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Genuine Federalism or Shan State Independence?

   By - Maung Chan

   (BOXUN Received S.H.A.N. & Burma's News Published by Burma's Chinese)

   I have written an article on Feb 24 titled “Burma’s Junta Resorts to His Fists Against Shan Politicians”, stating that the junta’s arrest of Hkun Htun Oo and General Hso Ten, altogether 10 Shan leaders charging them with treason”.

    “We’ll not be defeated!” Sai Wansai, General Secretary of Shan Democratic Union told me indignantly at that moment.

    “It proved that the military regime’s disagreement of the equal rights of nationalities and that our leaders’ advocacy of peaceful dialogue will bring us no where near to the Federal Union of Burma. Now there is only one option open —armed struggle for total independence of Shan State! ” declared the exiled Shans on March 29.

    “ We ethnic nationalities have begun the peaceful negotiation for the genuine federal Burma and the national equality since 1961 and always been jailed and killed. We choose armed struggle so that we would not be always arrested and killed at their will. It is the generals who create the civil war!” said Nang Kher Hsen, the spokeswoman of Shan State Army (SSA), which is still fighting the junta.

   ”We ask for federalism, autonomy and equality, but the generals charge us with treason. The Burmese generals are responsible for the rebellion of Shan people and instability of the country” said Sao Seng Suk, Acting President of the Shan Union and leader of Shan States Constitution Drafting Commission.

   ”ASEAN have to force Burmese generals to hold tri-partite dialogue and let Union of Burma proceed peacefully along the road of democracy. ”said Sao Seng Suk, 71, son of Hkun Kya Bu, a signatory of the Panglong Agreement.

   Exiled Burmese political analyst U Aung Naing Oo said that the junta should tone down its demands and increase activities leading to democratic reforms by releasing all political prisoners including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

   Harn Yawnghwe, Director of the EU-Burma Office and one well known top leader of the exiled Shan and advocate of other ethnic nationalities, son of Saw Shwe Thaike and younger brother of Chao Tzang, said, ”I am overwhelmed with indignation! The Burmese army are killing our people everyday and gang-raping our women. Our people’s long and untold suffering, have still not been stopped and addressed in substantial manner. ”

   Harn’s brother Chao Tzang was an English tutor during my Rangoon University’s days. He was as well an outspoken advocate and inspired revolutionary for the Shan people. We, the revolutionary students of Rangoon University called him “Burma’s Prince Sihanouk ”. He died of cancel last year.

   Chao Tzang had bravely urged the successive Burmese military regimes and international community to recognize the reality of Burma the existence of the three forces, the military regime, democratic opposition and ethnic nationality groups.

   Chao Tzang had tirelessly advocated that Burma’s problem should be solved through tri-partite dialogue and establishment of genuine federal system.

   Now some of the Shan are blaming him, Shan Herald Agency for News recently writes: “The reality proved his advocacy to be illusion. If our Shan State and our Shan people do not throw away the illusion, do not cut off the relation with the Burmese military rulers, we will never have future”.

   Harn’s political position is also identical to his brother Chao Tzang. ”We Shan people have several decades strive for independence since Ne Win abolished the Union Constitution. Who do not want freedom and independence? The key question has always been what is best for the people of Shan State. If federal system brings peace and happiness for us, we should opt for federal system, if independence could deliver, we should go for independence”.

   This author has been studying about the Shan (Tai, Dai, Siam) living now in China’s Yunnan, Vietnam, Burma, Thailand, Laos, India’s Manipur and Assam. Shan are independent people and they call themselves “Tai”, which means “freedom”. It is a pity that Burma is the only country where Tai or Shan people have no freedom, no national equality and peaceful co-existence have been denied.

   Historically, the Tai ancestors lived possibly along the Yangtze River 5,000 years ago (one of Bai-Yue nationalities?). Being good at growing rice and irrigation, they developed their farmland and rice cultivation using watering system through irrigation. This had paved the way for South-China to become a famous land for rice production and fishery centre (a Chinese idiom: a land of fish and rice ). Later the stronger and greater races forced them to move westwards to Yunnan. They moved along the four rivers, namely Red River, Lang Chang River, Nu River and Li River, where they farmed and lived. During 4th-12th century they united other ethnic nationalities of Yunnan to establish Six Chaos, Nan Chao and Dali Dynasties successively. They established also several city-kingdoms in Burma, Thailand and Laos. They, the great kingdom of Gandala, the country of perfume, joined Tibet(Tubo) to fight the Great Tang Dynasty. When the Great Mongol in 1287 invaded and defeated them, they moved massively into Burma, Thailand and Laos. The new comers and the ethnic Tais from previous migration joined together and created the Great Tai(Shan,Siam) Era in 13th-16th century. Through their joint efforts, Burma, Vietnam and Thailand became well known as rice producing countries in 19th-20th century.

   Harn insists the opinion that two factors, historical circumstances and world politics, play a major part in deciding the Tais’destiny. Only two Tai Nations, Thailand and Laos have become independent.

   It is not sufficient to argue that Burma’s Shan State should be independent today just because Shan kings ruled Burma during 13th-16th century and was independent before becoming British’s Frontier Area in 1886, said Harn.

   The British Empire waged the first war against Burmese king in 1824 and colonized the far-southern part,the peacock's tail, of Burma, which included most parts of Karen State and Mon state, and the western part, Arakan State of today. The second war in 1852 led to the British occupation of the whole Lower Burma .In 1885 the British attacked Upper Burma including Mandalay and resettled the Burmese King to India. The Shan States, Kachin State and Chin State of today were known as “Frontier Areas” under the British. The British restructured the Shan States as “ Federated Shan States” where the Saohpas– lord of the sky – were given almost free reign, with minimum control, whereas Burma Proper was ministered as a British- India's Province, directly ruled by British's India. Frontier Areas did not belong to Burma Proper.

   According to Harn’s analysis, World politics after the Second World War pushed the Federated Shan States to struggle for joint-independence with Burma Proper, eventually leading to the formation of Union of Burma. Shan leaders accordingly had not much choice, he argued.

   --China was in the throes of anti-Japanese war, over 30 millions Chinese people (more than the population of Burma at that time) have been killed by Japanese troops during 1931-45. In 1945-49, China plunged into a civil war, where the communists supported by Soviet Union and nationalists supported by USA, killed each other.

   --Thailand had sided with Japan during the Second World War and was not looked upon with favour by the Allies.

   --General Aung San helped the Allies with his army in 1945 and became British “anti-Fascist minister” of Burma Proper, although he had been originally trained by the Japanese fascist regime and brought the Japanese fascist army into the country in 1941 to overthrow the British and eliminate pro-British elements.

   Knowing that they could no longer remain independent but had to join somebody, the ruling Saophas decided to join Burma and tried to make the best of a bad deal with the Panglong Agreement and the 10-year secession clause for the Shan State in the 1947 Constitution.

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