Shan Celebrate National Day as a Leader Steps Down

Brennan O’Connor Contributor

Wearing his signature tinted glasses, Lt Gen Yawd Serk, the youthful looking 55-five-year-old leader of the Restoration Council of Shan State and Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA), addressed a gathering to mark Shan State National Day in Loi Tai Leng for the last time as party chairman.

His resignation from the group that he formed 18 years ago was announced last month. But there was little mention of this during his keynote speech in the large dusty field at the RCSS/SSA headquarters on the Burmese-Thai border, where crowds gathered for the Shan holiday on Friday.

Instead, Yawd Serk chose to reflect on the past. There was talk of the decades of suffering the Shan ethnic group has endured under previous successive Burmese regimes.

Burma President Thein Sein was praised for reforms paving the way for a nationwide ceasefire, which is currently under negotiation. The president can be trusted, Yawd Serk later affirmed.

In June, Yawd Serk met with the president in Naypyidaw, marking him the only Shan leader in recent history to have personally met with an official at the top of the Burmese government.

During a short press conference following his speech, Yawd Serk provided little more elaboration for his stepping down in the midst of peace negotiation, a move that has shocked the Shan community.

The party will be holding leadership elections, he told The Irrawaddy.

“I won’t run in it to make room for the younger generation,” Yawd Serk said.

An RCSS/SSA leadership forum is scheduled from Feb. 11 to 14. Last week, hundreds gathered in Loi Tai Leng for a three-day conference on a draft constitution for Shan State.