The leader of the Shan State Army (SSA), Lt-Gen Yawd Serk, said he trusts Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, even though she has become a lawmaker and is currently working together with the government.
In a recent exclusive interview with The Irrawaddy at his Loi Tai Laeng headquarters, the SSA chief said Suu Kyi is the one who opened the door for democracy within the country. The SSA and its political wing, the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), also believe that she will pave way to act in accordance with the Panglong Agreement that her father Gen Aung San signed with ethnic leaders in 1947, he said.
“We trust her because she initiated democratic opening in this union,” said Yawd Serk, who also chairs the RCSS. “We also believe her announcement that she will follow the Panglong Agreement.”
After her release from house arrest in November 2010, Suu Kyi said she would help organize a second “Panglong Conference” or “21 Century Panglong Conference” for national unity and reconciliation.
The RCSS chairman remarked that the government’s current democratic reforms are only at an opening stage and have not seriously begun. The government has been able to sign initial ceasefire agreements with various ethnic armed groups but it has yet to come up with a practical implementation plan to sustain the agreements and focus on further steps, he said.
He also commented on the present Tatmadaw, or Burmese armed forces, saying that it is no longer the one Suu Kyi’s father had established. He said Aung San’s army fell apart long ago.
“The Tatmadaw Gen Aung San established has been totally destroyed since former dictator Gen Ne Win seized power in 1962,” said Yawd Serk. “We believe the Tatmadaw after that period is no longer the same as that of Aung San.”
He added that despite an initial ceasefire agreement between the SSA and the government, there have been violations of the agreement by government troops and over 40 clashes have occurred since the signing. The SSA, however, will stand on its peace policy and resolve the problems, he said.
When asked if the RCSS has any plan to contest parliamentary election in 2015 as a political party, Yawd Serk said his group accepts the election system, but whether it decides to participate in the election depends on the outcome of future meetings with the government.