The Shan's fight for their Rights and Lost Homeland

sayarsan's picture

Unfortunately, after 1962, this was not allowed to continue: they have been, by brutal force of the military dictator rulers, uprooted from their fertile homeland, changing their lives completely, not for the better, but for the worse.  There is not a single citizen who has not suffered, either physically or psychologically. No nationality could love their country more than the Shan love their homeland, and to see their homeland and citizens violated was a great sadness and a stab in their hearts. For fifty years they yearn for their lost homeland. Those who were able to campaigned hard but most foreign governments do not seem to understand, because to them it is just something which is political that happens all over the world.
Now is a question, how can the peoples of the Shan State fight for their rights and lost homeland?
For the love of my country and its peoples, I have been following the destruction of the Shan and other ethnic states in Burma by the military dictatorial regime. Over the fifty years I have learned to analyse the psychology of the powerful military Institution.
Knowing that the present Thein Sein Government is powered and driven by the dictatorial generals, the cease-fire between the SSA and the Thein Sein Government is not going to resolve any of the problems facing the Shan. The regime so far has not shown the slightest sincerity in transforming dictatorship to total democracy. The further expansion of their armed forces in ethnic states show that the dictators are planning to strengthen their military control over other ethnic nationalities.
The world’s superpowers are also competing and playing their own political game. It seems a small nation like the Shan State and others are being left to fend for themselves.
I read an article in the Irrawaddy: Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations at Peking University, told The Economist that“China’s mistake, was to focus only on building relationships with government officials, without paying any attention to “domestic political nuances.”
Global Times said that China, is continuing ties with a more liberal Burma was also in accordance with China’s long-term interests.
“Burma was going to open up sooner or later,” the newspaper said. “Burmese people have a right to develop their country.”
Has China really learned from its mistakes and about to change its policy?
On the other hand, Roland Watson wrote, “China is a growing threat and the U.S. needs to have as many friends in Asia as possible. This is the reason behind the Administration's policy reversal and its decision to engage with Naypyidaw. Instead, Obama has decided that this goal, freedom for the people, can be sacrificed. America can renew its alliance with Burma's dictatorship, in its new civilian disguise, against China. This is yet another deceptive, and pathetic, abandonment of American principles”.
“America, in its renewal alliance with Burma dictatorship, has focused on the military government and Thein Sein, and has marginalised the other ethnic nationalities”.
As the President of the United States of America was planning to visit Burma on the 19 of   November 2012, activists as well as campaigners wrote to the President to inform him of the current dire political situation in Burma. The Shan communities sent their letters through different channels, hoping the President would at least receive one if not all of their letters.
The President arrived in Burma on the 19 November 2012. His visit was brief and his speech as expected has pleased some, and disappointed others. To me, on the whole, President Obama gave a very good unbiased speech, directed at all sections of societies. He seemed to have listened to some of our requests and perhaps changed the course of his direction? His speech did give some ethnic nationalities a glimmer of hope.
With the easy availability of modern technology as means of communication, Western academics and some “Think Tanks” are beginning to learn more about the true political situation of Burma: how the Shan and other ethnic nationalities have been treated and suffered at the hands of the dictatorial regimes, two of these being Barry Scott Zellen who wrote “Paths to Freedom and Shan Independence” and Tim Heinmann “Ethnic key to US Role in Myanmar”
If the Thein Sein government and the military generals genuinely want to achieve peace and democracy in Burma, it could be done quite easily and quickly by:

  1. Readopting the principles of the Panglong Agreement/1947 Constitution
  2. Withdrawal of  dictatorial armed forces from all ethnic states
  3. Respecting the rights  of all ethnic nationalities, which they deserve
  4. Respecting other ethnic culture, religion and language
  5. Stopping the use of force and weapons, and respecting the free will of the people

Recently, the Thein Sein Government's negotiators voiced that federal union could after all be acceptable, but as always with unreasonable condition attached. The government wanted other ethnic nationalities to sign an agreement that they would not secede from the Union. This is contrary to democratic principles, as no leaders on their own can do that without balloting all citizens concerned. Reformation of the Federal Union of Burma must come from the free will of the people. The Burmese dictators destroyed the original federal union and are now trying by force to glue it together to form a unitary Myanmar Nation State.
The 1947/1948 constitution provides that the sovereignty of the Union is vested in the people and the people's representatives elected by citizens of the whole union.
The Panglong Treaty and the Constitution were dishonored and thrown out by the successive Burmese military dictatorial regimes by force of arms. In other words, non- observance and violation of the core of Panglong Agreement and the Constitution mean they have excluded the Panglong Agreement signatories. In such circumstances, the non- Burman ethnic states are reverted to their original status, and are no longer members of the Union of Burma. Any self- appointed governments, either military or civilian have no mandate to govern or rule over them. They are at liberty to proclaim independence in their respective definite territories. They could ask democratic countries and apply to the United Nations and present their case as a free country, which is within their rights politically and lawfully.
The generals know that Central Burma in which the majority of the Burman live, cannot form a viable and prosperous nation without the ethnic states. They wanted other people's homeland but not the people.  Hence, they used force and violence to destroy and eliminate ethnic citizens from their own homelands instead of trying to form good relation with them. If the military generals past and present had honored the PanglongTreaty/1947 Constitution and treated other ethnic nationalities with respect and consideration Burma would not be in such a dire political situation. Due to the regimes’ paranoia and fear, they have caused many deaths, sufferings and misunderstanding. Worst of all, half a century of wasted years for everyone connected with Burma.
The greatest problem facing the Shan and other ethnic nationalities today, is the huge presence of the dictatorial armed forces in every village and corner of their homelands. The soldiers with their guns at a ready to shoot citizens at random; guarding and watching every step of their movement, just like prison wardens guarding prisoners who have committed the most heinous crimes. Until and unless the dictatorial armies are withdrawn from all ethnic states there can never be peace, freedom or genuine democracy in Burma. It is disheartening to hear U Thein Sein admit that in Burmese politics, the army cannot be excluded.
“According to Aung Thaw, Deputy Defense Minister, as reported by Reuters last month, “the military is both the architect and guardian of his country’s embryonic democracy.” His statement said a lot of things unsaid:

  • The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) is just a front for the military
  • The government led by ex-Gen Thein Sein is also nothing but a stooge of the military
  • The military has no aim to give up power
  • For the time being, just for form’s sake and out of necessity, Thein Sein, Aung San Suu Kyi and the ethnic armed movements are free to have their fun, but the military aims to return to power both in form and substance when the time comes
  • Thein Sein can open up the urban areas as he pleases, but the rural areas remain under the military”(S.H.A.N)

In fact, this is what some of us has predicted when the Thein Sein's civilian government started showing Western governments that they are changing towards Democracy.
The ethnic citizens have tolerated long enough, and if the regimes should continue to adhere to their past policies of using brutal force and violence, the ethnic nationalities will have no choice but to seek other alternatives. Anything is surely better than the last fifty years they have been forced to endure.
In spite of all the unfairness and injustice, the Shan have always been open and made great effort to co- exist with all non-Burmans as well as Burmans in the hope that there will be peace and a genuine Federal Union of Burma, which their leaders had set out to create in 1947 and thereafter. The Shan have kept to their side of the bargain, and abided by the principles of the treaty. It is now up to the generals and the Thein Sein government.
There are many smaller land -locked independent countries that are managing to survive amongst the big nations of the world. Before the military coup the Shan had its own Federated Shan States government, with its own rule of law. It enjoyed peace and autonomy for many years.  
Looking at the world today, will a little nation like the Shan State find political support from any of the bigger nations? It is impossible to tell who it can turn to or who would be willing to help. With all its brilliantly written charters, can the Shan State turn to the United Nations in times of need? But it had been seen recently that the impossible can become possible.
It is disappointing that Southeast Asian and Western governments, seeing some superficial reforms in Burma, rushed to praise and reward the Thein Sein government. They should be more careful when dealing with rogue governments, and study their psychology thoroughly before making decisions that will affect the lives of millions of innocent, helpless and vulnerable human beings. They are dealing with people who do not hesitate to commit crimes against humanity or terrorize innocent people, and who excel in the art of manipulation, cunningness and lies.
The Shan and other ethnic nationalities learned what the dictatorial generals are capable of the hard way through lengthy experience. They cannot afford to make the same mistake again, or else they will be at the mercy of the fascist/dictators forever.
At present the generals, using Thein Sein as the President of a quasi-civil government are playing a game of softly, softly with the Shan. They will continue to do so as long as long as the Shan play along with them. But watch out, if the Shan should show any sign of resistance to their cunning planned strategies, they will swoop down on them with all their military might, like they are now doing to the Kachin. The courageous Kachin should be applauded for standing by their principles.
The Shans, like the Kachins, must stand firm and not give in to the demand of the dictators; they must be firm in fighting for their common goal. United they must stand, and stand with their heads high and fight for their rights for the survival of their homeland. Only unity amongst themselves and unity with other ethnic nations will they be free from the control of the dictators, and then become a free nation of the world, like their cousins the Thai and the Laotian.
Sao Noan Oo, the contributor is the daughter of the ruling prince of Lawksawk and the author of “My Vanished World”. I refer to a dinner Thierry and I attended with the daughter of a Saopha and her nephew Hseng Fa.