CHIANG MAI, Thailand – Stakeholders’ alliance the Committee for Shan State Unity (CSSU) has said that its members are concerned that the National League for Democracy (NLD) government lacks the intention of achieving national reconciliation with the country’s ethnic minorities.
The CSSU, formed in 2013, said after its two-day annual meeting in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand that the government must be urged to “to collaborate pragmatically” to build mutual respect with other groups in the country, with the ultimate goal of peace.
“The current government is trying to reconcile with the Tatmadaw, but has delayed in doing so with the ethnic groups,” said Sai Leik, spokesperson for the CSSU.
He also said that equal treatment is the key to success concerning reconciliation.
He recalled that the United Wa State Army’s peace delegation boycotted the first 21st Panglong Union Peace Conference in September 2016 due to alleged discrimination, referring to the Wa representatives walkout. He added, “every group, regardless of the size of their organization, must be treated equally when we hold talks for our Union.”
Over 60 representatives from Shan political parties, the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA-S) and the Shan State Progress Party/ Shan State Army North (SSPP/SSA-N), and community-based organizations gathered to discuss ways to build unity in multi-ethnic Shan State, where armed conflict has been ongoing. Leaders also called for an end to fighting, and to continue the drug eradication efforts.
Ying Harn Fa, a representative from the Shan community-based women’s and youth groups said, “We would like to urge both the government and ethnic armed groups to stop the fighting,” adding that implementation must move the process forward.
She said that she felt the discussion went well, despite the short time allocated to discuss such wide-ranging issues. The annual meeting served as both a performance evaluation and an opportunity to change leadership.
The CSSU was chaired by Khun Htun Oo of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy until yesterday; now the CSSU chairman is the Gen Yawd Serk of the RCSS.
The CSSU is also pushing for ethnic-based national level dialogue to happen in Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State, as it has been delayed due to the Tatmadaw’s objection over the location.
“The ethnic-based national level dialogue needs to be implemented in Shan State, and we do not accept that the RCSS can conduct it only in its controlled zone in Mong Pan, as the SSPP has not signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement,” Sai Leik added.
He added that SSPP could not sign the NCA because of multiple government restrictions, and said that the only way that they might become signatories is if the government agrees to the terms of the ethnic armed group coalition the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), of which the SSPP is one of seven members.
The government’s Peace Commission held talks with the UNFC last week and its chairman, Dr. Tin Myo Win, said that progress has been made.
“If the government agreed to the UNFC’s nine-point proposal, I believe that the SSPP would certainly be on the NCA path,” Sai Leik said, adding, “For that to happen, we are also coordinating.”