On January 1, Committee for Shan State Unity (CSSU) issued a five-point statement in which it emphasized its commitment of peaceful co-existence between Shan State’s ethnic groups and also among union citizens countrywide to be able to establish the aspired genuine federal democratic union.
Even after the independence from the British and the establishment of the Union together political conflicts that followed have pushed the people into poverty, loss of human rights, denial of peace, and war inflicted injuries which are still present until today. Thus concerned organizations and all ethnic peoples (including Bamar) are urged to find solution to the woes, writes the statement.
In Shan State from 1976 to 1977 and from 1996 to 1998 the people of Shan State have suffered a kind of living hell experience and lost all basic human rights due tot the four-cuts military operation of the Burma Army. Therefore, CSSU wanted to emphasize that it is equally sorrowful and hurtful for the war inflicted on the people in other ethnic states of the past, including the present human rights violations and struggles that followed after military coup in 2021 in ethnic states and regions, according to the statement.
Drafts of federal principles based on equality and Shan State Constitution have been approved by the CSSU Secretariat and will be presented to ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), political parties and civil society organizations (CSOs) in Shan State said Sai Leik the CSSU general secretary, according to Shan News of January 3.
“During 2022 our work projection will be the emergence of the Shan State Constitution based on federal equality, on which draft we have already approved,” said Sai Leik to Shan News.
“Based on this draft, not only the CSSU members but also the CSOs in Shan State, political party organizations, and EAOs will be met and presented the draft constitution. We will negotiate extensively to find solution and if we do this we hope the federalism-based constitution will be able to establish unity among us,” according to Sai Leik.
“Even though we are trying to build unity, we have not achieved much as we have hoped for. Fighting between CSSU members Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) and Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) have been happening. If these battles continue like this, we will not be able to build even the unity within Shan State. If we are not on good terms (with each others), I don’t think we can build unity and national reconciliation in Shan State. That is why we have decided to reconsider working for unity of Shan State (among different ethnic groups) and unity of Shan (or Tai) national at the same time.”
“If we resolve to establish Shan/Tai national unity first before forging unity within Shan State (to include all other ethnic groups) it will be too late. That’s why we are taking steps that Shan national unity and unity of all Shan State’s ethnic groups will be done at the same time in tandem,” said Sai Leik to the VOA on January 5.
“We, the secretariat (secretaries of all CSSU member groups) has asked the two concerned warring groups (SSPP and RCSS) to end the ongoing armed conflict as soon as possible. The main thing is if political issue will be discussed, armed conflict will have to be resolved first. We learned that the two sides are taking steps to meet and discuss the problems,” he added optimistically.
The CSSU original projection for unity has three stages. They are Shan/Tai unity, unity among ethnic groups within Shan State, and unity of all ethnic nationalities within the whole union or country, according to the Shan News report of January 3.
In 1961 the then Shan State Government took the initiative, known as “The Shan Federal Proposal” together with the other non-Bamar ethnic leaders and tried to amend the 1947 Union of Burma Constitution to be more in tune with the aspired real federal union. Because the constitution as U Chan Tun, a constitutional adviser to U Nu, admittedly said: “Our country, though in theory federal, is in practice unitary.”
What the CSSU is doing now is largely identical with what the then Shan State Government and non-Bamar ethnic leaders in the 60s had done, particularly during 1961-62.
And with the military junta and parallel National Unity Government (NUG) also trying to mold the establishment of union based on federal principles, whatever they actually meant and could be interpreted by that, it is appropriate that the CSSU is undertaking the task again where our forefathers had left in 1962, on behalf of the non-Bamar ethnic nationalities, to try and work out a genuine federal union on equitable and fair basis for everybody involved.
The military junta’s version of federalism is based on military-drafted 2008 constitution, which is aimed at military bloc dominated unitary system and in no way a federal union that the ethnic nationalities have imagined.
As for the NUG, to date it has produced two charters, of which could be seen as quite progressive and a far cry even more than what the NLD regime has done during its five year tenure from 2016 to 2021. But charters boil down to the fact that the executive, legislature and judiciary powers are still in centrally vested, and most importantly, the charters have not pinpointed the creation of a “Bamar State” according to the own commitment of federalism based on equal ethnic constituent representation. In other word, the NUG still have to walk an extra mile to be able to be in tune with what the ethnic nationalities have in mind.
However, in order to be able to go through, the first hurdle of Shan/Tai national unity has to be achieved, which in practical terms means that the two Shan armies, RCSS and SSPP armed conflict must be first resolved. Only after this can the unity within the whole Shan State be achieved. This will then be followed by nationwide consultation with ethnic states and regions or divisions on how we all want to see the federal union constitution being drafted in an all-inclusive manner.
A Kachin activist Kon Ja rightly said recently in social media that fifty percent of the country’s conflict will be resolved if Shan State’s EAOs armed animosity could be capped or peaceful atmosphere could be restored.
She said in just one day quite recently there were armed clashes between the junta’s Burma Army and three EAOs, namely the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Kokang or Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) using air powers and heavy guns by the junta inflicting the local population.
In sum, the CSSU noble program can only succeed if the Shan/Tai armies can end their armed conflict first, followed by Shan-State-wide ceasefire and eventual political dialogue with all ethnic nationalities within the country to agree upon common agendas based on the co-owned federal democratic union constitution. CSSU has to also open dialogue on behalf of the non-Bamar ethnic nationalities with the NUG concerning the prospective constitutional drafting, either as an alliance umbrella group or with its individual members to iron out glitches that may arise in the course of negotiation and adjustment.