The Irrawaddy

RCSS Postpones Shan National-level Political Dialogue

RCSS/SSA soldiers march in a parade to mark Shan National Day at Loi Tai Leng, the headquarters of the SSA-S, in February 2016. 

YANGON – The Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), a signatory to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), on Monday postponed the Shan national-level political dialogue, which had been scheduled for Jan. 12-14 in Langkho (Lin Khay/Langkhur).

In a statement, the RCSS said, “The prior public consultation meetings that had been held had been faced with various persecutions by the Tatmadaw [Myanmar’s military], making it impossible for the people to freely and democratically express their will and fully discuss their opinions.”

Public consultations were held in 14 of 55 townships in Shan State on Dec. 17-25, led by the Committee for Shan State Unity (CSSU), which is chaired by the RCSS. However, the meeting in Panglong on Dec. 17 was prevented from going ahead by the Tatmadaw, as was a later meeting in Tachileik Township. The Tatmadaw issued a letter prohibiting any meetings from being held on Dec. 19. Three days later, on Dec. 22, the Shan State Government revoked the instructions it had issued to district authorities to permit public consultation meetings. Consultations were canceled in Taunggyi, Kali, Kyaukme in Shan State and Mandalay.

In Panglong, according to the RCSS, “as the people were preparing to hold the public consultation, the Tatmadaw came in and blocked the meeting, fully armed with war weapons as if to seize an enemy stronghold – an incident that has left a permanent black mark in the history of the Union.”

As a result of the Tatmadaw’s actions, which included blocking the last prior public consultation meeting at Taunggyi on Jan 7-9, the RCSS/SSA-S (Shan State Army-South) “has decided to temporarily postpone” the proposed National Political Dialogue of Shan Nationalities said, Lt-Col Sai Oo, a spokesman for the RCSS.

Not holding the Shan national-level dialogue in Langkho means the group won’t be able to raise its recommendations at the upcoming Union Peace Conference – 21stCentury Panglong (UPC), the spokesman told The Irrawaddy.

“As we have been unable to hear all of the public’s views, we will not compile recommendations for the UPC,” he said, adding that the group would hold further internal discussion on whether to join the UPC.

The RCSS claimed consultations both inside and outside of Shan State were “held with the approval of the Government and in line with the Union-level Bilateral Agreement,” which it signed on Jan. 2012.

In accordance with the implementation process of the national level political dialogue, it is necessary to hold prior public consultation meetings with all the Shan communities living in various parts of the Union, the RCSS said.

“The holding of the public consultation meeting, prior to the National Political Dialogue of Shan Nationalities, at Taunggyi, which is the capital of Shan State, is very important in terms of the historical traditions of the entire Shan nation; in terms of political dignity, national equality, legitimacy of national political dialogues and trust building,” it said.

Despite being an NCA signatory, the RCSS has been involved in at least 25 armed clashes with the Tatmadaw since signing the agreement on Oct. 2015.

“Military tensions have also been high in Shan State’s RCSS-controlled territories since our preparations began for the ND [national level dialogue]. Fighting has been frequent from last month through Monday,” said the spokesman, though the clashes have been in remote areas. Two clashes were reported on Saturday morning in Mai Buu Gyi village in Mongpyin, near Keng Tung.

In the first week of January, RCSS troops were attacked by Tatmadaw soldiers in Loi Len and Mong Pyin townships in southeastern Shan State, said Lt-Col Sai Oo. He said about 80 troops from two Tatmadaw battalions attacked four RCSS soldiers in Naung Lai village tract in Loi Len on Jan.3.

Clashes over territory in Mongpyin were reported in May 2017, and there were interventions from the Joint-Ceasefire Monitoring Committee last year.