Shan nationality talks in limbo

Kyaw Zin Win

The Restoration Council of Shan State has asked for relocation of the Shan nationality forum and is still waiting for a reply from the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC), sources say.

The military recommended the council to hold the talks in Mongpan, Monhtaw or Nampankhun Township. The council instead wanted to hold them in Taunggyi or Panglong, saying the towns the military recommended were inconvenient for the attendees to travel and stay. 

The council sent a letter to State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, chairperson of the UPDJC, on February 23 and explained the situation. 

Spokesman of the council Lieutenant-Colonel Sai Ngin said: “We’re still waiting for a reply. If they don’t let us hold the talks in places we desire, we’re going to face difficulties in facilitating the talks. The opinion of the military is crucial in this matter.”

If there is no Shan nationality forum before the Union Peace Conference, it is impossible for Shan representatives to present the wishes of their people at the conference, he added.

“The forum is the only place to collect and discuss the people’s ideas about political, social, economic, land and environmental affairs. Without it we will have to reconsider whether to attend the conference.”

He said the council’s letter highlighted the importance of the forum and made it clear that holding the forum in the areas designated by the government and the military was out of the question since they were inconvenient for Shan representatives to travel to.

The council found itself battling the army after signing the nationwide ceasefire agreement in 2015. 

The latest armed conflict was on March 25 when the army allegedly attacked the council’s forces in Wanyaung Village in Mongpyin Township. 

The spokesman attributed the clash to “territorial confusions” and said rumours had it that the army wanted them to stay only in southern Shan State and Mongpyin was bordering on the eastern part. 

The two forces exchanged fire on March 7 in Ohmmu Village in Hsipaw Township and in October when government soldiers reportedly attacked a drug rehabilitation camp near Panpwe Village in Mongkai Township without warning.