(30 May-2 July 2017)
Everyman is my superior in some way
In that I learn from him.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Yes, I have been guilty of reporting almost nothing during the past two months, at least to my readers, if not to my listeners.
A lot of self-assessment sessions have been conducted during the time, which, still ongoing, is expected to be over by early August.
The following is a brief recap of what I have learned from different sources at different occasions during the period.
I have learned from them. And I hope you are going to, too, if you haven’t already have.
30 June 2017
“National Accord” signing ceremony on 29 June 2017 (Photo:BBC)
Only two days after my return from Naypyitaw, where I had missed the “National Accord” signing ceremony on 29 June, which was yesterday, I’m already under a hailstorm of questions on the Union Peace Conference 21st Century Panglong (UPC21CP) which wound up on the same day.
The outcome is not that I’m just answering their questions as best as I can, but also hearing comments from my listeners. Here are some of them:
9 June 2017
Hkun Okker (Photo: limacharlienews.com)
Today I give a presentation to the students at the Political Science Department, Chiangmai University. Most of the questions are answered by Col Hkun Okker, Patron of PaO National Liberation Organization (PNLO), who had attended both the UPC21CP’s last two day sessions. Here is his summing-up:
In the evening, we have an informal dinner meeting with “partners” (according to Nelson Mandela, who said “When you are making peace with your enemy, your enemy becomes your partner”) coming from Rangoon. Here are some of the points made by them:
10 June 2017
PC and DPN meet in Chiangmai,10 June 2017. (Photo:Irrawaddy)
Today, as the DPN-PC delegated meet downtown, we are having a pre-meeting for the UPC21CP review meeting to be held at the KNU HQ at Lewa/Lawkhila, opposite Thailand’s Tha Song Yang district. As I have done in the past, no names of the participants will be mentioned here, except myself.
11 June 2017
Suwannsam Jataka (Photo:vachalenxeon.deviantart.com)
“How do we do it so that there is a ‘seeing my son carrying a bowl full of gold’ situation?”
That is a question posed by a “partner” as he is driven to the airport this morning to return to Rangoon.
For outsiders, who are unaware of the Suwannsam Jataka, Burmese version, the story goes like this.
Suwannasami aka Suwannasam is looking after his blind parents. Everyday he goes into the jungle to find fruits and vegetables to feed them. One day, the king who comes hunting sees him, mistakes him for game, and shoots him with his arrow. As he lies dying, a god appears and offers 3 choices: either their son is cured, their blindness gone, or they receive a bowl full of gold from him. Their answer is that they want to see their son coming home carrying a bowl full of gold. Delighted by their wit, their three-fold wish is granted by the god.
This “partner” seems to be a hopeless hopeful like me. No matter how big the obstacles, he doesn’t give up. Indeed he is a person after my own heart.
We have another pre-meeting afterward. And here are the selected comments:
14 June 2017
Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC) members arriving in Naypyitaw (Peace Commission)(Photo:monnews.org)
Today I’m on my way to Lawkhila/Lewa to attend the UPC21CP review meeting there.
Before leaving I make a phone call to our “partner” in Rangoon to inquire the government’s stand on the negotiations with UNFC/DPN and the Federal Political Negotiations and Consultative Committee (FPNCC), the latter led by the Wa. His reply:
The government doesn’t have any plans to amend the NCA. If ‘ the UNFC/DPN wants further clarifications and we reach agreement on them, we can add them to the attached decisions. (According to the NCA’s Paragraph 30, decisions taken during negotiations shall be taken into account during the implementation.)
He thinks the same principle will be applied in its negotiations with the FPNCC. So far there has been no indication that Naypyitaw is planning to deal with the 7 northern armed movements that make up the FPNCC collectively.
Today, we put up in Mae Sot. Tomorrow we continue our way to the KNU HQ.
15 June 2017
Lawkhila meeting hall room. (Photo:KNU)
Until the military is brought under civilian control, and it soldiers held to account, the circle of violence will continue and the civilians will bear the brunt.
Amnesty International, 14 June 2017
Lewa meeting hall is full of KNU officers when we arrive. There are many who I’ve known since 1983 when I first make contact with the KNU as a delegate from the Shan United Revolutionary Army (SURA), like Thamein Tun, Soe Soe, etc.
Here are the extracts from the presentations:
Remember, the old saying:
Fool me once, shame on you
Fool me twice, shame on me
This evening we put up at the River House in Mae Sariang, some 80 km from Mae Salit Luang, opposite Lewa.
Ms Zipporah Sein (Photo:DVB)
16 July 2017
Ms Zipporah Sein, former vice president of the KNU, drops in at our hotel in the morning. As her views are already on the internet, I won’t add anything here. The only thing I’m really interested is the unity of the KNU. To my question, which she must have heard several times, she is ready with an answer:
“This should not be of worry for all our well wishers, because the KNU wnity is based on firm principles (not on factions).”
At 16:00, I’m back in my office in Chiangmai.
18 June 2017
U Thant (1909-1974)
This morning I receive the most extraordinary letter from a young friend. It was a declassified memo written by a former British ambassador to Burma to White Hall, dated 11 March 1975.
The letter discusses the U Thant funeral affair that took place in Rangoon in December 1974, 3 months earlier.
What intrigues me is the postscript, in which he describes talking to an illustrious lady from Burma who was then living abroad. “She takes a characteristic Burmese anti-Shan line that these demonstrations were contrived by Shan influences…(she) was not prepared to concede that there might have been something spontaneous about the whole thing,” he wrote.
Until now, I have never heard of “a characteristic Burmese anti-Shan line.” And I, like most people inside and outside Burma, thought that the whole event was basically a knee-jerk action, probably exploited by “2848” activists affiliated to the Communist Party of Burma (CPB). That anyone would suspect Shans as the mastermind was a thought that never occurred to me.
I later talk to Shan politicians in Rangoon who, no less surprised than me, said they had advised all Shan students within their reach not to get themselves involved, as this was just an “intra-Burman affair,” nothing to do with Shans. “However, not all of them were within reach,” one says. “And some of them wouldn’t listen to our advice anyway.”
I know. One of my friends went to jail for it, and another was expelled from school. Fortunately or unfortunately, I wasn’t among them hotheads. As I was already a full-fledged armed resistance member since 1969.
After reading the letter again and again to make sense of it, I begin to wonder if there were still other ladies―and gentlemen―like her who are still firmly taking the “characteristic Burmese anti-Shan line” 43 years after, who are ready to believe that if something bad happens, Shans must be behind it. And if they were at the helm of power in Naypyitaw today, what is going to happen to the peace process.
Not that we Shans don’t have our own ladies and gentlemen like her. Among us, one will find no dearth of those who are fond of saying the 19th century American equivalent of “A good Indian is a dead Indian.”
Happily, we also have not a few of those who say, “In my experience, no human race is meaner than the Burmese. And paradoxically, no human race is nobler than the Burmese either.”
For the sake of all the people living in this land, I hope we find more of the latter these days.
28 June-2 July 2017
PPST meeting in Chiangmai on 28 Jun-2 July 2017,Than Khe is the speaker on the extreme right.(Photo: ww.moi.gov.mm)
For 5 days , the Peace Process Steering Team (PPST) and the Peace Process Working Team (PPWT) embark on a meeting on what areas the signatories should focus in its upcoming “review and reform” workshop.
I have taken some 30 pages of notes. But I find only two excerpts to report, both given by Yebaw Than Khe, Chairman of the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF), whose cheerful attitude, despite all the problems he’s facing, brightens the participants throughout the meeting:
Because Buthi, he’s a henpecked husband. He can’t go anywhere without making sure that the day’s main meal is cooked and ready.
As for Chet Kyi, he can’t be asked to do anything once he’s drunk, which is quite often.
With Bike Hsu, the problem is he likes cockfights. So whenever there is a match outside the village, he can’t be found.
At the other end, the headman from another village has a big bunch of representatives to deal with problems. For money matters, he can send one. For water issue, another one, and so on, while the village of EAO has only 3 to deal with whatever bilateral problems that come up.
So what do we do? If we keep doing it the way we have been, we won’t be going anywhere. And if we get angry and burst it, it will sink with us and our people in it. We need to find a way to reach agreement with the other rowers.
The meeting ends with a resolution to hold a workshop on 20-27 July at Lawkhila to discuss on topics which include:
The results are expected to be submitted to the PPST by the end of the month, and decisions early in August. After which the PPST/PPWT will discuss with the NRPC/PC for agreement.
No plain sailing there for sure. A lot of meetings, both formal and especially informal, will be needed before both sides can agree to go ahead with the next UPC21CP. And all the negotiators on both sides have my sympathy and encouragement.
But I also remember what my teacher once said:
There can be only two mistakes one can make on the road to the truth: not starting it, and not going all the way.
It’ll be nice to know what “truth” is waiting for us at the end of the road though.
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