Shan State Parliament puts Peace Process in Jeopardy

By Lawi Weng 8 December 2016

RANGOON — The struggling Shan State peace process has been thrown into a state of upheaval as the Shan State parliament voted on Wednesday to label three ethnic armed groups as “terrorist organizations,” according to Dau Kha, a leader within the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

“The peace process and the political situation have been turned backwards here,” said Dau Kha. “This vote does not highlight a positive way to peace. It emphasizes the negatives, and they shouldn’t do this.”

“The Shan State parliament made their own decision, and they did not listen to voices from the people,” he added.

The three ethnic armed groups—the KIA, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA)—have carried out a military offensive against the Burma Army in northern Shan State since Nov. 20. A fourth ethnic armed group, the Arakan Army (AA), has also fought in the conflict, but the Burma Army refuses to recognize the AA, arguing that the group does not represent the Arakanese people.

“It is very clear who has influence in this parliament, which is supposed to represent the Shan ethnic people. Also, we send our thanks to those lawmakers who voted against this proposal,” TNLA spokesman Col Tar Phone Kyaw said via Facebook.

The Burma Army currently controls 34 seats in the Shan State parliament, and the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) controls 33. Together, the two groups have majority control over the parliament.

“This only proves how the Burma Army does not have genuine intentions for the peace process. It proves they don’t want to have peace in this country. They only want us to follow their instructions. Now more fighting will come soon,” said Col Tar Phone Kyaw.

“Whatever the Burma Army does to respond, we will be ready for it,” he added.

On Wednesday, Shan State lawmaker Aung Thu proposed that parliament discuss the issue of labeling the ethnic armed groups as “terrorist organizations.” Aung Thu, who represents constituency No. 2 in Muse Township, is also a former Burma Army general. Parliament voted 63 in favor and 33 against, and the bill passed.

“We don’t care about this vote,” said Nai Hong Sar, vice chairman of the ethnic armed group coalition United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC).

“This is their job. The Burma Army will continue to do whatever it wants because they do not like us,” he added.

The Burma Army also took the “terrorist organization” issue to the Lower House in the national Parliament, where the issue was placed on hold.

As the conflict in northern Shan State dragged on, Burmese authorities found the bodies of nine dead police officers in Mong Ko town on Wednesday, the State Counselor’s office reported. One of the victims was head of the police station in Mong Ko. The Burma Army and government have only reported casualties caused to civilians during the conflict, and have not reported casualties to the Burma Army.