Lieutenant General Yawd Serk, chairman of the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), is the leader of an organization that is one of the eight ethnic armed groups that signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) in October last year. In late November 2015, the RCSS/SSA clashed with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), a member of the United Nationalities Federate Council (UNFC). Unlike the RCSS the TNLA did not sign the NCA.
In an interview conducted with Lt. Gen. Yawd Serk in Shan on March 23, 2016, the veteran leader discussed his opinion on the role of the new government led by Aung San Su Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), the party that won a landslide election victory last November.
Q: What are your thoughts on the newly elected government and the on-going conflict in Shan State?
A: Even though this government was elected by the people, there will be a lot of difficulties for them. This is because Burma’s military remains superior in the country. However, we have to wait and see how much they can do. Now, the ethnic armed groups and the people are waiting to see the policies of the new government under the leadership of Aung San Su Kyi. We want to see how much power she will have over the military.
Q: Before the election, Aung San Su Kyi was denied a chance to meet with Burma’s military leaders but after the election she met with them. With regards to their meeting, will there be any benefits for ethnic groups?
A: I think there will be very little benefits for ethnic people. Now the NLD and military became one group with the president being from the NLD and Vice president from the military. This shows unity amongst the groups. Even though U T Khun Myat [a Kachin ethnic MP from Shan State’s Kutkai Township] was selected as one of the parliament speakers, he is from a military-backed party.
Q: Aung San Su Kyi once said that when she was released from house arrest that she would lead a hold the 21st century Panglong Agreement. But when fighting broke out between the Burmese military and the Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), she said that the Burma military was right to step in. What do you hope for the solution of the issues surrounding the ethnic group?
A: We, the ethnic people, have to rely only on ourselves. It’s very hard to ask for others to help us. We have to stand on our own feet. Don’t wait for others to help, this should be our priority. Should we also rely on Aung San Su Kyi? Yes, we should because her party is serving as the country’s government. They have the responsibilities to solve the ethnic problem.
The problems that have been occurring in our country are not only about politics, but it’s about ethnic problems as well. Therefore, in order to solve the political problem we have to solve ethnic problems. I was once told that we have to build trust amongst us. When we trust each other we can build unity and with unity we can build peace. Until now, ethnic problems have not yet been solved.
Q: When we look at the new cabinet of this government, will the ethnic problem be prioritized?
A: It’s not prioritized; it will be put at a fourth or fifth level.
By: Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)