SHAN speaks to the RCSS/SSA leader about his decision not to attend the third session of the Union Peace Conference this month.
At the third session of the Union Peace Conference held in Naypyitaw from July 11-16, around 2,000 representatives of ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), political parties, civil society groups, and the Myanmar armed forces—also known as the Tatmadaw—were in attendance.
Not present at the event—also known as the 21st Century Panglong Conference—was Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) leader Gen Yawd Serk, even though his organization signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the government and military in 2015.
SHAN spoke to him recently about his decision to opt out of the conference.
Why did you choose not to attend the UPC?
There is no benefit from it. They discussed only two main issues: women’s rights and minority rights. They didn’t discuss political issues. The government really wants to get a good image from this conference. They held this conference as a way of lying to people and to the world. If I attend the conference, I will have to sit and listen, but I have nothing to discuss. Even if I discuss something, the government won’t listen. There is no agreement on security issues in the UPDJC [Union Peace and Dialogue Joint Committee] meeting. The only thing remaining is the NCA and ceasefire agreement. The peace process is neither moving forward nor backward, and it’s because of the Tatmadaw.
What kind of benefits do you think EAOs will get?
There are no benefits for the people. It’s just a magic show for the world. The only positive thing is that many people are gathering there. There is no agreement. FPNCC [Federal Political Negotiation Consultative Committee] members also attended the conference but they couldn’t discuss anything.
What did you think of Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s speech?
A few points in his speech are correct. Many points in his speech are not in line with the current situation. It shows that they won’t follow the peace process if other people don’t do what they say. The NCA will be damaged if the peace process is not in line with the 2008 Constitution. The Tatmadaw might take the country’s power.
Under these circumstances, it is possible to build a federal nation after amending the 2008 Constitution?
It depends on the NLD [National League for Democracy] to amend the 2008 Constitution. The strength of the people and the political parties is also important. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her NLD party want to amend current constitution to build a new democratic nation, but the Tatmadaw blocks the road. So she cannot do anything. The police and the interior ministry are operating under the Tatmadaw. The People’s Militia Forces (PMFs) are also running under the Tatmadaw. The Myanmar Army controls all security sectors in this country.
What is the way forward in building a nation together?
We have to look at the history of this Union. This Union could be established because of the Panglong Agreement. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi also talked about it. I accept it. Whenever we talk about the Panglong spirit, we cannot dismiss the Panglong promises. If we dismiss the Panglong promises, it will be very difficult to move forward.
This interview has been edited lightly for clarity and brevity.