Govt Refuses to Allow Shan Coalition to Hold Meeting in Taunggyi

By Lawi Weng 28 August 2018

MON STATE — The Myanmar government has denied the Committee for Shan State Unity (CSSU) permission to hold a scheduled two-day meeting in Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State, Shan sources said.

The CSSU is a coalition of civil society organizations, political parties and two armed groups, the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and the Shan State Progressive Party. The organization holds periodic meetings as a forum for all ethnic Shan leaders to discuss politics, economic and social issues, security, and issues relating to land and the environment.

A director of the government’s National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC) informed the chairman of the CSSU yesterday by phone that the government would not allow the September meeting to proceed. The NRPC conducts peace negotiations with ethnic armed groups on behalf of the government.

“They would not give us permission for our meeting, but they did not give a reason. Why?,” CSSU Chairman Sai Aik Pao said.

He said he was told the NRPC would send a letter soon explaining the decision.

The CSSU last week sent a letter to the NRPC requesting permission to hold the meeting. Planned for Sept. 3 and 4 in Taunggyi, the aim of the meeting was to support the peace process in the country, according to the coalition.

“We had already arranged a hotel for the meeting. We’re really disappointed. We have no idea why they did not give us permission. We all are ethnic brothers,” he said.

This is the second time the government has taken action to block a CSSU meeting. Thai authorities refused to allow a CSSU meeting to proceed in Chiang Mai last July after the Myanmar government objected to it.

Still smarting from the break-up of the meeting in Thailand, the CSSU leaders decided to hold an event in Taunggyi in September, expecting that the National League for Democracy-led government would consent to it.

The CSSU has only been given permission to hold one of the three meetings it has sought permission to hold since the NLD came to power. Sai Aik Pao said it was actually more difficult to deal with the current government than with the former government under U Thein Sein.

Many ethnic Shan leaders expressed disappointment at the decision. Some said the Myanmar government was using its power to suppress ethnic rights.

Sao Khun Sai, a political adviser to the RCSS based in Chiang Mai, said the Myanmar government gave out favors to certain groups and withheld them from others it did not like, including the Shan.

He said such actions by the government were at odds with its goal of achieving peace. He urged the government to treat all parties equally for the sake of unity.

The RCSS is a signatory to the government-brokered Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. Sao Khun Sai said that the group signed the agreement in the belief that the Myanmar government and army would not use armed force or state power to solve political conflicts.

However, in this case the Myanmar government had used its authority to prevent the CSSU from holding the meeting, he said. Rather than taking steps to encourage ethnic Shan to strengthen ties with the Union, it seems as if the government is trying to push ethnic Shan to secede from it, he said.