Shan, Palaung & Kachin Youth March Against Conflict in Lashio

By Lawi Weng 18 July 2016

RANGOON — A day after the Shan State parliament passed a resolution to bring an end to conflict in northern Shan State, over 500 people—largely ethnic Shan, Palaung (Ta’ang) and Kachin youth—staged a demonstration on Saturday in Lashio, northern Shan State.

The protestors called on the Burma Army to halt their fighting with ethnic armed groups in northern Shan State, and to end rights abuses against local civilians.

Youth dressed in their traditional ethnic attire walked the streets of the northern Shan Shan administrative capital holding signboards, which also bore demands for a federal system of governance in Burma—reflecting a long-standing demand for a devolution of power and resource-sharing with Burma’s ethnic minority regions.

Sai Aung Myint Oo, a self-described Shan youth leader, said, “Our people feel they have no security in their lives.” He mentioned the disappearance of seven ethnic Shan young men traveling from northern Shan State’s Namkham Township to Lashio in early June, which reportedly remains unsolved.

He accused the Burma Army of “murdering our people.”

“I condemn this on behalf of our youth,” he said. “We ask the authorities to take action against those who have violated the law.”

Nang San San Aye, a female lawmaker from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) representing Hsipaw Township (1), told The Irrawaddy that the Shan State parliament on Friday agreed to her proposal to bring an end to fighting in northern Shan State.

However, she cautioned that they would need to “wait and see” whether this resolution would translate into action.

The proposal, accepted during a four-day session of the state parliament from 12-15 July, was not the first initiative undertaken in the state parliament to halt Shan State’s longstanding, and seemingly intractable, armed conflicts.

A fellow SNLD lawmaker had made a similar proposal during the first session of the state parliament under the new government—with no discernible result.

Nang San San Aye cited the human rights abuses and general suffering wrought on ethnic Shan and Palaung (Ta’ang) communities across several townships of northern Shan State, including her own.

Earlier this month, seven people were killed in mysterious circumstances in and around Mong Yaw Village of Lashio Township, with local villagers accusing the Burma Army—although local police have refused to pursue allegations against the military.

Northern Shan State contains Burma’s largest concentration of non-state ethnic armed groups—some in alliance, but several in active conflict, with the Burma Army. Those in active conflict include the Shan State Army-North, the Kachin Independence Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army.

Since November last year, two ethnic armed groups—the Shan State Army-South and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army—have been fighting over territory across numerous townships of northern Shan State, displacing thousands of mostly ethnic Palaung (Ta’ang) and Shan civilians from rural areas.