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Burma's exiled ethnic nationalities seminar held in North America

INTERVIEW WITH COLONEL YAWD SERK

(Cited from S.H.A.N)

Colonel Yawd Serk talked with foreign reporters in a remote camp in Shan State on 24th November 2002

Q: We have met with many people from various organizations along the border, including members of KNU and KNPP. They said the situation this year is the worst, what is the view of the Shan and SSA?

A: In our opinion, we found that it's getting better than before, because we have contacts and better understanding with various Shan groups. We now have close ties and believed that the situation has improved.

Concerning the Burmese regime, we need to be more cautious in dealing with them. With the situation of KNU and KNPP, there seems to be no big changes. The Burmese still could not push for a decisive victory on them and this will never happen. But they need more understanding among themselves. The misunderstanding among their ranks could lead to their own destruction.

With Aung San Suu Kyi, she has come to visit Shan State with two objectives. The first one is to lobby for the support of the Shan State people and secondly, to learn more about the rapes in the areas occupied by the Burmese troops. But surely she would not be permitted to travel in such areas. Even when she was addressing the local people at Lashio, the military authorities forbade the members of cease-fire groups to attend her public gathering. This has proven that she will not be able to achieve her objectives.

Q: What will the relationship be with Aung San Suu Kyi if she were to be given the reign of power by the regime?

A: If she is going to be fair and just to us, I think there should be no problem. But without solving the problems with the ethnic nationalities, there can be no peace. Once she is in power, three major problems are in store for her to solve. They are, (1) Internal problems of the Burma army. (2) The problem between the military power and democratic forces (i.e. NLD, SNLD and others) and (3) Problems between Burmese and ethnic nationalities.

The Burmese alone did not found the Union of Burma. The ethnic nationalities states joined the Union on equal footing and status. Our predecessors signed the agreement on this basis. The Burmese betrayal and dishonoring of the agreement led the ethnic nationalities to take up arms against them to restore their rights. Thus, unless these problems are first solved, there will be no peace. Even if when Aung San Suu Kyi comes to power, it doesn't mean that these disputes will be automatically solved.

Q: Several people abroad are talking about forming a federation. What is your opinion on this issue? Is it acceptable to you?

A: If the federation is genuine, with equal rights for every state, like those countries practicing in US and European countries, it is acceptable. But first, the Burmese must be patience and prove their sincerity. They must withdraw their troops from every non-Burmese state to prove their sincerity, so that every state can establish their own administration, economy and own defense. Finally, the eight states (namely Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Chin, Mon, Shan, Arakan and Burmese) should come together and discuss ways to form a genuine federal structure. This would be a kind of federation that is acceptable to all the ethnic nationalities.

Q: What is the relationship with other nationality groups? How long has it been? And what are their plans for the future?

A: We formed the five military alliances three years ago, with the Karen National Union (KNU), Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), Chin National Front (CNF) and Arakan Liberation Party (ALP). We are still trying to include the remaining two ethnic nationalities (the Kachins and Mons). We believe they understand and will join us, to restore peace and tranquility so that every nation would be able to administrate their own state. In our view, the current disputes are only inter-states disputes.

Q: What is your policy on underage child soldiers? Could you clarify?

A: We have a clear and defined policy that every able body, from age 18 to 45 years old must serve in the army for 5 years. In Shan State, due to the human rights abuses of the Burmese troops, our children have no chance to learn in school and no medical care in case of illness. There is no peace and freedom for them to earn a living. They are usually killed on sight by wandering Burmese patrols, while working in their fields. As they have no choice, they fight back with whatever they have. As they could not survive on their own they have come to rely on our troops. That's why underage children are found among our troops. Once they arrive at a safe camp, these children are sent to one of our schools or some other place where they can be schooled and educated.

These children are not forced by our troops to join us. They are forced to flee from their homes by the Burmese troops and we send them to our schools. The Burmese army on the other hand actively conscripts school children to join their forces. So, our policy on child soldiers is completely the opposite of the Burmese regime’s.

Q: What is the relationship of SSA with United Wa State Army, say Pao Yo Chang or Wei Xiao Kang groups?

A: We have no connection with them because of three reasons. First, they are too close to the Burmese military junta and we do not trust them. Second, they are notorious for their involvement in drugs. Third, we have a clear policy that we are waging war on drugs. Because of all these, we have no connections with them. But, Was are honest and simple hill people. So, drug lords use them as their instrument. We will do our best to build understanding between our two peoples. In Shan State, Wa is only 5% of the whole population and we pity on them as one of our own kin.

Q: It seems that the Burmese regime has close ties with China (PRC), what will be their future relationship once Shan State gains independence?

A: Since the end of the 2nd World War, we have had a clear defined state boundary and after independence we could be good neighbors, with mutual respect. There are a few Burmese living in China, but Shans are living in China in the millions. We are sure that PRC have no discrimination policy and are fair to ethnic nationalities. So, we are not worried with the future China’s policy on us. PRC have been trading and giving support to the Burmese regime for more than $ 7 billion with no improvement. We believe China will not be so foolish to give endless support to the Burmese regime for nothing in return.

Q: What will be the system of administration for your future state? Democracy or another political system?

A: We have a clear and defined policy. According to our tradition, we will walk the fair and just middle path. So, it will be the "Parliamentary Democracy System".

Q: Would you like to pass some message to the international community?

A: Yes, I do. I would like you to pass these three messages to the international community.

(1) To solve the disputes in the so called Union of Burma, we wish to remind the international bodies that, "Do not forget and bypass the 7 ethnic states, namely Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Chin, Mon, Arakan and Shan". The disputes between ethnic nationalities and the Burmese (both the ruling regime and the opposition) is not an internal affairs as they said, "it is an inter-states disputes". The conflicts are the consequences of the invading and occupation of the non-Burman states by the Burmese army. Although we would like to solve these disputes by peaceful means, the junta is bent on military solution alone. So, we have no choice, but to fight back.

(2) Concerning the drug issue, the international bodies have given aid to the military regime for several decades in millions of dollars. Far from eradicating the narcotic drugs, they have increased in quantities and varieties. We should reconsider this issue. If we were to earnestly wage the war on drugs, then war with the Burmese army would become unavoidable.

(3) We wish to invite international observers and reporters to visit the Shan State. The Burmese military authorities should not be allowed to interfere or hinder this investigation in order to find out the 3 truths. These 3 truths are: 1) who is abusing the rights of the people. 2) who is the culprit behind the raped cases in Shan State? 3) who are the culprits behind the dirty drug business and who are involved in its production and distribution?

Thus, we urge the international community to press harder the junta to open their doors and let the international observers investigate. The disputes will be solved only when the true situation is found out.

We wish to appeal to international organizations let us send a delegation to tell the truth or are invited to observe the true situation in the Shan State



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