Like the SLORC, the SPDC has at hand all the tools of power, the army, the police and the media, whereby it can convene gigantic rallies to reflect the people's support to the world, thereby gaining support of its legitimacy from neighbouring countries, such as India, China, Russia and N.Korea. ASEAN has also chosen to turn a blind eye to its heinous crimes against humanity and seems to behave as if they agree with and support the illegal regime.
Unlike the SPDC, the non-Burman Nationals have no guns nor ammunition; all we have is our pen, and now our computer. I have constructed this website to tell our, Non-Burman ethnic nationals' side of the story using the Shan history and cases. It is a story through the eyes of a person who has been through the British, Japanese, U Nu and the Military Dictatorial Regimes, and with knowledge of the make up and break up of the Union of Burma.
If may I would like to explain some of the myths about the Shans, and respond to the propaganda of the Military regimes under the following topics:
Below are the propaganda of the Burmese Military Regimes
1. The Burmese Ex- Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs U Khin Maung Win Stated in the "New nation" Bangladesh News, "Myanmar is a Union composed of more than one hundred different national races, each with its own culture and traditions. Politically, there cannot be lasting peace and stability in the country without national unity. Unfortunately, the divide and rule policy practised by British Colonialists resulted in suspicion and discord among the national races. This subsequently lead to armed insurgency that spread to various parts of the country for decades. The question of achieving national unity and bringing an end the armed insurgency are vital issues for any government past, present and future".
True, the British Government had divided Burma Proper from the Frontier or Hill States during their administration, perhaps with the intention of protecting the peoples of the Frontier States from the Chauvinistic and bullying nature of the worldly wise and cunning Myanmar politicians. The Burmese General blamed the divide and rule policy of the British Government for the disintegration and the uprising of the national races in Burma. What the Generals cannot acknowledge is that they are the ones who are practising the divide and rule policy: not only between the different ethnic nationals but between the same group e.g between the Karen Christians and the Karen Buddhist and between the Pa-Os and the Shans . Before the military regimes the many ,diverse ethnic groups in the Shan State lived in harmony side by side The distrust and discord were created by the two Burmese Military regimes. The non-Burman ethnic groups resisted their rules because of the unjust actions of the army and the gross human rights violation they committed against the citizens of the country they forcibly occupied. The regime also dishonoured and violated the "Panglong Agreement" and abrogated the Constitution. It was the Military regimes who had disintegrated the Union of Burma.
The Shan people were better off under the British rule. The British introduced law and order and founded the Federated Shan State and was given the status of autonomy. Before Independence the Shan State enjoyed a long period of calm and peace. Even under the Japanese Occupation the Shan people fared far, far better than under the present regime. 2.The military regime claimed that it has been sacrificing much of its blood and sweat to prevent the disintegration of the nation. According to them the military coup was necessary because the Sawbwas were trying to destroy unity by planning to secede from the Union. By 1961 the Sawbwas realised that the Union was totally in the control of the Burmans; therefore, the question of "to secede or not to secede" came to be an issue amongst Shan Leaders, including U Htoon Myint who was anti-Sawbwas. This was not a crime as it was a right provided by the Constitution. The secession issue did not arise out of conspiracies by the Sawbwas; it originated from real grievances.
Even then the majority and more prominent Shan Leaders were committed to working out a solution with the elected U Nu Government. In March 1962, during a high level seminar on federal issues attended by Prime Minster U Nu and senior Shan representatives, General Ne Win seized power. The present long and never ending conflict could have been avoided if the debate in parliament was allowed to continue democratically, and with compromise. Ne Win and his generals were so obsessed with the idea of having full control over the frontier areas, and to further their ego and superiority complex that they put the Sawbwas and other members of the government in prison. 3. The Sawbwa Dynasty had been the culture and tradition of the Shan people for thousand of years. The difference between the Sawbwas and the Generals is that the Sawbwas loved and respected their people and the people loved and respected them in return. There is no such bond between the Generals and the people. In the past feudalism had worked pretty well in the Shan State, but the Sawbwas realised that in modern times the peoples wanted and deserved democracy so they surrendered their power to the Shan State Government. The Sawbwa Dynasty has gone and so has feudalism. The saddest and regrettable thing is that it has not been replaced by something better, a democratically elected government who respects and cares for the people.
4 The Military Regime wants Myanmar to be the Burman Nation State and not a federation of 8 states When Burma became independent from the British a Union Constitution was drafted in 1948. According to that Constitution Burma consisted of a Federation of 8 States, all with equal status and opportunity. But the Burmese Nationalist after the assassination of Bogyoke Aungsan and his colleagues set out to achieve their goal of making Burman ethnic superior to the non-Burman ethnic Nationals. The SPDC and its allies pursued to transform all societies in Burma. Whatever their motivation, be it desire for power or ideological commitment, they sought to create ethnically homogeneous society, Burma for the Burmans only. By the viciousness of their actions they tried to destroy other ethnic groups by ethnic cleansing and making life impossible for them to live in their own birth countries.
5. The 8 constituent states were Burma Proper, Shan State, Kachin State, Chin State, Karen State, Karenni (or Kayah State ), Arakan State and Mon State. Each state was named according to the majority population of the state e.g the Burmans were the majority nationals in Burma Proper and were never the majority in the Shan State; the Shans were the majority in the Shan State. It is incorrect to label the Burmans as the majority and all the others as minorities in Burma, especially when "majority and minorities" are the criteria used for control and power of one national over the others. The military sought to make the Burmans the majority in all the eight states, hence they adopted the policy of ethnic cleansing and other human rights violations against the non-Burman ethnic nationals.
6. The poppy plants, opium and amphetamine production in the Shan State.
During the British regime limited amount of the poppy plant, papaver somniferum cultivation was permitted in the hilly regions of the Shan State and the resins bought by the government to be exported for medicinal purposes. Many of the hill dwellers that migrated to the Shan State after World War II in order to avoid the persecution of Communist China, also brought with them the cash crop, the poppy. As it happened the poppy plant flourishes very well on the steep slope and poor soil of the Shan hills. As the poppy and its by product can provide very good income, it not only attracted the grower but also the drug smugglers, warlords and corrupt government Officials. In the last fifty years the drug business has grown so large that it has become uncontrollable because there is no proper law and order, and justice.
In the 1950 and 1960 Warlord Khun Sa alias Chang Chi Fu, a Shan-Chinese was a supporter and worked for the Kuomintang, (KMT) the Chiang Kai Sheke's Nationalist Chinese troops who had fled to the Shan State from the persecution of Communist China. The KMT were using drugs to finance their operation. (with the protection of CIA). After developing his own drug refineries and business in Northern Thailand Khun Sa broke with the KMT. In 1966 the Burmese Military appointed Khun Sa as the "Head of Village Defence Forces against the Burma Communist Party. During this time he cunningly used his position as the military regime's Official and gradually built up his own power and drug business. Khun Sa was an opportunist and cleverly used people to get what he wanted.
During this time the situation inside Burma was getting from bad to worse, especially in Non-Burman Ethnic States. With all the Shan Sawbwas and all the Shan administrative Officials and elites in prison the people were paralyzed with shock. This was the first human rights violations the military committed against the Shan people. More and more soldiers were occupying the Shan State. With total suppression and human rights violations on the increase many Shan families who could afford left the Shan States to live abroad. The Shan youths in their early twenties and teens took to the jungle where they met Khun Sa. Like all youths over the world they were full of emotion, idealism, anger and, completely ignorant of the outside political and criminal world. With no elders to give them advice they became pawn to Khun Sa's promises that he would lead them to fight the Burmese military and drive them out of the Shan State. Khun Sa exploited the naive and inexperienced youths and built up Shan United Army which he used as a front to protect his own business. He did a lot of damage to the Shan Resistance Movement and reputation of the Shan People.
(Khun Sa was indicted in a U.S. federal court in December 1989 on charges of smuggling more than $350 million worth of heroin into the United States between 1986 and 1988.) In 1995 Khun Sa surrendered to the Burmese Military Regime, who refused to extradite him to the US for two million dollars. Khun Sa was not only given amnesty but was publicly honoured by the Junta and was referred to as U Khun Sa.
Khun Sa was given a commercial bus concession from Rangoon into Shan State, the location of his drug empire along the China border. It had been reported that some of the high ranking Miitary Officials were on Khun Hsa's pay role.
According to the "the Silk Road of drugs" reported in the Bangkok Post the surrender of Khun Sa was replaced by the Wei Hsu Kang and the United Wa State Army to emerge as the major heroine producers and traffickers in the Golden Triangle. The United Wa State Army has also joined forces with Kokang Democracy United Army which has about 7,00 armed men. (Kokang was once a sub-state of Hsenwi in Northern Shan State. The UWSA and KDUA entered into peace agreement with the Junta and were allowed to build their own forces and businesses in return for help to crush the Shan State Army South and the Karen army. It was also reported in the Observer, April 8 2001 and BBC Radio 5 Live today , under the heading"John Sweeny in Rangoon uncovers the links between Burma's drug barons and a repressive regime that likes to trumpet to the world of its tough anti-drugs". The investigation revealed that the multi-million pound empire of Lo Sing Han, the first War Lord to become an ally of the Junta was given protection by the junta.
Along with Lo Hsing Han and Khun Sa, other ethnic drug traffickers have also benefited from good relationships with the Rangoon junta. Following a list of the names of eight top traffickers from the Shan, Kachin and Wa areas, it had also been reported that the SLORC has given these individuals "significant political legitimacy" by referring to them as "leaders of national races." Several of them have even been handpicked to help write the nation's new Constitution.
With the Military Junta's help the drug business power shifts from warlord to warlord while the hill people are encouraged or forced to grow more and more poppies in hidden areas; Shan cultivators who in the past were rice and vegetable farmers have also become an unwilling pawn. The drug business has not only increased in areas around the northern and eastern border of the Shan State but also in other areas of the Shan State, the Karenni State and the Kachin State.
The Golden Triangle
Across the river on the north side is the Shan State and on the east is Laos
The Golden Triangle as seen from the Thailand side of the border
It would be interesting to know what visitors who flock to visit the Golden Triangle feel when they see the place. As for me when I saw it, it saddened me a great deal that such a beautiful place should be connected with drugs and that the Shan youths of SUA through their naivety became the victims of Khun Sa's exploitation and label.
The Shan, traditionally and culturally were valley dwellers , interested only in cultivating rice and other food crops. Morally, the majority are against drugs and would not like to be involved in it. They would rejoice if the drug warlords were to take their drug refineries and businesses elsewhere and not use the Shan State as their base for growing poppies or manufacturing opium and amphetamines. Such a wish could be achieved only if the government is genuine enough in its effort to fight against drugs. There will have to be proper drug law and regulations. The law will have to be fair and just. At the present in time such a wish seems impossible.
I try to examine how in the modern world of global politics and economy a country like the Shan State can achieve justice and freedom.
The Shans are simple, honest , peace-loving people; all they want is their rights as human beings. It is such a simple quest for contentment and happiness yet something dark and evil is preventing them from achieving it. The UN Charter asserts that human rights should be protected, but the responsibility for the protection of human rights has for the most part been allowed to rest on the government of the state. What if the government is the violator of the human rights against the people? Who then is responsible for protecting the people?
The SPDC regime, in the mind of the Shans is beyond suffering- the huge number of deaths, continual hunger, exhaustions from backbreaking labour, for some resulting in death is too much to go on hoping that they would become human again.
It is about time that the Generals of the SPDC change their policy and ideology of extreme nationalism that make them lose track of their actions. Those who claim to be Buddhists should remember that Buddhists do not not destroy lives. Buddhist teachings also include that human consists of two contradictory nature: the good and the bad. By being aware of such human make up we should be conscious of our thoughts and deeds. Human are unique in the sense that we have a brain to reason, and therefore able to differentiate the good from the bad. Only by bringing out the goodness in us will we be able to perform our duty towards our society. As Buddhists we must also be aware that nothing in this world is permanent: not out lives, our possession nor our power.
For the commongood of all the peoples of Burma it is about time too for the Generals to agree to sit down and discuss with all the parties concerned, the future of Burma if they want to be involved in the reconstruction and reconciliation of the country. This is the only way if they do not want foreign power to interfere and make a decision for them.
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