31 Oct 2017

    (10-17 October 2017)

    The greatest bankruptcy in life is hopelessness.

    Attributed to The Buddha

    There were two events which necessitated yet another trip to the country I have come to call Hopeland:

    • 12 October- the 4th literature seminar in Shan State
    • 15 October- The 2nd anniversary ceremony marking the signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in 2015

    As usual, there were other “side shows” that took place that I would like to share with the reader who, like me, is interested in the wellbeing of this country and its peoples.

    However, this time, I had gone there while I was still under the influence of fever accompanied by persistent coughs. Which prevented me from seeking as much knowledge and as many people as I wanted to.

    Nevertheless, I hope the reader will more or less benefit from my journal here.

    Day One. Tuesday, 10 October 2017

    When the white man wins,

    You call it a victory

    But when the Indian wins,

    You call it a massacre.

    Sitting Bull (1954)

    I run into a friend who’s digging quartz (Godanta in Sanskrit and Hin Khio Ma “Green Toothed Horse” in Shan) in Shan State South. Apart from him, I find no one that I know. But Thais seem to like visiting the country. A lot of them speak the northern dialect.

    We arrive at Mingladon 12:00 local time. As the plane to Taunggyi is 4 hours away, I spend my time re-reading the 62 page The History of the English Language. Getting myself warmed up for the presentation on the Shan language the day after tomorrow, you might say.

    Naturally, I find a lot of gems there. Here are some, a few of them quotes taken elsewhere and jotted down in the booklet:

    • Today, 70 out of every 100 words in English have been borrowed.
    • You can never know your own language until you know a few others
    • One nation/one language ideology is threating smaller languages. In 100 years, 90% of the 6,809 languages will disappear.

    At Heho, I run into another friend who tells me the planned trip to Panghsang and Mongla, where the government intends to discuss development and economy along the border areas (as suggested by the Chinese, according to a previous source) has just been postponed.

    The name “Heho” is a corruption of the Shans’ “Haiwo,” meaning a locality assigned to produce cattle for tribute to the ruling prince. Haiwo used to be under the State of Yawnghwe.

    There are several other localities with names starting with “Hai”. For example,

    Haiya- A locality in the Inlay Lake assigned to produce tobacco for tribute

    Haipa- A locality in Monghsu State assigned to produce fish for tribute

    I remember Dr Sui Khar telling us a week earlier that Thailand’s burgeoning One Tambon (locality) One Product, better known as OTOP, therefore is not a new thing.

    It’s funny I’ve never thought of the “Hais” that way before.

    Someone asks me, “Won’t the peace process be put one a back burner, after the crisis in Rakhine? “I inform him that I’ve been told shelving the peace proves would only serve to exacerbate the already fragile relationship between the government and the signatory EAOs.

    At 18:30, I’m in Taunggyi.

    Day Two, Wednesday, 11 October 2017


    Laikha

    (A conversation between two military officers)

    1. The treaties (with the Native Americans) don’t mean anything to them (meaning most whites). They’re just words on paper.
    2. Admitting every word of that to be true, it’s outside your province as a soldier. We are all here to obey orders.

    Sitting Bull (1954)

    We have a Kengtung noodle breakfast in the morning hosted by my quartz company friend, before leaving for Laikha, known in Burmese as Leycha, 86 miles (137.6 km) in the northeast, passing through towns such as:

    Loilem                   57 miles

    Panglong             6 miles

    Laikha                   23 miles

    Even then, it takes us 5 hours to get there at roughly 27.52 km/hour. Still, my young friend who volunteers as the driver, insists, “The road is better than it used to be. Used to take us about 8 hours to travel from Taunggyi to Loilem alone.”

    At 15:30, we are at Laikha, the seat of the last ruling prince Sao Num (also spelt Sao Noom), whose domain used to include Panglong as well as Loilem.

    We put up at a place owned by a young Shan, whose father was the brother in law of one of my late friends. Both his father and his aunt, who married my friend, were strikingly good looking, even among Shans.

    Until 20:00, I spend time receiving guests, who want to tell me the problems people are facing and asking me how the peace process is going.

    I then have a good rest, despite some coughing. The house doesn’t have wire-netting and we are not provided with mosquito nets. But there isn’t a single mosquito humming around to disturb our sleep.

    Day Three. Thursday, 12 October 2017

    You’ve never learned how to live until you’ve learned how to give.

    Kirk Douglas (1916-…)

    We have a good breakfast prepared and served by our hosts. Which leads to one friend quoting an old saying:

    If you want to eat well, go to Laikha

    If you want to be up late, go to Mongpawn

    I ask him what’s wrong with Mongpawn. He says, “It’s the mist. You don’t see the sun until late in the morning.”


    Hso Khan Fa (1291-1364)

    At 08:45, we are driven to the Hong Zawm Hseng hall in Quarter # 1, also known as Ho Nawng Long (Head of the great Lake). My wife used to live here until she came to Thailand in 1977. My audience, not all, are excited to hear I’m married to one of their own townspeople.

    There are altogether 4 speakers: the first is Dr Sao Teun Tai Visuddhinyana from Mongmao (Ruili), abbot of the Wat Hawkham (Palace Temple) there. His allotted 1 ½ hour presentation is interspersed with clapping of hands. He certainly is one of those spellbinding orators. His topic is: “The Valiant vs. Cowards”

    His examples of the former includes: The Buddha, Hso Khan Fa (1291-1364), and Dr Khammai Dhammasami (who happens to be a Laikha native). He gives graphic account of how Hso Khan Fa fought a hungry buffalo bear in 1311 to prove he’s the most fitting candidate for the Mao throne, against all odds.

    An illustrated booklet was written by me in 1993 and it became a bestseller. “You should write more about him,” he urges me, before he leaves for Mongmao, which he intends to reach late in the evening.

    The Hsipaw-Loilem road that passed through Laikha, since the Shan State Army-South had signed a bilateral ceasefire agreement in 2011, has been becoming the more traveled thoroughfare than the old one, that goes, form Taunggyi to Mandalay, and from Mandalay to Kyaukme and Hsipaw, according to my hosts.

    My turn comes where I inform my audience the following:

    • As long as your kids at home speak to each other in Shan, there’s no need to worry about the death of your mother language.
    • The Shan language, without proper plan and implementation, can die. It doesn’t mean the Tai language will die, because it is still an official language in Laos and Thailand.
    • There are three ways to cross a fast-flowing river:
    • To swim in a straight line against the current
    • To go with the current hoping you’ll get a hold of something somewhere in a bend to pull yourself up on the other bank
    • To go the middle way by swimming diagonally which both takes advantage of the swift current as well as opposing it. I recommend the third way.

    In practice, it means you need to apply 3 Rs (Reliances): On your own literature, old and new; on your  cousins’; and on the words universally used (such as computer which you need not waste coining  a new Shan word for them)

    I explain to them the 10-principles adopted by the Chiangmai Shans for coining words.

    But at the end of the presentation, I must admit I can’t say how much they are able to absorb. As I’m on my way back to Taungyyi after lunch, and don’t have time to remain there.


    Hawkham Temple

    Nevertheless, I take time to visit the Hawkham temple. Which used to be the palace of Prince Sao Noom, the principal host to the historic 1947 Panglong Conference. It crosses my mind that in Maehangson, they have a statue of the Shan prince Singhanart aka Shan Galay aka Sao Khun Sa in the city’s center. I mention this to my driver friend, who remarks that there’s no statue of Sao Sam Tun in Mongpawn either, despite his efforts at forming a Union with Burma before his untimely death together with Aung San. The same story for other signatories.

    There is however the monument in Panglong where we drop by on our way to Taunggyi. The signatories’ photos and sketches are all there and my son takes a snapshot at each. Perhaps our generation and the next can do more to honor them?

    At 18:15 we’re back in Taunggyi.

    Day Four. Thursday, 13 October 2017

    I didn’t come here to talk to a big mouth

    I came here to talk to a big man.

    Indian Fighter (1955)

    At 07:00, a mini-van comes and pick me and my son up to leave for Naypyitaw. I ask Li-Col Sai Oo, the chief liaison officer for the RCSS/SSA why the rush, as the ceremony is still two days away. “Is the Chairman coming today?” He says no. But he wants to make sure everything’s proper and prepared when the boss flies in tomorrow.

    We have breakfast at Shan Taungdan Daytha (“Shan Highland”). Lt-Col Sai Harn, who also heads the RCSS/SSA’s anti-drug committee, says a new synthetic drug, called flakka, which supposedly make human beings into reacting like zombies, is on the rise. Luckily there is still no sign of the drug in the country.

    At 14:00, we are at the Horizon Lake View Hotel.

    I then try to call up friends to see if there is something that I can lend a hand to them. They don’t pick up their phones. Which mean they are in a meeting or meetings.

    It is some 3 hours before I know what’s going on. At 17:00, they call me up and inform me that there were two meetings today:

    • One was the Joint Coordination Body (JCB) for peace funding. No decision taken
    • The other was the pre-meeting for the 15 October ceremony. Main item: The sitting plan.

    Another meeting is being planned for tomorrow. The main topics will be to finalize a joint statement and the draft speech to be read out by Gen Saw Mutu Saypoe, the PPST leader, on Sunday.

    We have dinner together at Tai Kitchen. There they discuss the JMC-S meeting which was held yesterday at Kholam, the headquarters of the Tatmadaw’s Central Eastern Command.

    I won’t go into detail of what they tell me. But in the end, my comment is that both sides will need persons who are imbued not only with “know how” on the subjects they are dealing with but “know who” about the people they are dealing. Without both, peace will still be a long way.

    Day Five. Saturday, 14 October 2017

    You short on ears and long on mouth?

    Big Jake (1971)

    Today, we have two meetings at Horizon Lake View.

    The first one, at 14:00-16:30, deals with two items:

    • Joint statement for the 2nd The draft prepared by the EAO signatories, after reaching the government, returns with several rewritten paragraphs. The meeting’s first conclusion, after looking over them, is that it is going to take most of the day and evening to go over them until a mutually acceptable document can be produced for the event tomorrow. But then a message from Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing arrives: he requests that there be no joint statement. “This is not a meeting, but a ceremony,” it says. “We can do without a joint statement.” Thanks to him, the meeting saves a lot of time and trouble. But next time maybe we should consider it again.
    • The draft address to be ready out by the KNU chair is then reviewed. It takes the meeting 2 ½ hours to come out with a revised (also shortened) draft to be presented to him.

    The PPST holds another session late in the evening 20:00-21:00. There are three main items on the agenda, which doesn’t take too long to deliberate:

    • Meeting with Under Secretary General Jeffrey Feltman, UN Department of Political Affairs (DPA), at 15:00-16:00 tomorrow
    • Dinner with US ambassador Scott Marciel in Rangoon, 16 October
    • Informal with the State Counsellor and Commander-in-Chief, also 16 October, in Naypyitaw (time yet to be fixed)

    Not a bad day, at least, for me. So I say to myself as I walk back to my room, but maybe I could have done better as an advisor?

    Day Six. Sunday, 15 October 2017

    The biggest lie is the lie we tell ourselves in the distorted vision we have of ourselves, blocking off some sections, enhancing others.

    Kirk Douglas (1916-   )

    (Before writing today’s journal, I have looked into  Myanmar Alin and its English publication The Global New Light of Myanmar to check my notes taken there.  Any point either not mentioned or mistranslated will be touched upon.)

    At 09:00, we (except perhaps the State Counselor and the Commander-in-Chief) are all there at the Myanmar International Convention Center I (MICCI I), though the ceremony is to begin at 10:00. It is to take place at the Jade Hall on the second floor.

    Top entrepreneurs like Tay Za, Zaw Zaw, Aung Ko Win aka Saya Kyaung, Maung Wake, Dr Sai Sam Htun and Dr Khin Shwe are also reported to be there. Among the previous government’s top peacemakers, I see only Dr Sai Mawk Kham, former Vice President # 2 and former Chairperson of the Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC).


    State Counselor (Photo: State Counsellor Office)

    At 10:05, the awaited commemoration begins with the reading out of the agenda by the mistresses of ceremony (MCs). I take note that the leader of the signatory EAOs is addressed as General Saw Mutu Saypoe, which is an improvement over what took place at the UPC 21CP #2, where all military ranks of the EAO leaders were deleted and caused an uproar.

    The following are extracts from the main speakers:

    State Counselor

    (She is better at speaking without notes, but we can all understand why she is readying from the prepared document.)

    • Anniversaries are held not to forget past events that should not be forgotten, and to take heed of what should be done in the present and future (This isn’t in the Global New Light of Myanmar)
    • Participation of the civilians in the JMC (Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee) has been increased
    • There is still room for improvement and enhanced coordination since this is our first experience.
    • For those non-signatory groups, we are ready to welcome them and look forward to initiate peace negotiations
    • We aim to conduct the third session of the Peace Conference this year….we plan to hold two sessions of the Peace Conference in 2018.
    • At the upcoming sessions of the Peace Conference, I urge all of you to finalize all the fundamental principles on Federalism. Once we agreed on the fundamental principles, we can continue to discuss and elaborate on their details. We will need to continue our dialogue on the division of power allocation of resources and revenue between the Union, States and Regions, and the powers as described in the additional tables (listed as Schedules) to the Constitution.
    • In short distance races, those who are physically strong are apt to win. But in long distance races, likely victors are those with the will and determination.

    Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing


    C-in-C Min Aung Hlaing (Photo: Irrawaddy)

    (This is the first time we haven’t heard him bringing up his usual 6 peace principles)

    • The tasks which were compatible with the democracy system were implemented simultaneously. For example, Tatmadaw officers were assigned as chairman of township and distract administrative bodies, but later administrators of the General Administration Department (GAD) were assigned to the job to build the administrative pillar under democratic system
    • Surely, it is a political system that requires inclusive cooperation.
    • One cannot dishonor the promises made. (The GNLOM translation is “They need to respect the previous promises”.)
    • Our Three Main National Causes is the national duty our all national people have to safeguard.
    • (Regarding the NCA), I would like to mention the first point that: “NCA is the main fundamental fact on the peace process which the country urgently needs,”

    the second point that “without implementing the fundamental fact or all our peace process without ending a noise of gunfire may not be rest assured and it may return to armed struggle line, and the third point that “the NCA was drawn by the government, the Tatmadaw and all armed ethnic organizations based on initial proposals of armed ethnic organizations.”

    • (Regarding the NCA), I would like to say that the agreement is more meaningful than the word “ceasefire”. (He also adds later) Some organizations said it does not need to sign the NCA because there is no firing and attacks.

    In fact, the NCA means an agreement of ceasefire. Actually, its essence is broader and deeper. So I firmly ask you to sign the NCA.

    • It is Building rather than Revolution that is being practiced in the world today

    N.B. The GNLOM translated ကိုယ်ပိုင်ပြဌာန်းခွင်. (Right of Self Determination) as “Self administration”


    Gen Saw Mutu Saypoe (Photo:PI)

    Gen Saw Mutu Saypoe

    • The internal strife that continues till today is the result of the failure to totally implement the Panglong Agreement
    • Quarterly JICM (Joint Implementation Coordination Meeting, the highest organ as stipulated by the NCA) should be held regularly
    • In marching toward the (Federal Union) goal, the best method is the roadmap as laid down by the NCA. And we will need to hold inclusive political dialogue, attended by all relevant stakeholders

    U Shwe Min (Photo: burmalibrary.org)

    U Shwe Min, UPDJC (Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee)

    • In May 2016, we reformed the UPDJC under the leadership of the State Counselor. We invited the non-signatories to be included in the review of the Framework for Political Dialogue (FPD). However although 6 sessions of review have been held, we have yet to be able to approve the FPD

    N.B. Unable to find this in either GNLOM or MA.

    Reverend Saw Matthew Aye, Vice Chairman #2, Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee Union Level (JMC-U)


    Saw Matthew Aye (Photo: burmalibrary.org)

    • One special aim of the JMC is to support the efforts to hold political dialogues at all levels

    N.B. Unable to find it in either GNLOM or MA.

    At 13:00, I’m visited by friends who have been following the JMC closely. What follows is the summary:

    • On the bright side, the KNU/KNLA and the Tatmadaw has agreed to conduct a demarcation workshop.

    The JMC-S meeting at Kholam, 12 October, has also reached agreement to hold bilateral meetings between local commanders from both sides

    • On the darker side, official complaints from both sides have increased, which make it more difficult to resolve them, as they are required to go through official procedure. The tendency for formality, rather than informality, seem to be increasing. The more formal we become, the wider the gap between the two sides will be.
    • We’ve been warned not to use phrases like “during the MPC days,” “during the U Thein Sein administration” and such. The present government is reportedly highly sensitive to them.
    • In Namzang there are two hotels. They appear to be merely a front for other businesses. (Why? I ask) Because their services are very poor, and they don’t take much notice of complaints from the guests.

    Yet another meeting follows. This time with Mr Jeffrey Feltman, Under Secretary of the UNDPA. And the following is how it goes:

    UN         4th visit of Mr Feltman. This is not a formal meeting. We used to have Mr Vijay Nambiar as special envoy for the peace process. But his mandate expired last year, after the government withdrew it. And the UN would like to know what it could do to help achieve peace.

    DPA works for conflict resolution and mediation. In other countries’ peace process, we had worked formally, but it Myanmar, we can only do it informally.

    EAO       The UN’s contribution during the 2012-16 period was crucial. We could say that the NCA was successfully drafted partly through the presence and assistance of the UN. And we are sorry that during its implementation, when we need the UN the most, it is not with us.

    Non-signatories have also high expectation for your return.

    N.B         The UN’s participation in the peace process came about after the EAOs proposed it and the proposal was seconded by the government. The new government reportedly had not consulted the EAOs when it decided to end the UN’s mandate.

    The meeting also touches on the Rakhine issue. One PPST leader as good as accuses the UN as adopting a double standard for denouncing the Tatmadaw’s alleged treatment of the people who call themselves Rohingyas as ‘a textbook example of ethnic cleansing’. “The same thing had happened in the Karen State before the ceasefire, but the UN had scarcely uttered anything,” he says.

    The UN’s reply: There is a lot of mis-information and disinformation on both sides. The government should allow independent fact finding in the areas in question.

    Then I go back to my room to pack my bags for my return to the old capital tomorrow. My flight is 08:10 and I need to be there earlier.

    Day Seven. Monday, 16 October 2017

    Evil sorceress:    Make your last wish, if you want to go home.

    Child hero:          Yes, I wish that you have a heart.

    (Overcome with compassion, the evil sorceress restores the world)

    The Never-ending Story: The Next Chapter

    I have three meetings at the old capital today. Two are quite interesting because of the questions:

    • Do you think the EAOs should have a policy on China?
    • Do you think the Tatmadaw that has already extended itself through the GAD (General Administration Department) will look kindly to the introduction of local government system?

    Yeah, I hope someone can answer. Because I’m afraid I haven’t given satisfactory answers to both questions.

    I then visit the PI Yangon Office at South Okklapa to meet my colleagues there, and report to them about the Board of Directors (BoD) meeting we had held on 3 October, particularly about the PI’s peace research program.

    And thus I miss the two meetings in Naypyitaw the EAO leaders have had with the State Counselor and the Commander in Chief. But there are a few points noteworthy which are reported in today’s media stories:


    PPST leaders meet with Commander-in-Chief (Photo: BBC)

    Commander-in-Chief (13:30-14:30)

    CinC

    • There’ll be no other way besides the NCA way. If the sound of gunfire hasn’t died down, no one will be confident in the peace process. So the door needs to be open for the non-signatories.
    • If national dialogues are held widely, we are concerned it may become out of control. If we are going to hold them, we must be able to control them.
    • The Tatmadaw will never break the pledges enshrined in the constitution and in the NCA

    EAOs     To build federalism, participation by 8 EAOs will not be sufficient. We must create a space for others to be able to take part.


    SC meeting with representatives of the signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. (Photo: MNA

    State Counselor (16:00-17:00)

    SC           Stresses the need for unity. Agrees review of NCA and to hold regular JICMs.

    According to 7 Day, quoting Padoh Kwe Htoo Win, who had also met former president U Thein Sein, the latter reportedly said: We acknowledge the efforts being made by the present government to achieve peace. But everyone knows there’ll be a lot of challenges.

    At 11:00 the next day, I’m at the Mingladon airport. At 15:00, I’m back in Chiangmai.

    In the evening, a call comes to inform me the schedule for the rest of the month:

    23-24 October: DPN-PC meeting

    25-27 October: NCA implementation review

    28-29 October: Meeting of UPDJC secretariat

    30-31 October: UPDJC meeting

    Also 27 October-7 November: Study trip to Colombia

    I hope I’ll be to report on them soon.

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