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貌强:Discussion on Contemporary Situation in Shan State with Sai Wansai of SDU

   By: Maung Chan (Burma’s Chinese)

   Monday, 28th November 2005

   Sai Wansai is General Secretary of the Shan Democratic Union.Maung Chan is the distributor and the main responsible person for the “S.H.A.N. & Burma’s News Published by Burma’s Chinese”.

   Chan: Your nine Shan leaders have been sentenced to 79 to 106 years by the junta, that means they still must serve their sentences when they are reborn again in the next life? What crime have they committed?

   Wansai: Fabricated charges such as “defamation of the state”, “association with illegal parties” and “conspiracy against the state” are levelled against them.

   Chan: Haven’t the generals vowed solemnly that they are ruling the country according to the rule of law?

   Wansai: You can’t be serious with them. They have been twisting and bending the so-called rule of law according to their wits and whims.

   Chan: Why don’t the SSA North (SSA-N) come up with a statment or clarification publicly?

   Wansai: Perhaps, initially they thought this could worsen and complicate the matter unnecessarily and quite diplomacy might be more effective in trying to secure the release of their leaders. Besides, Maj-Gen Myint Hlaing, Commander of Lashio-based Northern Region Command in our Shan State cautioned the SSA-N not to make noise and consequently the SPDC leadership might soften and things will turn for the better.

   But now after nearly three weeks of silence, the SSA-N now come up with a statement for "a review" of Rangoon's extended jail terms for its leaders, according to a copy of the statement that just come in.

   According to the latest report from Shan Herald Agency for News:

   "Detained leaders are not people plotting a breakup of the state. On the contrary, they have been sincerely and collectively working towards the emergence of a genuine union constitution. The lengthy jail terms therefore will only promote racial hatred and serve as an obstacle to national unity and restructuring of the union," it reads.

   With regards to the use of force, the SSA vows not to resort to it except "in a situation that necessitates self-defense," and that it "will utilize all negotiation channels there are and strive to preserve peace."

   As to disarmament, the SSA promises to either "reorganize or dissolve itself" in accordance with the constitution that will guarantee "the equality and self-determination of all national races."

   The statement concludes with a pledge to "continue marching on" until "a genuine union has emerged."

   Chan: Many many Chinese people inside or outside China know very little about the ceasefire agreement. Could you tell us briefly?

   Wansai: The first ceasefire agreements between Shan ethnic groups and the regime were signed in 1989, 16 years ago. The original agreements granted the groups to remain armed , to enjoy special autonomy including business concessions. However, the junta does not honour the agreement and has been forcing since early this year to disarm the cease-fire groups, under the pretext of “Exchanging Arms for Peace” .

   In April, 170 soldiers of the Shan State National Army turned in their arms and 843 rebels of the Palaung State Liberation Army surrendered to the Burmese Army. The following month, the leader of the SSNA, Col Sai Yi,and several of his troops abandoned their base in northern Shan State and merged with the SSA-S.

   In September, an 800-strong brigade of the Shan State Army (North) also abandoned their base, according to the SPDC’s ultimatum and moved to one of the place under its control,rather than facing the faith of disarming or fight an all-out war with the Burma Army, which has been threatening to attack if the SSA North refuse to comply.

   Chan: Hasn’t the junta declared again and again the non-disintegration of Union of Burma?

   Wansai: While the junta claiming to achieve peace and national unity it has been continuously sending more Burma Army troopers into Shan State. The Burma Army presence in Shan State has increased dramatically, from about 40 battalions in 1988 to a current strength of more than 200. If the junta really desires peace, why is it beefing up its strength to 200 battalions? This is just a clear indication to subjugate the Shan people in the form of colonial possession. Another point is why are Shan people fleeing to Thailand on daily basis, if Shan State is calm and peaceful as the SPDC would like the world to believe?

   Chan: How strong are the Shan revolutionary armed forces in Shan State?

   Wansai: There are two categories, one is the ceasefire armies and the other, the active resistance armies.In the category of ceasefire armies, United Wa State Army (UWSA) and Shan State Army North (SSA-N) are believed to field around 10,000 troops each and the military strength of rest - National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), Myanmar Nationalities Democrat Alliance Army (MNDAA), Kachin Defense Army (KDA), Palaung State Liberation Army (PSLA) –now surrendered, Pa-O National Army (PNA), Shan State Nationalities People Liberation Army (SNPLA), Kachin Independent Army (KIA) – range from 400 to 2500. In addition, there are six small pro-SPDC - Thakasapha (anti-insurgency militia) – set-up, ranging from 50 to 500 men.

   Chan: Maj-Gen Hso Ten and the other 8 imprisoned are respected leaders of the Shan people and the revolutionary armed forces. Why do you think the junta dared to sentence for 79-106 years in prison?

   Wansai: This is to set an example for the SSA-N and as well, the other ceasefire armies of who is calling the shots. It might also want to portray itself as an “upper dog” and that every group must yield to its demand and toe the line or submit to military-led regime. Another point could also be that the SPDC is desparately seeking a “common enemy” or target to remedy the split within the Burma Army, after the ouster of Khin Nyunt and his clique.

   Apart from Maj-Gen Hso Ten, who is the president of Shan State Peace Council, an umbrella group comprising the Shan State Army-North SSA-N and the Shan State National Army SSNA, Hkun Htun Oo, Chairman and Sai Nyunt Lwin, General-secretary of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, and the veteran politician Shwe Ohn, together 9 in total were arrested and charged with long prison terms. This has caused withspread indignation among the Shan people and the Shan armed forces.

   Chan: The junta’s intention is to point out that the arrest and heavy sentence are to “ serve as a warning against bad examples”.

   Wansai: This might be the intended message from the part of the SPDC, but whether it is being heeded is totally another question. Now the majority of the SSA-N troops are beginning to think otherwise and might even go into open conflict to save their tattered honour. Many SSNA members decided to join the active resistance, when they were pressured to surrender. This might alo become the case with the SSA-N. The arrests also put into question a regime proposal for ceasefire groups that participate in the National Convention to form themselves into political parties.

   Chan: So we always say “ judge people by their deeds, not just by their words”

   Wansai: Exactly.

   Chan: there is a Chinese saying: “ rivers and mountains may be changed but it is hard to alter a man’s nature”. The Burmese generals do not change their nature of “never honour their words”, while the growing strength of the fascist Burma Army in Shan State is also causing the proportional rises of forced labor, sexual abuses, arbitrary detention and extra-judicial killings in Shan State.

   Wansai: Right, I might also add that “the wolf may lose his teeth, but never his nature” and “the leopard never changes spot”.

   (Maung Chan is the distributor and the main responsible person for the “S.H.A.N. & Burma’s News Published by Burma’s Chinese”)

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