a Shan political analyst, written in English on web site. It did not present Pado Mansha, a leader of KNU, optimistic regarding Shan Independence.

But there are some people who stated on BBC that Shan has the right to declare Independence. Such people might be difficult to find either in or outside of the country.  

U Lwin, NLD (National League for Democracy) spokesperson, said, “We are against the Shan Independence declaration, which does not give regard to the party principle. Many ethnic leaders criticized him because of his words.

After hearing him, we can decide whether U Lwin is a person who respects ethnic equal rights or not. His discussion suggests that when Burma has democracy near the future, may be difficult to obtain equal rights for ethnic groups. Surely, he is against “Secede.” Even his word could not affect all Burmese people, but it can lose the credibility of NLD.

He also harmfully states: “We do not know the tripartite dialogue. Even within our party we do not hear the word.” Many ethnic leaders do not share his view and, it seems, that it will not be believed in the NLD in near future.

The UN (United Nations) set up a principle of tripartite dialogue in order to solve Burma’s problems in 1990. The UN thought the tripartite dialogue appropriate for Burma.

Does U Lwin forget that the UN established the principle? Or is he going to attempt tribal dialogue between just two parties in the future?

The international community, neighboring countries, and ethnic leaders are trying to put pressure on the Burmese regime in order to bring about a triple dialogue. It seems that because of U Lwin comments, their efforts for Burma will be in vain.

Many people believe that a tripartite dialogue can solve the problems in Burma. I asked a Southeast Asia writer Ashley South, regarding the dialogue, “Should Burma begin with a tribal dialogue? Will a tripartite dialogue with a third party solve such problems?” He recommended that a tripartite dialogue be the first thing initiated. He does not approve of having a prior tribal dialogue because if the Burmese and Burmese get consensus between them, the ethnic groups will lose their right.

His words recall for me the case of Burma’s independence in 1948. Before Burma obtained independence, all Burmese leaders and ethnic leaders urged independence from Britain as one. In 1947, the father of independence, General Aung San and other ethnic groups agreed to sign on Pain Lon Treaty that if ethnic people did not approve of the main state after ten years, they can secede in accordance with the treaty.

Regarding the treaty, should we blame the Shan leaders for declaring independence? Does U Lwin not recognize the treaty of Panglong Agreement? Or does he forget it?

Burma held a free and fair election in 1990. The NLD, the opposition party, won this election in a landslide. But the Head of the State refused to transfer power to the opposition. People called for the Junta to recognize the election’s result. The junta, however, has ignored the results to this day.

After the election, Gen. Saw Maung who implemented the election was dismissed from office. Those with power today do not recognize the election results. U Lwin should not act like the Junta. He should recognize the agreement between Gen. Aung San and the ethnic leaders.

Burma will have democracy in the future. When it has, every one should recognize each other’s rights. The majority of people should recognize the minority rights. According to U Lwin words, it makes me skeptical about whether equal rights will exist for all if Burma goes democratic. 


racism: JUNTA’S BIGGEST WEAPON IN WAR
(By Mahn Kyaw Swe)

Civil war broke out when Burma gained independence from Britain.  Within 6 decades, the civil war caused so much bloodshed in our homeland.  To this day, there is still no sign that the SPDC is willing to talk with the NLD and the ethnic armed groups to end 6 decades of civil war.  Instead, the SPDC’s secret agents roam around and create confusion and hatred between the Burman and none-Burman groups by sparking racist propaganda in order to hold onto power. 

Whether during the national convention, intellectual debates, or in everyday conflicts all Burmese discussion groups and communities, racism is burning us all.  Some of us have third degree burns; while others have died from it effects, and many live in the charred wreckage.  Most of us have suffered first and second degree burns at some point in our lives.  We all live in fear within the glow of the fire’s menacing and distorted light.  We see the fire flare up every now and again and we are frightened by it.  Many of us want to do something, to pick up a bucket of water and throw it on the flames, but the sheer size of the blaze seems to make our individual efforts useless. 

The majority of Burmans are scared of the ethnic nationalities’ desire for self-determination, viewing it as reeking with separatist ideas.  For that reason, the Burmese regime uses its army to control the ethnic territories. The ethnic people are scared of the Burmese army’s use of violence, economic exploitation, forced labour, extra judicial killing, torture and looting.  They move to avoid the Burmese army.  Most of the time those fears are directed toward the Burman (Bamar).  

Even though many Burmese including the ethnic nationalities went into exile after 1989 and received good education in the western countries, some feel more insecure than ever.  Once again, the agenda of the ethnic conflict is being directed by the Burmese who have the bigger weapons, ultimately however instigating racism is its major weapon to ensure its hold on power.

U Tin Maung Win, a former member of CRDB, mentioned in his book about the vicious circle of racism as a pot of pickles (Chin Phet Oh), during his time of struggle as an armed resistant fighter with the PDP under the leadership of U Nu.  Besides, many of us thought that we were too far away from the cause of the fire to make a difference.  Racism is often described as a problem of prejudice.  Prejudice is certainly one result of racism, and it fuels further acts of violence towards the ethnic peoples.  A Karen I knew recalled a foiled plot of racial conflict by the military intelligence during the 1988 uprising.  In detail, he described the way the ruling junta attempted to spark conflict between the Burman and Karen. 

An unidentified source recalled that, “one day about five hundred Karen national costumes were stolen from Theingee Zey department store,” in Rangoon, the capital city of Burma.  The pro BSPP demonstrators on the street were going to use these clothes.  They were not really Karen people; they were MIs (military Intelligence) going to dress up as Karen to create trouble.  “We were going to beat them hard on the street.”  Shortly after, a Pwo Karen community leader came up to me and said, “I received a letter from Mahn Win Maung, former president of Union of Burma, asking me to gather up the Karen people for a demonstration leaving from Insein junction to march along the Insein Road to Thamaing.” 

Then he asked the community leader if he met the person who brought the letter to him.  “No, I didn’t,” he answered.  He is very honest, a typical Karen ready to follow orders.  “I already told other Karen communities from Thamaing and North Okkla to join us,” he continued.  I thought they were so willing to come out dressed in their Karen costumes. It suddenly dawned on me what was happening, I connected the two sources of information and made a quick decision.  “Mahn, please inform all the Karen people you invited by telling them the demonstration is cancelled.  Nobody needs to show up.  Stay home and stay safe.”  It seems to me he had no idea what was in store for them.  He insisted, “Mahn Win Maung sent me this letter to get the Karen to march.”  Forget about that letter I said.  The letter and the stolen costumes was nothing but a cold plot by the MI to create conflict between the Karen & Burman to shift their attention away from democracy and to create an uprising of confusion through social chaos instead.  He slowly realized what was going on and showed signs of fear.   He said, “Yes, I better inform my people not to show up” and he quickly departed from the teashop. 

The SPDC regime frequently abuses the Buddhist religion by using it against the political opposition groups whenever or wherever they have the chance to do so.   In 1991, when the Burma army started its major offensive against Manawplaw, the headquarters of NDF, DAB, NCGUB, and ABSDF, using over 10 battalions with support from its artillery units.  The SPDC’s original plan to control Htwee pha kwee kyo failed with thousands dead and injured.  The commanders of the operation, Maung Hla and Tin Oo, were killed in a helicopter crashed in Paan.  Their second plan was to divide the KNU by all means possible. A Burmese soldier captured by the KNLA revealed SPDC’s plan B to split the KNU between, the young and the old, between Christians and the Buddhists and between the Pwo and the Sgaw.

For the democratic opposition groups, Manarplaw was very important politically and strategically because KNU had been hosting all other oppositions, armed or unarmed organization including NCGUB.  Manarplaw fell not by sustained military attack by the SPDC regime.  It fell from the attack of political warfare using psychology, religion, espionage, drugs, rumors as propaganda, and misinformation.  It was the SPDC’s attempt to divide the Buddhist Karens from their Christian brothers.  It was not the first time the Burmese army used religion as a weapon against its enemies. 

After Ne Win took over power of the country in 1958-1960, the Army’s psychological warfare department printed over a million copies of booklets known as (Dahamma in Danger) in Burmese.  The main objective of its offensive was to attack the CBP (Communist Party of Burma) and try to mobilize the country’s monks against the CPB.  Other editions were prepared in Burmese and Urdu for circulation among the Muslim community. In another instance, the Burma army published another book, The Burning Question aimed at Christian Community and Christian led KNU in Sgaw and Pwo Karen languages.  A notebook of U Chit Hlaing, a young communist cadre who attended CPB training classes led by Thakhin Soe was used as a main source.  The booklet contained some anti religion teachings by Thakhin Soe like, “Religion is the opium of the people.”  In another point he noted, “Buddhism is the enemy of the proletariat in Burma; therefore, it must be attacked at every opportunity.” 

Early in 1960, KNU and CPB (Communist Party of Burma) reached a joint military alliance and found (NDUF) National Democratic United Front) in 1959 with members drawn from CPB, the NMSP and KNUP (Karen National United Party) and expanded control territories.  The effectiveness of such anti-communist campaigns created religious argument above and underground with total chaos.  Many Karen Christians and churches turned against KNUP for its association with the CPB.

It was sometime in 1989 when thousands of letters were dropped from the Burmese Air Force in Karen State.  Those letters contained black propaganda of the Burmese army ordering its soldiers to take Shan women as wives to control Shan State as a part of its plan in building the IV Burmese empire.  The soldiers who married a Shan woman would be rewarded according to the social status of the woman.  The letter said we have a huge amount of funds for successful soldiers.  Even though the Burmese Army was targeting Shan State, those letters were dropped in Karen State.  Religion and ethnicity are quite sensitive issues today in Burma. 

From November 1988 to the end of 1992, there were thousands of Burmese students and opposition groups taking refuge in the camps of KNU territories.  Those kinds of letters served the Burmese junta like double-edged swords on the Burmese students and ethnic soldiers.  It is a clear attempt of the regime to persecute Burmese students and civilians in the hands of ethnic armed groups.  However, due to the efforts of experienced ethnic leaders, things did not go as planned.  Later however the MIS spies penetrated the student groups and created splits among them and others.  

Those are clear examples of the SPDC junta’s strategy in using psychological warfare to split the Burman and ethnic peoples using racism.  Whenever the opposition groups come close to being united, the SPDC junta swings into high gear to try to create another method of dividing our people.  The size of the fire flares up and SPDC’s agents make things worse, like a powerful wind fanning the flames of discontent in every discussion group.  But to stop racism without the support of the Burman majority of the country is impossible.  Similarly, trying to establish a Union of Burma without the majority Burman would be definitely counter-productive for the rights of all ethnic nationalities in Burma.

Mahn Kyaw Swe

Thursday, May 26, 2005


DIALOGUE WITH A SHAN LEADER, H.R.H HSO KHAN PHA
(Cited from Tayza Thuria’s Burma Digest)

Tayza Thuria talks with His Royal Highness Prince Hso Khan Pha (aka) Tiger Yawnghwe who is the eldest son of Sao Shwe Thaik, the former Saopha (Prince) of Yawnghwe Nyaung-Shwe) and the first President of Burma after Burma's Independence from British colonial rule.   HRH Hso Khan Pha is the leader of a Shan Group campaigning for a totally Independent Shan State.  His family has been involved with the founding of the Union of Burma in 1948 and the Panglong Conferences that culminated in the signing of the Panglong Agreement in 1947 - the basis for the foundation of the Union that was so rudely destroyed in 1962 by Ne Win."

Tayza:              I'm really glad to get a chance to know a descendent of our first President of independent Burma.

Sao Hso:           Might I add that the problem that exist is not ethic "minority" rights versus the "majority" Burmese rights but rather of equality of rights for all.

The 1948 Union of Burma was understood by us to be a federal union of equals. And though the intent of the 1948 Constitution was federal, in rushing it through the Constituent Assembly by the AFPFL (Fa-sa-pa-la), the federal Union in practice became unitary.               

When we during 1958-62 tried to institute constitutional reforms in the Union Parliament towards a more equitable federal system as envisaged by the 1947 Panglong Agreement, Ne Win staged his military coup and he and his successor Burmese military troops in Shan country  raped,  murdered & tortured to oppress, suppress and intimidate.

Tayza:  I support all ethnic groups' rights to have their own federal states, probably in US style or Canadian style. I understand that Quebec Province in Canada is an autonomic federal state.

Shan state can be like that?

I never believe that "total separation of Union of Burma/Myanmar into a large number of totally separated & independent but very small tiny little countries" might be a wise decision."

Sao Hso:           Yugoslavia did break up into its components parts and theoretically there is no reason why the former and defunct Union - made so by successive Burmese military regimes could not do the same. The Shan States are larger both in population then Cambodia for instance and larger in area than some 24 States of the US and 20 or so Nation-States in Europe.

The Shan & Karenni has every right to secede and so guaranteed in the 1948 Constitution. There is another alternative that we have - we could form a federal union - United States of Southeast Asia or Southeast Asian Union a la EU with out the Burmese for example. But the Shan could certainly go it alone.

Shan is a Burmese rendering of Siam as you know, & the Thai call us Thai-yai or Elder Thai - and Tai or Thai is only a dialectical rendering. The Tai  Speaking Peoples stretch from NE India, through Burma, the Kachin and Shan States, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and south and southwest China - Premier Chou-en-lai of PRC[Communist Mainland China] said in 1957 to my parents that in China there were then 100million Tai/Dai Speaking Peoples  in China.

For myself, I believe we all should talk - as Winston Churchill said "jaw jaw is better than war war". Some of us feel uncomfortable in talking heart to heart with Burmese who often become belligerent and abusive."

Tayza:              Although Shans can join with either Burmese or Thais or Chinese, I think it would be better to go on joining with Burmese; my idea is why would you topple the apple cart. We should sort out problems between ourselves, Shans and Burmese, rather than engaging with Thais/Chinese, it will just make matters more complicated.

Sao Hso:           Indeed we had high hopes too in 1947 and expected to have occupation & conflicts behind us and to avoid the sort of fighting and bloody killings that took place between 1812-19 when the Burmese kings of Mandalay tried to conquer and subdue the Shan Ahom kingdom in Assam where the Burmese general Maha Bandula's troops committed indescribable cruelties and barbarities  as to dessimate something like 2/3 of the population and certainly 1/3 of the men and boys - disemboweling them, eating their flesh and burning them alive in cages to intimidate and suppress the Shan Ahom of Assam ref: History of Assam by Sir Edward Gaits.  This event so weakened and disorganised the Shan Ahom that by 1839 the kingdom was completely annexed by the British. Before that from about 1220 - 1812 AD they maintained themselves under one Dynasty, (that of Mong Mao 568-1604 AD when its descendants ruled Hsenwi or Theinni in Burmese). Indeed the Shan Ahom resisted conquest by the Mughals who had conquered much of India before the British incursion.

We are now in the 21st  century, not 200 years ago. 

After WWII we had hoped to avoid bloodshed and war - and invasion by the Burma Independence Army under Aung San, an army that had been trained and  armed by the Japanese while we had no army at all except police forces. The British told my father to expect no assistance whatever should the BIA under Aung San invade the Shan States and that they advised  us Shan to make the best deal we could - hence the 1947 Panglong  Agreement or Treaty.  And I might add that the Chin, Kachin & Karenni agreed to the Union because the Shan had.  Unfortunately as it turned out we merely delayed invasion and occupation by the Burmese Army by 14 year to 1962.

These are issues that are not easily resolved and after nearly half a century of being raped, tortured and murdered can you honestly say that a battered spouse of either sex cannot sue for divorce but must grin and bear in the hope that the abuser is going to miraculously change and become  an angel? And under these existing conditions - the grass looks certainly greener on the other side. A magic wand cannot be waved to wishfully make things better.

Wishful thinking resolves nothing and to solve any problem we need to look at all angles and discuss all issues pleasant and unpleasant.

Tayza:              If we are a family, I think, the oppressed Burmese children and the bullied Shan mother should join hands to fight against the bullying military man in their House/Home.

I won't want my mother to leave our family and marry a Chinese stranger or a Thai neighbour.

Anyway, thanks to your kind and patient explanation about the background history of your Shans' struggles, I got a lot of insight on some very important historical aspects which happened long before I was born.

Sao Hso:           It is truly encouraging to discuss matters of common interest, and it is only through honest discussions like these that real understanding and mutual respect will blossom.

I declared Shan independence on the wish and will of the majority of the Shan people - people in 48 of 56 Se-Viengs or Townships of the Shan States voted for Independence following a secret balloting that took 5 years to complete and 47 years after we had the Constitutional Right to Secede. Thus this decision was not taken lightly or hastily. In 1947 at Panglong, the  vote to form a Union and join with Burma was only narrowly won after a long and heated debate - the very narrow majority won the  day and the minority who lost  by  a  hair's breath conceded and obeyed the rules of parliamentary democracy - this is something the Burmese generals are loathed to do. And because the Shan agreed, the Chin, Kachin and Karenni followed suite.                

The final say rests with the Shan People but looking at it objectively, we have many options:
1. Confirm our Independence.

2. Form a United States of Southeast Asia - USSA with the Arakan, Chin, Kachin, Karenni, Mon and Karen.

3. Form an EU like grouping with the above partners, SEAU.

4. Negotiate a totally new federal union of equal partners to include the Burmese or Burma State - with effective safeguards so  that we do not have a  repeat of  the Ne Win-BSPP/SLORC/SPDC dictatorship; and with a totally new name.

5. Join with our Thai brothers.

6. Join with our Lao brothers.

7. Form a Thai-Tai-Lao, Tai Speakjng Peoples Union.

8. Form an association with China.

What is happening today under the Burmese generals is real and not merely an academic or intellectual speculation; and nearly half a century of oppression and inhuman cruelty that is still on-going as we speak cannot ever be forgotten, though in time may be forgiven.

Tayza:              Here I'd like to send my, rather late, condolences for the great lady Maha Davi, your mother, who passed away in 2003 and for the great Shan leader, your brother, who passed away last year.

And I also want to remind you a small point, with due respect. As you know, your grand father Saopha Sao Maung once got in a very difficult position and Burmese King helped him out, Right?

Sao Hso:           Yes, I am aware of the help given by Mindon Min when he became king, to Saopha* (Sir) Moung and his mother when his  father Sao Suu Deva the Kye-Mong (Crown Prince) of Yawnghwe was assassinated by a rival half sibling who  supported Pagan Min and whose sister was Pagan Min's  Queen.  I am also aware that Saopha Sao Maung opposed the Limbin Confederacy and that he employed many of Thibaw Min's ex-Ministers in the Yawnghwe Administration after Thibaw went into exile. This was why my father felt that he could work with the Burmese and with General Aung San.  But as events are to show in 1962, disastrously as it turned out  for us , my father's  hope and  trust was betrayed - he was put in Insein Prison in March '62 as everyone knows, and he  died that November in prison under  questionable circumstances and one of his young sons not yet 17 was murdered by Burmese troops on our front doorsteps in Rangoon on the night of  the  coup.

My mother, as a former vocal Member of Parliament would have been arrested too  had she not been in England for medical reasons at the time.  On returning to Rangoon in November  1962 to cremate my father she had to  flee for her life early in January 1963 on being warned that the  Women's Prison was being readied for her and she  fled to Thailand together with two of my sisters and a brother, with the  assistance of the Karen Resistance. Arriving there, the King of Thailand, on hearing of her sent an emissary to extend to her and her children his personal protection.

Tayza:              I understand your mother founded and led Shan State Army, and after her retirement your brother carried on leading SSA, right? But nowadays, there are two main Shan Armies SSA and SSNA. And they are just very recently saying that they will unitedly support a federal state, while you are calling for an Independent State. It's a little bit confusing, isn't it?

Sao Hso:           As for the recent merger of the SSAS and SSNA, and what they said is really no cause for confusion. It is ultimately the will of the People that matters and both these two worthy Commanders do not question the primacy of the civilian authority of the Shan People whom they have sworn to serve.


THAI ARREST MIGRANTS AT THREE PAGODAS PASS
(Kaowao, May 26, 2005)

Several Mon migrants on their way into Thailand from the Three Pagodas Pass border were arrested shortly after arriving at the border, said a TPP resident.

A Mon trafficker who speaks fluent Thai tried to free her clients from detention by offering the Thai authorities five hundred thousand Baht, a source close to her said. Despite having good relations with the local Thai authorities, her clients (migrants) however, were detained with the possibility of being sent back across.

Another human trafficker based on the border however, well known for his connections to the Thai authorities, bribed Thai authorities one million Baht to have his clients successfully released from the detention center after they were held for one week, a Mon businessman in the town told Kaowao on condition of anonymity.

Hundreds of migrants hope to arrive in Thailand ahead of the registration process for migrant worker, which begins in mid June.

Making their way to the border, the migrants pass through 32 checkpoints on the motor road within Mon State bribing both Burmese and ethnic soldiers along the way.

There are still some people trying to leave their village to go to Thailand, the source from Mon community in southern Karen State said yesterday. Against the backdrop of contextual conflict and displacement, and poverty brought on by land confiscation and human rights abuses in Burma are the main reasons why people migrate to Thailand to find employment and to support their families back home.

On their way to the border with their clients, the Mon human traffickers are less concerned about making the trip through the checkpoints in Mon State for the SPDC has beefed up security in the Rangoon area after the bomb blasts, a Mon source said to Kaowao recently.


READERS’ FRONT

Dear Readers,

We invite comments and suggestions on improvements to Kaowao newsletter. With your help, we hope that Kaowao News will continue to grow to serve better the needs of those seeking social justice in Burma. And we hope that it will become an important forum for discussion and debate and help readers to keep abreast of issues and news.  We reserve the right to edit and reject articles without prior notification. You can use a pseudonym but we encourage you to include your full name and address.

Regards,

Editor

__________________________________

It is very sad for all our Mon People to hear the bad news that in the near future NMSP is going to lay down its arms to SPDC. Shan, Palaung and some Kachin groups have been forced to handover their arms to SPDC. It is quite sure that the time for NMSP is coming sooner or later. We all Mons should be serious about that and we should join hands together at this moment and should think seriously how to help NMSP in confronting with this matter.

The arms and ammunition are bought by Mon People's money. That means all the arms and ammunition should be in the Mon People's hands forever. I think NMSP should think the way SSNA did confront it. I don't want to educate the leaders and the rest members of NMSP what to do, because they know more than I do. But I would like to raise a question: should all Mon people keep their mouths shut on this matter?

With Regards

Nai Za Han Mon 

___________________________________

On Kanbawza Win’s FORMING THE UNION WITHOUT THE MYANMAR

Professor Kanbawza Win has spoken out once again for the good of the people of Burma. The article reflects the hopelessness the people face since the Union was formed. His recommendation for forming a Union without the Myanmar i.e. a Union of the Non-Burman Nationalities gives some thing to ponder. At the Panglong conference also, some of the delegates voices the same. The question is: "Can it become a reality?"

Looking at the recent history of the Union of Burma, although a formation of non-Burman Nationalities State has never been attempted, there had been opportunities for the non-Burman to play a major role in the Union.

The first one was when the Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO) decided to challenge the U Nu government for Karen's independence. The Karen who, at that time were the most educated among the non-Burman, and who possessed the strongest armed units in the Union Army, decided to stand alone and fight. Had they properly spoke to the Shan, Kachin and Chin Rifles, what Kanbawza Win suggested might be not far off. However, because the Karen did not invite the other Non-Burman groups, it was the other non-Burman groups who brought down the Karen ambition.

The non-Burman nationalities had their second chance to be a power in the Union in 1988, when the mass uprising toppled the BSPP regime. By then the NDF, the organization of the armed resistance groups consisted almost purely non-Burman nationalities was a strong force. It had over eighty thousand men under arms compared to the Burma Army's 180 thousand. It is difficult to comprehend why they did not use or see their chance of making a difference in Burma.  Without helping the masses they waited out in their border regions. Once again they lost their opportunity to play a major role in the Union's future.

Because of these two major failures it is to be assumed that the EN is not in a position to play a major role. Although it is still possible for the EN to play a major role by taking advantage of the vacuum created by the detention of DASSK by the regime.  The regime knew that by placing DASSK incommunicado they cut off the brain from the opposition groups and the NLD. The EN could make drastic changes in the policy of the opposition by prosing many of the hardline stance taken by the NLD and DASSK.

However, I do not believe that the EN could play a major role in Burma politics by keeping their arms and by challenging the regime to a battleground.  They must first create a peaceful playground and atmosphere.  The strength of the present armed groups is negligible to cause any effect in the administration of the Union.  The Shan States armies when joined together equals only a tiny fraction of the strength of the Burmese military.  They should better disband than being used as a justification for the cruelty and brutality of the Burmese military.

With peace in Burma, there might be a chance for the EN to play a role, if the EN could change the present confrontational stance of the opposition to a rather compromising trend. To try to form a Union of the non-Burman under the circumstances presently exist in Burma, the human rights abuses committed against the non-Burman would be such that some small communities might completely disappear from the face of the Earth as Prof. Kanbawza Win mentioned of the Pyu, Kanyan, and the Thet.               

Vumson

___________________________________________

Too much identity politics... tired of it... sick of it.  Some ethnic people of Burma are consciously or unconsciously opening up two frontiers - one is the military regime and the other is the democratic forces. This is dangerous tactic, prolonging their dreams to be realized. Ethnic revolution has been more than half century now and some ethnic people are, in their spare time, projecting another century to fight. If you have the guts to fight, go fight in the jungle, not on the net.

TMH (via internet)

_______________________________________________________

Hope Saya (Kanbawza Win) was not instigating hatred to Myanmar (Bama). Does Saya believe in Forming the Union without Myanmar?  Saya knows that history is to learn in any cases of Mrama or U Aung Zeya or Doh Bama Azi Ayone or some Myanmar (Bama) leaders of past and present.

I don't understand why Saya crossed the red line by saying these:

“As soon as the Union was formed the Myanmar dominated government, at once launched the ethnic cleansing policy with”;

 “'Doh Bama Azi Ayone (and not Doh Myanmar Azi Ayone) became a rallying point and although it worked well for anti-colonial movement it paid no attention to non-Myanmar.

“The majority of the Myanmar have an incurable disease 'uniformity' and 'homogeneity' in terms of ethnicity, culture, religion, organization and even opinion and sexuality, that tends to create varieties of social and political problems.”

“A classic example is that when renegade Sao Hser and Khun Hom declared independence, most of the ethnic leaders opted for Federal Union but we sorrowfully discovered that the tune of the Myanmar inside Burma led by NLD, the peripherals and the Diaspora are of the same chauvinistic tune.”

“The Myanmar group both inside and outside the country paid only lip service to the ethnic cause and grievances and even if forced by the international community to the negotiating table is not so sure of the latter support, who still share chauvinistic idea.”

Then Saya said:

Hence the EN groups should change their philosophy and goal and lobby for Federal Union of Burma encompassing of the few Myanmar democrats that are not so chauvinistic and who really have the union in heart

Are you really going to build Federal Union of Burma with the few Myanmar?

Then Saya said again:

“Of course there will be extremist everywhere and Philip Resnick comments "Extremists will react with hostility to moderates".

Even though I had the personal short memories with Saya, I’ve no doubt Saya’s empathy for the people who suffered. But, what happened now is Saya looked like an extremist while blaming the extremists. I know, however, Saya is not.

Always with respect,

Aung Tin, Toronto (via internet)


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