The Northern Shan Crisis And Its Impact On The Peace Process

A newly formed coalition of ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) calling itself the Northern Alliance-Burma (NA-B), began launching coordinated strikes against Burma Army positions in Northern Shan State on November 20. The NA-B is made up of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Arakan Army (AA). The clashes centered around the bustling border trade town of Muse, and the small Kachin Sub-state town of Mong Koe, which abuts the China border and the Kokang MNDAA area. The offensives resulted in the closure of the Mile 105 trade zone and occupation of Mong Koe by Alliance troops for a short period of time.

The economic impact of the disruption of the lucrative border trade and the human toll in deaths and injured on both sides is not immediately known. While in-depth coverage of the clashes in independent Burmese news outlets has been scant, well documented reports from the ground tell of the toll on innocent civilians. Thousands of civilians have been displaced, most seeking shelter on the Chinese side. The reports also detail the abduction of about 100 wedding guests (locals and Chinese citizens), and kept as hostages or human shields at Byuha Hill, a strategic army base, the rampant destruction wrought on civilian homes and properties by army air strikes, and the torching of homes and granary barns after the army regained control of Mong Koe. However, the most serious casualty arguably is the Second or 21st Century Panglong, as irreparable damage may have been inflicted on the so-called nationwide peace process.

The attacks signaled a shift in tactics for the coalition. They had never before made forays into government controlled urban areas, confining themselves to defensive warfare instead. The NA-B characterized the assaults as controlled or limited warfare, concentrating on preemptive strikes designed to thwart the Burma Army’s continued deployment in ethnic territories.

The army responded with massive troop increases, and the deployment of heavy artillery, fighter jets and helicopters. Army Chief Min Aung Hlaing publicly raised the specter of an army takeover, alluding to the 2008 army drafted constitution which makes provisions for such a move in a state of emergency. There was also an army spearheaded attempt to label members of the NA-B “terrorist organizations” – thwarted in the Lower House, but passed in the Shan State parliament where military allied Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and army representatives hold a majority of seats.

The vote was not binding as it had failed to pass at the national level, but has been strongly condemned as being detrimental to the peace process by the 8 EAOs who signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), and the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC). A prominent Karen voice has also weighed in on who better fits the “terrorist” label:

Who is it that rampages through the countryside, looting, torturing, killing and raping innocent civilians? Who is it that people are so terrified of that they run away at first sight of their advance? The people know full well the answer to these questions!

It is not that we ethnic peoples are against peace and coexistence with the Bamar brethren. Did not our forefathers, putting their trust in the Bamar promise of “full autonomy in internal administration”, signed the Panglong Agreement in 1947 which gave birth to the Union that we know of today? The fact of the matter is that in the intervening years, the ethnic peoples have become so disenchanted with the Bamar dominated central government for its broken promises and exploitation of land and resources that they had chosen the path of armed insurrection to regain their inherent rights. This in turn has brought on the brutal occupation of ethnic lands by the Burma Army.

There have been intermittent attempts at negotiating peace, but thus far, none have borne lasting fruit. There was a 17-year period of ceasefire in the Kachin area, but it fell apart when the military government, with the view of neutralizing the KIA, forced it to convert to a border guard force. This led to the renewal of war in the Kachin area in 2011.

Even so, the KIO (the political wing of the KIA), steadfastly participated in the peace process initiated by the Thein Sein government. This in spite of its positions being shelled even as peace talks were being held. What transpired was that the KIO refused to sign on to the much touted Nationwide Ceasefire Accord (NCA), since it was not truly ‘nationwide’, given the exclusion of 3 of its allies, the MNDAA, TNLA and AA. The NCA ended up being signed by only 8 of the 16 participating EAOs. In the meantime, the KIA frontline post of Gidon has been bombarded incessantly for more than 3 months now, just as attacks on MNDAA and TNLA positions have been on-going.

With the advent of the civilian government led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, an attempt to breathe new life into the peace process was made through the convening of the 21st Century (or Second) Panglong Conference. But expectations of a breakthough fell flat when it also failed to be all inclusive. Interestingly, in the lead up to the conference, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s tone-deaf remark that EAO leaders should not just think of making demands but consider what they can bring to the table instead, resulted in this impassioned retort from U Khoo Oo Reh of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP):

Come and take a look at our ethnic lands. Our rivers have run dry. Our mountains have been levelled. Our forests are no more. Our plains have turned into deserts. All our natural resources are gone. Our people have had to flee homes and villages to live out their lives in IDP camps. What more do you expect us to give? We have nothing left to give!

The renewed Kachin war is now well into its 6th year. The fighting shows no signs of letting up. Rather, it is growing in intensity and spreading even to urban areas. The IDP situation is becoming increasingly more desperate, with all international aid to border camps cut off, while the number of IDPs keeps growing. Moreover, with the much hoped for breakthrough in the peace process with the installation of a new civilian government now seem doomed, so do prospects of their longed for return to former homes and farms.

Weighed down by the abuse and persecution they have had to endure for so many years, from generation to generation, the Kachins are now at breaking point. Just as cries of Uhuru, Swahili for freedom, reverberated throughout Kenya at the height of the resistance movement against British colonial rule, clamors for Awm Dawm, its Kachin equivalent, are now echoing through Kachinland.

It might surprise non-Kachins to learn that the KIO is the voice of restraint where awm dawm is concerned. Mindful of the terrible sacrifices such a radical venture would entail, it had concentrated on working in tandem with other UNFC members to call for federalism within the Union. But KIO leaders are under intense pressure from their people and the demand for awm dawm.

A KIO leader’s recent allusion to secession sparked the Bamar remark that it “impinged upon the red line” – a line that must not be crossed. To the ethnics, the “red line” reference smacks of hegemonism and bully tactics. Just as no ‘red line’ should exist to keep a woman from leaving an abusive relationship, no threats should be levelled at the Kachin, or any other ethnic group for that matter, wishing to exercise their right to secession. For after all, the Panglong Agreement, much like a marriage contract, is a pact whereby ethnic peoples pledged their troth with the Bamars, with the “pre-nup” clause of the right to secession written in by far-sighted leaders, in case the union did not work out.

It goes without saying that a breakup of the Union would be disastrous and traumatic for all concerned. Indeed it would be the height of irony if the Union that the father worked so hard to bring about, were to disintegrate at the hands of the daughter. The onus then is on the Bamars – specifically the daughter of the architect of the Union, in her capacity as head of the current civilian government, and the army that he created – to make the ethnics want to stay. There is real danger of a breakup unless sincere efforts to facilitate an all-inclusive peace process are made, and guarantees given for an equitable sharing of power within a federated system. Anything less would fail to bring about the genuine peace and reconciliation the country so desperately needs.

12 comments

Everyone is so concerned about secession. Why? It worked for Yugoslavia. You have to understand. The Burmans are never going to give up power willingly. Not Min Aung Hlaing. Not Suu Kyi. Not Than Shwe. Defeat the entire dictatorship or generate so much pressure that you create large safe areas – autonomous states – which can serve as the basis for future nations. Those are the only options.

See things clearly.

It means that you must clearly understand system and nationality. So also you must digest the history of Myanmar.
All nationalities including Burmese suffer the bad system. That is why 1988 riot occured and we are now on the path to democratic ways.

Since Indepedence to 1988 , top leaders of Government are not Burmese. Let ‘s say Major General Tin Oo ( Chief Intelligence). He is Mon. So also U Sein Lwin( President ). He is also Mon. This two top leaders of the country ruled the country with dictatorship style. On the othere hand , Leader of Burma Communist Party who is against successive Government are not Burmese. Thakhin Soe , leader of BCP is Mon national.

At present , SG Min Aung Hlaing is not Burmese. He is Dawai national and his wife is Rakhine national.
Daw Ag San Su Kyi is also somehow mixed ethnic national.
Present President of the country is also mixed ethinc national and 2 vice presidents are Mon and Chin respectively.
They all are now building Federal Democratic State.
Thus do not point your wrong fingers to Burmese only. It depends on person concerned.
Thus you must clearly understand bad people ( whichever ethnic nationality he is ) / bad system and good people / good system.

This is one issue.

Another issues is that leader of ethinc armed groups have different personal and commercial interest. What is commom to all is that they all are rich with billion of USD through exploitation of valuable natural resources of the country , illegal drug business and so on and their sons/daughters and relatives are living in oversea with luxious houses. These crony leaders do not want to give up their personal and commercial interest and thus they are brainwashing their same people with ethnic hatred. Then they create armed conflict with Myanmar Tatmadaw so that they can do all kinds of illegal business and their people will not be able to study school lessons and will become narrow minded people.

Thus only if there is no crony ethnic leaders who are sending their same people to wrong ways or brainwasing with black propagada , sincere ethnic nationals will enjoy peace.

Another issuse is that states and regions are not owned by only one ethnic nationality.E.g. In Yangon, majority are Burmese and the rest are Karen , Kayah , Kachin , chin ,mon , Rakhin , Shan. So also in Shan State, majority are shan and the rest are Pa Oo, Da Nu, In Thar, Burmese, Wa, Palaung , Mon, Karean and etc. In kachin State, half of the population is Red Shan. 1/3 is Kachin ,1/3 is Burmese and the rest is 1/3. In Mon state, half are mon and the rest are karean , Pa Oo, Chin , Burmese , Shan , Rakhin .Thus if we go with Federal State, it must be based on geography , not ethnic.

In short , Do not compare with Yugoslave because Myanmar have 135 ethnic group.

I suggest You to study Myanmar History thoroughly.

135 national races?? Faked like the daily wagers trotted out at the Dec 18 pro-army rally, dressed as ethnic peoples? YOU might be fooled, but we ethnic peoples are not!

I support Dec 18 Mass Rally which support Myanmar Tatmadaw and condemed so.called Northern
Terriorist Group for killing civilians cruely and doing all.kinds of sabotage activities in.Shan.and Kachin.State

We see differently between sincere ethnic people and self appointied leaders of KIA/TNLA/MNDAA/ AA Terriorist Group.

You know who they are
how they become rich?

They are exploiting their innocent same ethnic
people in the name of revolution.

If they are.confidentof themseves, give up their arms and economic benefits . Then come to legalfold and take part in democratic election.

One thing sure is that they will.never be voted by People.

Why?
People know that.they are Opprotunist , Insurgents and Terriorist only.

Pilon Agreement just mentioned Financial Autonomy only. It did not mention Administration.

Autonomy and Administration have different meaning.

Crony Leaders of Armed Ethnic Groups brainwash their same race by twisting the word ” Administration ” which is not mentioned.

In fact, sincere honest ethnic people are so pitiful because they are being lied by their self-labled leaders.

So long as they are being lied and brainwashed , they will not enjoy Peace.

“Pilon Agreement” – another of the fake agreements you Bamars want to hoist on us, ethnics? Also, for your information, go to Wikipedia or any English language dictionary to find out that autonomy in politics means self-government. Would you still argue that government and administration are two different things? What a pathetic existence you lead as an army attack dog!

Without uderstanding the essence of Pilon ; do not nurture the meaning of Autonomy and Administration.

So.also without understanding the slight differences between this two words; you are not deserved to argue.

The essence of Pilon is get-togetherness among our different nationalities to gain Independence and degree of power sharing is different.

Read Pilon Agreement and its essence thoroghly.

Regarding with.Pilon
Agreement of 1947 , what I see is that it is just.mentioned Financial Autonomy. It means that ethnic people can enjoy Financial Autonomy. It is not mentioned Administrative Autonomy. I saw that Awm Dawm is passimistic and full.of hatred towards Bamars. I do not why he is haopening so. It might be that
1.He is narrow minded
2. He is not educated and brainwashed to hate Bamars
3.He was brought up in the jungles
So he does not have right.view and right thought.

The problem.of Myanmar is only commercial or intetest issuse , not ethnic.issue. Succueesive.leaders of ethnic armed groups stimulate their.people under the name of ethnic because
1. it is easy to organize
2. People are not educated.

If there is no.commercial interest. they will not cry much.

Example
if there is no.jade

if there is no teak forest
if there is no mining products
if the land can not be produced poppy and drugs

In order not to lose the personal benefits , they want to.hold arms for life and also want to.be warloards.

Thus they gave excuses that they.are fighting for.them

I am sure that if people are educated and broad minded, people will.no.longer accept. their excueses.

Wish people in armed conflict areas enjoy eternal PEACE.

Regarding with the words of Khu Oo Ye ” Come and take.a look our ethnic land” and ” we have nothing left to.give”. let me question you ” who has become rich guys “.

The answer is that leaders of Ethnic Armed Groups have become rich guys through exploitation of valuable natural resources illegly in their land.

In Kaya State. KNPP led by Ku Oo Ye earn billion of USD $ through mining ( Ka Nauk.Sein inBurmese) and illegal extraction.of teak and other drug business.

So also in Kachin State. KIA/ KIO leaders and their families are very rich through extraction.of natual resources (E.g Jade ); illegal.cutting and selling of valuable teak to neighbouring and doing drugs business.

Where are these Trillion USD $?
Though these ethnic armed groups are crying ethnic rights , they are earning Trillion USD but people in their controlled areas are living in poverty and uneducated.

What is worst is that.these.innocent ethnic people are fighting for nothing for their rich guys ethnic leaders.

Thus it is right time for honest ethnic people to fight against their ethnic leaders who are just seeking their own.intetest for 6 decades.

On the other hands; they must comdem them who do not want Peace except creating Arm Conflict with Tatmadaw and against successive governments.

People themselves must find ways to get Peace in.their Areas.

Just as “the people know full well” who the real terrorists are – they know full well who the real trillionaires, billionaires are, grown rich from sucking the blood life out of the country’s natural resources. Ever read the explosive report on the subject by Global Witness and many other such reports? Don’t be so deluded, read and educate yourself and open your eyes to what is really going on!

As per GT.. behind the curtain is not only cronies of previous but also ethnic armed groups also. That is the main reason of why ethnic armed groups do not want to give up commercial interest. Another undenyable fact is that 100 chinese men who are escorded by KIA is arrested by Myanmar Authority. All nautral resources and jade are depleted or gone due to KIA and their associates.

Every ethnic has black sheep. So.we must find out who the black.sheep is.

Kachin people are generally honest but KIA are black sheep.for them.

What I see is that Some facts mentioned in Global Witness might be correct. But those who really suck the fresh blood of sincere kachin people are nothing but KIA leaders and their stooges. They are also invloved in exploitation of natural resources such as teak and jade for their own interest. They really are rich trillioners.

Morover KIA like decoit rob the money from.poor kachin people in the name of tax but all are in the pocket of KIA. They forced their people die for them in the name of ethnic issues. While innocent kachin people are fighting for nothing ; they are living in safe luxious houses.

People know very well who are terriorist really and 105 mile case proved that KIA and their dogs killed innocent civilians and fired public vehicles and so on.

Thus do not be so deluded; educate yourself and open your eyes to what is really going on.

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