The Irrawaddy

SNLD Leaders: Govt Insistence on ‘Non-Secession’ Deprives Shan of Dignity

RANGOON — The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), the biggest ethnic political party in Shan State, has asked the government to remove term “non-secession from the Union” from any future peace accord concerning the political sector.

At the most recent session of the 21st Century Panglong peace conference, the Union Peace and Dialogue Joint Committee laid out basic principles for discussion by some 700 delegates concerning a future federal state. Thirty-seven were agreed to in a signed accord at the end of the six-day session, but four were left for future talks.

In total, the principles covered politics, security, economics, social issues, as well as land and the environment. Yet discussions reached a stalemate in the political sector over the concept of secession.

“By using [the term ‘non-secession’], it will block political paths. But, by not using it, it will open political paths. It will hurt our peace process if we use it,” said Sai Nyunt Lwin, secretary of the SNLD, in a press conference on Thursday at their office in Rangoon.

“Our disagreement does not mean our Shan will secede from the Union…We keep trying to see how we could stay all together in the Union,” he said.

Another SNLD leader, Sai Kyaw Nyunt, said that he suspected other ethnic political parties also disagreed with the government and military’s use of the term “non-secession” at the peace conference, but that they had chosen not to speak out, thinking the objection would suggest that they did not want peace.

In the 1947 Panglong conference, SNLD leaders pointed out that secession was discussed as an option. The current Panglong conference should honor that spirit, they said, adding that to not give them any agency in deciding their own future deprives groups like the Shan of their dignity.

“If we wanted to secede from the Union, we would not have been cooperating with the central government since 1947. We came to join the Union, but, we now feel that we were kicked in the back,” Sai Nyunt Lwin said.

He said that the Shan “have had opportunities to have our own independence,” but opted to join a Union with other groups. “This was our Shan dignity,” he added. “But, now they order us not to secede.”

The government will hold a Union Peace Conference session once every six months, based on the framework of the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).

The SNLD leaders pointed out weaknesses in the conference—a lack of inclusivity, and an inability for many states and regions to hold national level political talks.

Many ethnic armed groups in Burma have not yet signed the NCA, and could not fully participate in the Union Peace Conference, most notably, members of the Northern Alliance and United Nationalities Federal Council.

Sai Nyunt Lwin and Sai Kyaw Nyunt said that they are worried that the government and military’s insistence on using the term “non-secession” could further alienate these groups from joining the peace process.