Shan Celebrate National Day amid New Freedoms

Shan rebel soldiers stand in formation during the 66th anniversary of Shan State National Day in Loi Tai Leng Township, along the Burma-Thai border on February 7, 2013. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

Ethnic Shan groups in Burma were allowed to openly celebrate Shan State National Day on Thursday for the first time in two decades after the government loosened its attitude towards the event.

“It is the first time we officially celebrated the event within 20 years… If we did ceremonies in the past, we were not allowed to use the name of ‘Shan National Day’ or ‘Shan State Day,’” said Sai Leik, spokesperson for Rangoon-based Shan Nationalities League for Democracy.

“By allowing us to do so, I think it is a chance for our ethnic Shan people to gain fundamental rights,” he said.

Across Shan State, in Rangoon and among Shan refugees in camps on Thailand’s northwestern border there were ceremonies and festivities to mark the 66th Shan State National Day.

The holiday commemorates the unification of several Shan principalities into a single Shan State on February 7, 1947.

The biggest celebrations were held in eastern Shan State’s Loi Tai Leng, a township located close to Thailand’s Mae Hong Son Province where Shan ethnic armed rebels have their headquarters.

At the town, the Restoration Council of Shan State (formerly known as Shan State Army South) paraded its armed units in front of a crowd of several thousand local Shan.

A video report by news agency Reuters showed Shan rebel drum bands carrying Shan flags, while special armed units demonstrated their military prowess by performing training exercises.

Shan rebel leaders — wearing business suits and sunglasses — observed the military parades and addressed the gathered media.

While the armed units marched by, Lt-Gen Yawd Serk made a point of reminding the Burmese government that it should seek a comprehensive peace agreement with all 11 armed ethnic rebel groups in Burma and that it should stop its operations in Kachin State.

“We do not agree with the Myanmar government fighting with the Kachin [rebels]. You can’t have reconciliation just because you stop fighting with one group, but continue fighting with another. If the government wants peace, they have to stop fighting with every group,” he told Reuters.

Ten armed rebel groups reached tenuous ceasefire agreements with the government in the past two years. The Shan — which have one of the most powerful rebel armies in Burma with some 7,000 fighters — agreed to a ceasefire in December 2011.

Despite the agreement, there have been occasional reports of skirmishes between Shan rebels and the Burmese military.

Large parts of Shan State, including the capital Taunggyi, are under control of Burma’s central government, but since the agreement Shan rebels have opened liaison office in several cities.

Because of the improvement in relations between Shan rebels and the government, ethnic Shan in government-controlled areas are able to celebrate the national day openly.

“I’m very happy that we can celebrate the ceremony freely the first time in 20 years,” said Sai Leng, an ethnic Shan from Muse, a government-controlled town in northern Shan State. “We can now freely raise the flags of the Shan.”

11 Responses to Shan Celebrate National Day amid New Freedoms

  1. We are cheering you, our Shan brothers and sisters.

  2. Congratulation to all Shan (Tai) ethnics in Shan State. We’re very proud to be one of Burmese ethnics and we are committing to building strong Burma now and forever.
    We have to maintain our traditional, culture, religion and Tai history for our children.
    Don’t forget our Shan (Tai) National Day.

    • Is the name Shan the same with Siam? How about Thai and Tai? Are they the same?

      • Dear Kuikui, Shan and Siam name are corrupted from Tai. Yuan Shan (Lanna Tai/Thai), Lao, Shan, Thai, Tai ethnic in China, Khanti Shan in Burma, Assam and Manipur and other Tai speaking ethnics are same. However some of Tai peoples’ their accent has changed by environment and mix with local dialect depending on where they settle down. Honestly, my knowledge is only limited.
        However, Shan National day is only for Shan/Tai ethnics who are living in Shan State. I think we should call as Shan State Day because many sub-ethnics of Shan/Tai peoples are living in Shan state.

        • Ko Sai,
          Shan State Day will be only for those who live in Shan State. Shan National Day may include all the Shans around the globe. It is awkward both ways. Do the Pa-O people consider themselves as Shans? How about Palaung, Lahu and Wa people? Shan State has many kinds of ethnic peoples but if the celebration includes all different groups, it will be sweet. But you will still lose national sense.

        • I call my self Tai , But Burmese people call I am shan. Thai people call I am Thai-yei. i know is wierd

  3. To be fair to every ethnic group from the Tarong of the far north (http;// to the Salone (Moken) (, Burma would need 135 “National Days” (lots of holidays for the schoolchildren)

  4. George Than Setkyar Heine

    That should be the CASE since day one of course.
    FREEDOM is the NAME of the GAME in today’s WORLD.
    FIEFDOMS and ENCLAVES specifically ethnic CHINESE are NO LONGER IN VOGUE in today’s world specifically in Burma as well of course.
    Every ethnic minority in Burma has the REASON and RIGHT to CELEBRATE their NATIONAL DAY I say.
    And all ethnic people in Burma must have their respective NATIONAL FLAVOR and PRIDE as well NO ARGUMENTS!
    ALL for the UNION should be our NATIONAL CAUSE and BATTLE CRY of course.

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