(10-17 October 2017)
The greatest bankruptcy in life is hopelessness.
Attributed to The Buddha
There were two events which necessitated yet another trip to the country I have come to call Hopeland:
As usual, there were other “side shows” that took place that I would like to share with the reader who, like me, is interested in the wellbeing of this country and its peoples.
However, this time, I had gone there while I was still under the influence of fever accompanied by persistent coughs. Which prevented me from seeking as much knowledge and as many people as I wanted to.
Nevertheless, I hope the reader will more or less benefit from my journal here.
Day One. Tuesday, 10 October 2017
When the white man wins,
You call it a victory
But when the Indian wins,
You call it a massacre.
Sitting Bull (1954)
I run into a friend who’s digging quartz (Godanta in Sanskrit and Hin Khio Ma “Green Toothed Horse” in Shan) in Shan State South. Apart from him, I find no one that I know. But Thais seem to like visiting the country. A lot of them speak the northern dialect.
We arrive at Mingladon 12:00 local time. As the plane to Taunggyi is 4 hours away, I spend my time re-reading the 62 page The History of the English Language. Getting myself warmed up for the presentation on the Shan language the day after tomorrow, you might say.
Naturally, I find a lot of gems there. Here are some, a few of them quotes taken elsewhere and jotted down in the booklet:
At Heho, I run into another friend who tells me the planned trip to Panghsang and Mongla, where the government intends to discuss development and economy along the border areas (as suggested by the Chinese, according to a previous source) has just been postponed.
The name “Heho” is a corruption of the Shans’ “Haiwo,” meaning a locality assigned to produce cattle for tribute to the ruling prince. Haiwo used to be under the State of Yawnghwe.
There are several other localities with names starting with “Hai”. For example,
Haiya- A locality in the Inlay Lake assigned to produce tobacco for tribute
Haipa- A locality in Monghsu State assigned to produce fish for tribute
I remember Dr Sui Khar telling us a week earlier that Thailand’s burgeoning One Tambon (locality) One Product, better known as OTOP, therefore is not a new thing.
It’s funny I’ve never thought of the “Hais” that way before.
Someone asks me, “Won’t the peace process be put one a back burner, after the crisis in Rakhine? “I inform him that I’ve been told shelving the peace proves would only serve to exacerbate the already fragile relationship between the government and the signatory EAOs.
At 18:30, I’m in Taunggyi.
Day Two, Wednesday, 11 October 2017
(A conversation between two military officers)
We have a Kengtung noodle breakfast in the morning hosted by my quartz company friend, before leaving for Laikha, known in Burmese as Leycha, 86 miles (137.6 km) in the northeast, passing through towns such as:
Loilem 57 miles
Panglong 6 miles
Laikha 23 miles
Even then, it takes us 5 hours to get there at roughly 27.52 km/hour. Still, my young friend who volunteers as the driver, insists, “The road is better than it used to be. Used to take us about 8 hours to travel from Taunggyi to Loilem alone.”
At 15:30, we are at Laikha, the seat of the last ruling prince Sao Num (also spelt Sao Noom), whose domain used to include Panglong as well as Loilem.
We put up at a place owned by a young Shan, whose father was the brother in law of one of my late friends. Both his father and his aunt, who married my friend, were strikingly good looking, even among Shans.
Until 20:00, I spend time receiving guests, who want to tell me the problems people are facing and asking me how the peace process is going.
I then have a good rest, despite some coughing. The house doesn’t have wire-netting and we are not provided with mosquito nets. But there isn’t a single mosquito humming around to disturb our sleep.
Day Three. Thursday, 12 October 2017
You’ve never learned how to live until you’ve learned how to give.
Kirk Douglas (1916-…)
We have a good breakfast prepared and served by our hosts. Which leads to one friend quoting an old saying:
If you want to eat well, go to Laikha
If you want to be up late, go to Mongpawn
I ask him what’s wrong with Mongpawn. He says, “It’s the mist. You don’t see the sun until late in the morning.”
Hso Khan Fa (1291-1364)
At 08:45, we are driven to the Hong Zawm Hseng hall in Quarter # 1, also known as Ho Nawng Long (Head of the great Lake). My wife used to live here until she came to Thailand in 1977. My audience, not all, are excited to hear I’m married to one of their own townspeople.
There are altogether 4 speakers: the first is Dr Sao Teun Tai Visuddhinyana from Mongmao (Ruili), abbot of the Wat Hawkham (Palace Temple) there. His allotted 1 ½ hour presentation is interspersed with clapping of hands. He certainly is one of those spellbinding orators. His topic is: “The Valiant vs. Cowards”
His examples of the former includes: The Buddha, Hso Khan Fa (1291-1364), and Dr Khammai Dhammasami (who happens to be a Laikha native). He gives graphic account of how Hso Khan Fa fought a hungry buffalo bear in 1311 to prove he’s the most fitting candidate for the Mao throne, against all odds.
An illustrated booklet was written by me in 1993 and it became a bestseller. “You should write more about him,” he urges me, before he leaves for Mongmao, which he intends to reach late in the evening.
The Hsipaw-Loilem road that passed through Laikha, since the Shan State Army-South had signed a bilateral ceasefire agreement in 2011, has been becoming the more traveled thoroughfare than the old one, that goes, form Taunggyi to Mandalay, and from Mandalay to Kyaukme and Hsipaw, according to my hosts.
My turn comes where I inform my audience the following:
In practice, it means you need to apply 3 Rs (Reliances): On your own literature, old and new; on your cousins’; and on the words universally used (such as computer which you need not waste coining a new Shan word for them)
I explain to them the 10-principles adopted by the Chiangmai Shans for coining words.
But at the end of the presentation, I must admit I can’t say how much they are able to absorb. As I’m on my way back to Taungyyi after lunch, and don’t have time to remain there.
Nevertheless, I take time to visit the Hawkham temple. Which used to be the palace of Prince Sao Noom, the principal host to the historic 1947 Panglong Conference. It crosses my mind that in Maehangson, they have a statue of the Shan prince Singhanart aka Shan Galay aka Sao Khun Sa in the city’s center. I mention this to my driver friend, who remarks that there’s no statue of Sao Sam Tun in Mongpawn either, despite his efforts at forming a Union with Burma before his untimely death together with Aung San. The same story for other signatories.
There is however the monument in Panglong where we drop by on our way to Taunggyi. The signatories’ photos and sketches are all there and my son takes a snapshot at each. Perhaps our generation and the next can do more to honor them?
At 18:15 we’re back in Taunggyi.
Day Four. Thursday, 13 October 2017
I didn’t come here to talk to a big mouth
I came here to talk to a big man.
Indian Fighter (1955)
At 07:00, a mini-van comes and pick me and my son up to leave for Naypyitaw. I ask Li-Col Sai Oo, the chief liaison officer for the RCSS/SSA why the rush, as the ceremony is still two days away. “Is the Chairman coming today?” He says no. But he wants to make sure everything’s proper and prepared when the boss flies in tomorrow.
We have breakfast at Shan Taungdan Daytha (“Shan Highland”). Lt-Col Sai Harn, who also heads the RCSS/SSA’s anti-drug committee, says a new synthetic drug, called flakka, which supposedly make human beings into reacting like zombies, is on the rise. Luckily there is still no sign of the drug in the country.
At 14:00, we are at the Horizon Lake View Hotel.
I then try to call up friends to see if there is something that I can lend a hand to them. They don’t pick up their phones. Which mean they are in a meeting or meetings.
It is some 3 hours before I know what’s going on. At 17:00, they call me up and inform me that there were two meetings today:
Another meeting is being planned for tomorrow. The main topics will be to finalize a joint statement and the draft speech to be read out by Gen Saw Mutu Saypoe, the PPST leader, on Sunday.
We have dinner together at Tai Kitchen. There they discuss the JMC-S meeting which was held yesterday at Kholam, the headquarters of the Tatmadaw’s Central Eastern Command.
I won’t go into detail of what they tell me. But in the end, my comment is that both sides will need persons who are imbued not only with “know how” on the subjects they are dealing with but “know who” about the people they are dealing. Without both, peace will still be a long way.
Day Five. Saturday, 14 October 2017
You short on ears and long on mouth?
Big Jake (1971)
Today, we have two meetings at Horizon Lake View.
The first one, at 14:00-16:30, deals with two items:
The PPST holds another session late in the evening 20:00-21:00. There are three main items on the agenda, which doesn’t take too long to deliberate:
Not a bad day, at least, for me. So I say to myself as I walk back to my room, but maybe I could have done better as an advisor?
Day Six. Sunday, 15 October 2017
The biggest lie is the lie we tell ourselves in the distorted vision we have of ourselves, blocking off some sections, enhancing others.
Kirk Douglas (1916- )
(Before writing today’s journal, I have looked into Myanmar Alin and its English publication The Global New Light of Myanmar to check my notes taken there. Any point either not mentioned or mistranslated will be touched upon.)
At 09:00, we (except perhaps the State Counselor and the Commander-in-Chief) are all there at the Myanmar International Convention Center I (MICCI I), though the ceremony is to begin at 10:00. It is to take place at the Jade Hall on the second floor.
Top entrepreneurs like Tay Za, Zaw Zaw, Aung Ko Win aka Saya Kyaung, Maung Wake, Dr Sai Sam Htun and Dr Khin Shwe are also reported to be there. Among the previous government’s top peacemakers, I see only Dr Sai Mawk Kham, former Vice President # 2 and former Chairperson of the Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC).
State Counselor (Photo: State Counsellor Office)
At 10:05, the awaited commemoration begins with the reading out of the agenda by the mistresses of ceremony (MCs). I take note that the leader of the signatory EAOs is addressed as General Saw Mutu Saypoe, which is an improvement over what took place at the UPC 21CP #2, where all military ranks of the EAO leaders were deleted and caused an uproar.
The following are extracts from the main speakers:
(She is better at speaking without notes, but we can all understand why she is readying from the prepared document.)
Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing
C-in-C Min Aung Hlaing (Photo: Irrawaddy)
(This is the first time we haven’t heard him bringing up his usual 6 peace principles)
the second point that “without implementing the fundamental fact or all our peace process without ending a noise of gunfire may not be rest assured and it may return to armed struggle line, and the third point that “the NCA was drawn by the government, the Tatmadaw and all armed ethnic organizations based on initial proposals of armed ethnic organizations.”
In fact, the NCA means an agreement of ceasefire. Actually, its essence is broader and deeper. So I firmly ask you to sign the NCA.
N.B. The GNLOM translated ကိုယ်ပိုင်ပြဌာန်းခွင်. (Right of Self Determination) as “Self administration”
Gen Saw Mutu Saypoe (Photo:PI)
Gen Saw Mutu Saypoe
U Shwe Min (Photo: burmalibrary.org)
U Shwe Min, UPDJC (Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee)
N.B. Unable to find this in either GNLOM or MA.
Reverend Saw Matthew Aye, Vice Chairman #2, Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee Union Level (JMC-U)
Saw Matthew Aye (Photo: burmalibrary.org)
N.B. Unable to find it in either GNLOM or MA.
At 13:00, I’m visited by friends who have been following the JMC closely. What follows is the summary:
The JMC-S meeting at Kholam, 12 October, has also reached agreement to hold bilateral meetings between local commanders from both sides
Yet another meeting follows. This time with Mr Jeffrey Feltman, Under Secretary of the UNDPA. And the following is how it goes:
UN 4th visit of Mr Feltman. This is not a formal meeting. We used to have Mr Vijay Nambiar as special envoy for the peace process. But his mandate expired last year, after the government withdrew it. And the UN would like to know what it could do to help achieve peace.
DPA works for conflict resolution and mediation. In other countries’ peace process, we had worked formally, but it Myanmar, we can only do it informally.
EAO The UN’s contribution during the 2012-16 period was crucial. We could say that the NCA was successfully drafted partly through the presence and assistance of the UN. And we are sorry that during its implementation, when we need the UN the most, it is not with us.
Non-signatories have also high expectation for your return.
N.B The UN’s participation in the peace process came about after the EAOs proposed it and the proposal was seconded by the government. The new government reportedly had not consulted the EAOs when it decided to end the UN’s mandate.
The meeting also touches on the Rakhine issue. One PPST leader as good as accuses the UN as adopting a double standard for denouncing the Tatmadaw’s alleged treatment of the people who call themselves Rohingyas as ‘a textbook example of ethnic cleansing’. “The same thing had happened in the Karen State before the ceasefire, but the UN had scarcely uttered anything,” he says.
The UN’s reply: There is a lot of mis-information and disinformation on both sides. The government should allow independent fact finding in the areas in question.
Then I go back to my room to pack my bags for my return to the old capital tomorrow. My flight is 08:10 and I need to be there earlier.
Day Seven. Monday, 16 October 2017
Evil sorceress: Make your last wish, if you want to go home.
Child hero: Yes, I wish that you have a heart.
(Overcome with compassion, the evil sorceress restores the world)
The Never-ending Story: The Next Chapter
I have three meetings at the old capital today. Two are quite interesting because of the questions:
Yeah, I hope someone can answer. Because I’m afraid I haven’t given satisfactory answers to both questions.
I then visit the PI Yangon Office at South Okklapa to meet my colleagues there, and report to them about the Board of Directors (BoD) meeting we had held on 3 October, particularly about the PI’s peace research program.
And thus I miss the two meetings in Naypyitaw the EAO leaders have had with the State Counselor and the Commander in Chief. But there are a few points noteworthy which are reported in today’s media stories:
PPST leaders meet with Commander-in-Chief (Photo: BBC)
EAOs To build federalism, participation by 8 EAOs will not be sufficient. We must create a space for others to be able to take part.
SC meeting with representatives of the signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. (Photo: MNA
State Counselor (16:00-17:00)
SC Stresses the need for unity. Agrees review of NCA and to hold regular JICMs.
According to 7 Day, quoting Padoh Kwe Htoo Win, who had also met former president U Thein Sein, the latter reportedly said: We acknowledge the efforts being made by the present government to achieve peace. But everyone knows there’ll be a lot of challenges.
At 11:00 the next day, I’m at the Mingladon airport. At 15:00, I’m back in Chiangmai.
In the evening, a call comes to inform me the schedule for the rest of the month:
23-24 October: DPN-PC meeting
25-27 October: NCA implementation review
28-29 October: Meeting of UPDJC secretariat
30-31 October: UPDJC meeting
Also 27 October-7 November: Study trip to Colombia
I hope I’ll be to report on them soon.
There will always be something or the other to hinder the Peace proces ...
Rohingya issue has shadowed the countries peace process, this is how B ...
This morning I listened to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's speech- I have alrea ...
In Defence of Daw Aung San Suu By following the situation in Burma fo ...
A very fair and timely analysis indeed! ...
2016 Shan Herald Agency for News