Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Brief History of The Shan State and its resistance Day

The brief history of the Shan State and its resistance Day.

By Nam Hio

20 March 2012
The Shan State is a state, 62500 square miles, situated on the plateau, in the northeastern
part of Burma. It is bordered with Kayah (Karenni) state in the south, Thailand
in the south east, Laos in the east, China in the north east and Kachin state in the north.
The Tai/Shan live in the area that is today’s Shan State (Mong Tai) for over a
thousand years. The Shan State has always existed as an independent state throughout
the history, Sao Phas (Princedom) ruled and formed the Shan State as a Federated
State, they ruled their territories and governed their own states independently until
In 18-20 centuries, due to the British colonization and
expansion to South and South-east Asia, the political
situation and fate of the Shan State has changed. In
1815-1818, the British occupied India and annexed
Assam into India. The British troops further its
expansion to Burma. In 1824, 1852 and 1885, the
Burmese resisted for three times against the British
invasions. However, in 1886 the powerful British
defeated the Burmese resistance and annexed the
Burmese Kingdom (including Arakan and Mon states).
Kayah (Karenni) states recognized as Sovereign States.
In the meantime, fighting broke out among the Shan
princes over the disputes of the territories. The
Yawnghwe and Hsipaw princes requested for the
British protection. After that, the British sent its troops
into the Federated Shan State and Shan State become a
protectorate state of the British Empire in 1886.
In 1930s, Burmese nationalists led by Aung San raise
the campaign for independence. Aung San was anti-
British and staunchly anti-imperialist. In March 1940,
he attended the Indian National Congress Assembly in
Ramgarh, India. However, the government issued a
warrant for his arrest due to his attempts to organise a
revolt against the British and he had to flee Burma. He
went first to China, seeking assistance from the government there (China was still
under nationalist government during World War 2), but he was intercepted by the
Japanese military occupiers in Amoy, and was convinced by them to go to Japan
In February 1941, Aung San returned to Burma, with an offer of arms and financial
supports from the Fumimaro Konoe government. He returned briefly to Japan to
receive more military training, along with the first batch of young revolutionaries who
came to be known as the Thirty Comrades. The former capital of Burma, Rangoon
(now Yangon), fell to the Japanese in March 1942 (as part of the Burma Campaign in
World War II). On 1 August 1943, the Japanese declared Burma to be an independent
nation. Aung San was appointed War Minister, and the army was again renamed, this
time as the Burma National Army (BNA). Aung
San became sceptical of Japanese promises of true
independence and of Japan's ability to win the war.
He made plans to organize an uprising in Burma
and made contact with the British authorities in
India, in cooperation with Communist leaders
Thakin Than Tun and Thakin Soe. On 27 March
1945, he led the BNA in a revolt against the
Japanese occupiers and helped the Allies defeat the
During the Second World War, the British promised
to grant independence to her colonies that support
the British war against Japanese invasion.
Independence would be granted by the end of the
war. Many Chin, Kachin, Karen and Shan took the
opportunity and remain loyal to the British and they
fight the Japanese and Burmese nationalists. Many
Sao Phas led their people to help the British in the
war against the Japanese in the Second World War.
The war ended in August 1945 and finally, the
Japanese lose the Second World War. The people of
Shan State started to prepare for independence from
the Britain.
In 1945, the Shan Sao Phas prepared to form the unity among the ethnicities. In 1946,
the Shan Sao Phas invited the Kachin, Chin representative to Panglong, Southern
Shan State. In February 1947, the Shan, Kachin, Chin representative formed Supreme
Council of the United Hill People (SCOUHP). At that time, the Shan Sao Phas wanted
to transform its old prince administrative systems into a democratic system. The Shan
State Council was formed that comprised of 7 Sao Phas and 7 people representatives.
Even after Japanese withdraw from the Shan State, the Shan Sao Phas and its leaders
decided to stay under the British Empire as a dominion state. It is because they
realised that Shan State people were not strong and ready in terms of governing and
political knowledge. However, they would change into the independent country when
are ready. And the British make it clear and promised to hand back to the people of
Shan state.
Meanwhile, Gen. Aung San and the Burmese leader started to persuade the Shan and
other ethnic leaders to join them for gaining independence from British. On 12
February 1947, the Shan Sao Phas, Chin and Kachin leader signed an agreement with
Gen. Aung San and the Burmese representative to form a federal union of Burma and
obtain independence from Britain. The agreement was known as the ‘‘Panglong
The agreement had laid the foundation of the country and the 1948 constitution.
Under Union of Burma’s 1948 Constitution, Chapter 10 (Right of Secession) stated
that: ‘every State has the right to secede from the Union of Burma after 10 years (if
they wish) from the date on which this Constitution comes into operation’.
According to the Panglong agreement, the federal government cannot send its troops
into the State without permission from the state government. At this point, Shan
leaders believed that the Burmese would not send its troops without reason. The
Panglong agreement stated that the ethnic groups’ relation with Burma shall be on a
federal basis with:
• Equal right and status
• Full autonomy for the Shan and other ethnic states
• Financial autonomy vested in the Federated Shan State shall be maintained
• Citizens of the Frontier Areas shall enjoy rights and privileges which are
regarded as fundamental in democratic countries and
• The right to secede from the Federation at any time after the attainment of
Independence, later a period of 10 years was agreed which was included in the
Burma’s Constitution 1948.
These clauses were essential to balance the power between the Burmese (who
dominated the federal government) and the other ethnics.
On 4 January 1948, Shan together with Burma
became independence from Britain. Despite of that,
the Sao Phas were still in power. After the departure
of the British, the Shan leader formed a government
and an assembly. However, on the defence and
security, the Shan leaders totally rely on the central
government and let the Burmese government in
charge of the security.
In 1950, the Kuomintang was defeated by Chinese
Communist government that led by Mao Tse Tung.
The defeated Kuomintang troops fled into the Shan
State. After that the central Burmese government sent
its troops to Shan State with the pretext securing the
border and fighting off the Kuomintang troops.
However, the Burmese Army did not defend the
border nor fight the Kuomintang troops but to seize
the Shan State. They regard the Shan as the number
one enemy that could threaten to the Burmese power.
Since then, the Burmese troops started to abuse,
destroy and oppress the people of Shan State.
In the early of 1956, human rights violations in the
Shan State by the Burmese army were worsening.
That prompted the Shan patriots who love freedom
and justice, started to oppose the Burmese government and they reacted within the
boundary of democratic system. The Sangha Association of Shan State was formed
with goal of fighting for rights of region, culture and monk communities. On 27-28
December 1956, Shan State Organisation also held a conference in Mong Yai,
northern Shan State in which 150 Shan Sao Phas and people representatives attended.
All participants agreed to oppose the actions of Anti Fascist People Freedom League
(AFPFL) and came up with the following decisions:
1. Shan State Organisations strongly opposed the contract that signed between the
Burma central government and Israel that allowed Israel to use 1 million acres of
land in Shan State for agriculture.
2. Shan State must get some profit from Namtu Bawtwin silver mine in Northern
Shan State.
3. Shan State must have the share of Japanese compensation due to the loss of the
people of Shan state in the World War 2.
4. In order to build peace and stability in Shan State, Shan State government would
arrange its own plans.
5. To hold the conference of the people of Shan State and leader as soon as possible.
6. The central government must provide the annual budget to the Shan State.
7. The Union government must cancel the tax on profit that collect in Shan State.
8. Shan State people must have the rights to form political parties and social
9. Shan State would stop its cooperation with the (SCOUHP) temporally and will
resume its participation due to the appropriate time.
10. Shan leaders are not necessary to give up their administrative powers.
11. Based on the constitution, Shan State would secede from the Union after ten
12. Shan State would not join and become a member of (AFPFL).
After that, on 7 February 1957, Shan State people rallied and demanded their right
On 16-19 May 1957, the Shan leaders hold another conference in Mong Yai and
agreed to form an army to protect the Shan State. Beside, they perceived that Burmese
government would not keep its promise to the Panglong Agreement and would not
allow the independence of Shan State. Sao Noi aka Saw Yan Ta, (a native of Mong
Wan and grew up in Bhamo experienced in military during World War 2) was chosen
to form the army.
On May 21 1958, Sao Noi led his 30 comrades with 7 guns and formed a resistance
army and named as Noom Serk Harm (The Young Warriors). The group held the
tradition ceremony of taking an oath and vowed to fight for the
independence at Sa Marn valley in Mong Kyuak, Mong Pan
Township, and Southern Shan State. Later they set up their
headquarters in Pon Kean near Mong Kyuak village.
The news of Sao Noi’s fighting with the Burmese Army spread
throughout the Shan State that prompted the Shan State people
(who had been oppressed by the Burmese Army in ten years) took
up armed and resisted against the Burmese regime throughout the
Shan State. The battles for freedom spread the whole Shan State as
quickly as the wildfire. However, due to the difficulties of
communication and transportation, the resistance movements
became many separate groups instead of forming a united front. In
the meantime, the Burmese Army offered for the peace talk to
different groups.
There were even many resistance groups were formed during the
struggle for freedom, all of Shan patriots have agreed to regard that Sao Noi was the
first Shan leader who resisted the Burmese Army on 21 May 1958. Therefore, 21 May
is commemorated as ‘Shan State People Resistance Day’.
1. Making Enemies ‘War and State Building in Burma’.
4. Documents translated from Burmese by Amnesty International.
5. The 10th Anniversary of Founding of Restoration Council of the Shan State.
7. Whither Shanland by U Htoon Myint (Taunggyi).
8. The Shan State secession Issue by U Htoon Myint (Taunggyi).
9. Human Rights Report by Seng Wan
Sao Noi

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

About Tai(Shan)

Sao Sur Khan Fa
King Sao Sur Khan Fa of Mao Kingdom
The Shan who call themselves the Tai are found primarily the Shan State of Burma. The Burmese word "Shan" (referring to the Tai) is variously spelled Syam, Syaam, and Syan in the inscriptions of the Pagan period (1044-1334) and in old Burmese texts. In modern Burma the Tai people are called Shan, as are various other branches of the Tai people of Shan state in Burma.
The Shan are a branch of the Tai race. Historical accounts maintain that Upper Burma was the place of the Pyu and the Shan before the establishment of the Pagan kingdom by Anawratha (1044-1077). In Yunnan the Mao kingdom of the Shan existed until it was subdued by the Ming court. From that base they often sent forays into Upper Burma and Assam. Later they had Shan colonies in some parts of southern and northern Shan state, Kachin state, and Sagaing Division in Upper Burma, and all these colonies were under the suzerainty of a Mao chief. Eventually the Shans also controlled almost all Upper Burma. This Shan period of Burmese history lasted from about 1300 until 1540. The Shan of Yunnan, however, were subdued by the Chinese after three successive wars (1441-1448). The final destruction of Shan power in Yunnan occurred in 1604 when the Chinese troops swooped down on Mongmao. After the collapse of the Mao kingdom in Yunnan, the power of the Shan in Burma also weakened and the group finally disintegrated into many small Shan principalities. The development of the Shan in Burma depended much upon the political history of Burma which eventually divided the Shan into such groups as:
a. the Khamti Shan (the Tai in the Khamti region of Sagaing division in Upper Burma)
b. the Mao Shan (the Tai in the Mao River valley in northern Shan state)
c. the Tai Leng (the Red Tai in Kachin state)
d. the Gum Shan (the Tai Hkun in the Kengtung district of eastern Shan state)
The Shan (Tai) are spread throughout Burma, in Shan state, Kachin state, and Sagaing division. The states and divisions in Burma were fixed during the British administration period (1885-1948). In the time of the Burmese kings, the Shan (Tai) areas were named "Saint Taing," "Kambawza Taing," "Haripunza Taing," "Khemawara Taing," etc. In the British administration period (1885-1948), Burma was reorganized into states, divisions, and hill tracts. The present Shan state was formed during the British period, becoming the "Federated Shan States" in 1922. The rest of the Shan areas in Burma were put into Sagaing division, Myitkyina, Bhamo, and Putao districts. The geographical barriers, difficulties in communication, and the system of administration since the times of the Burmese kings separated the Shan from each other, resulting in each group developing its own way of culture and tradition. Thus, those Shan who settled in the Khamti region are called Khamti Shan, those in the Mao River valley are Mao Shan, and those in eastern Shan state are the Hkuns.

A Brief History of Tai(Shan)

“Shan” comes from the Burmese rendering of  “Siam” or “Siem” the name by which the ancient Khmer or Cambodians call the Tai or Thai People. The Shan are members of the Tai Speaking Peoples who today live in northeastern India, Burma & the Federated Shan States, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and south & southwestern China. In 1957, Premier Chou-en-lai said that there are over 100 million Tai or Dai Speaking Peoples in the People’s Republic of China.
Historically Shan or Tai Kingdoms & Principalities have stretched from northeast India through Southeast Asia and into south & southwestern China and the Shan today are linguistically and culturally closely related to modern Thailand and Laos.
In the late 19th century the Shan Principalities on the Shan Plateau were annexed by the British following their conquest of the Burmese kingdom of Mandalay and British Burma then consisted of the Shan States, “Burma Proper” and the Frontier Areas.
Administratively, the Shan States as a Protectorate ruled themselves & had autonomy in internal affairs separate from “Burma Proper” which was governed directly by the British Governor in Rangoon – and indeed Banknotes of British Burma were inscribed in English, Shan & Burmese.
After the end of WWII the Shan Princes & Representatives in 1946 convened the First Panglong Conference in the Shan States attended also by Leaders & Representatives of the British Burma Frontier Areas. A second Conference was called in 1947 to which the Burmese came as Observers and it was at this second Conference that General Aung San of the Burmese tabled a proposal to include “Burma Proper” in forming a Union.  In the vote that followed, the Shan narrowly by a margin of 51:49%, voted for the Union of equal partnership and because of this decision take by the Shan, the Chin, Kachin & Karenni also ratified the Panglong Agreement which also specified the Right of Secession – a Right that is also recognized in the 1948 Union of Burma Constitution, Chapter X specifically stating the Shan State’s Right to Secede from the Union of Burma after 10 years.
Following the second Burmese military coup in 1962, the Shan State has lost all its autonomy and is now under Nazi-like occupation of the Burmese SPDC regime. In 2000, 2004 & 2006, Shan Leaders secretly and clandestinely held meetings and canvassed the people of the Se-Viengs or Counties of the Shan lands resulting in 2000 & 2004 in a 48:14 voting for independence and that majority rising to 54:8 or 87% majority for independence in 2006.
On April 17, 2005 President Prince Hso-khan-pha of Yawnghwe, under instructions from the Shan Leadership inside occupied Federated Shan States (consisting of Shan, Palaung, Pa-O, Kokang States and other ethnic communities), made a Declaration of Independence and the Shan Government is now working to fulfill its Mandate for Independence and to deliver humanitarian relief to the victims of Burmese SPDC atrocities and war crimes.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Phing Kaw Zeng - Tai New Year">

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Message on The 59th Anniversary of Shan National Day

It is interesting to note that the linkage and emergence of the modern Shan State, its national day and the formation of the Union of Burma are so intertwined; it is almost impossible to discuss the making of this historical formation separately.
The date 7th February 1947 is a defining moment in the record of the Shan history as a modern nation. On that day, Shan princes and the people's representatives of the Shan States demonstrated their newfound unity to declare it a "national day" which were followed by the resolutions of "Shan National Anthem", "Shan National Flag" and the formation of "Shan State Council" on the 11th and 15th of February, 1947 respectively. These had been done without reference to the British colonial overlords, who claimed protector ship over the Federated Shan States since 1886-87 (one year after the fall of the Burman kingdom and the Alaungpaya or Gonbaung dynasty).

The formation of the Shan State Council by Shan leaders autonomously of the British represents a declaration by the Shan that they are a sovereign, free nation. This bold action constitutes a Shan declaration of independence from foreign rule, and the date, 7th February 1947, marks the entry of the Shan people onto the world's historical stage as a modern nation.

The people of Shan States and leaders decided in this very year later at Panglong, on the 12th of February, to join with U Aung San and the AFPFL (Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League) and leaders of other nationalities, to live together under one flag as co-independent and equal nations. This marks the birth of a nation-state now known as "Union of Burma".

It is not an exaggeration to state that without Panglong Agreement or Accord, signifying the intent and willingness of the free peoples and nations of what could be termed British Indochina, there would have not been born the Union of Burma in 1948.

Failed Cohabitation

As all know, the experiment to live together in harmony within the Union of Burma has been a disaster. In 1962, the Burmese military sized state power in a coup and declared the Union Constitution abolished. In so doing, the Burmese terminated the only existing legal bond between them and the other ethnic nationalities. The declaration of the suspension of the Constitution was in effect a self-denunciation that Burma had overnight become an aggressor-nation instead of partner.

Since then, Shan State has been treated as a de facto colony and occupied territory by the Burmese army.  Its forced assimilation and Burmanization policies to subdue our national identity have devastated the Shan homeland and make the people homeless and refugees. Looking at the contemporary situation, one could only term the Shan nation as a downtrodden and battered one, reeling under the occupation of the oppressive Burmese military regime. Gross human rights violations, genocide and cultural genocide, population transfer designed to make the Shan a minority in their homestead, and robbing them of their birthright sovereignty and self-determination are glaring injustice, which push the Shan into the category of sub-human or slaves, especially in the eyes of their occupiers.

The same situation also applies to the Karenni, Karen, Mon, Arakan, Chin and Kachin States.

But even under such circumstances and after more than four decades of brutal suppression and occupation, the Shan sense of "national identity" and the aspiration to be the master of their own faith have not diminish but have grown stronger. The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy's (SNLD) victory in 1990 nation-wide election in the whole Shan State; the continued political activities of the Shan State Army North within the limited political space provided by the Burmese military junta; the active armed resistance of the Shan State Army South, together with the bulk of Shan State National Army; and the highly self-conscious Shan civil societies in keeping the national identity alive under intense pressure of the Burmese military junta; are indications of a nation, which refuses to be cowed.

Given such a backdrop, it is not at all surprising that the majority of the Shan people wants to opt out of the now-defunct union for good. The question also arises as to why the mainstream Shan organizations are endorsing the notion to rebuild a new Federal Union - together with all the other ethnic nationalities, Burman included - instead of an outright total independence and clean sweep secession.

There are two essential, important factors, which need emphasizing regarding this issue, at least from the mainstream organizations and Shan leadership point of view. One is the ever changing global perspective in relation to the issue of self-determination and the other, the constant transformation of needs and value system or aspiration of a people at a given time and space.

Changing Global Perspective

In 1945, the United Nations member states count was 41 and by 2002, it has reached 191. Up till 1990, most emerging new states, with a few exceptions like Bangladesh and Singapore, are the product of decolonization program of the United Nations based on the so-called salt-water doctrine. However, the break-up of Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia in the early 90s has added up some 19 more new states, which raises hope that the disintegration of the existing states will continue. But this expectation was short-lived and with the end of the cold war, the pro-status quo stance gained acceptance again and the disintegration of existing states subsided. During the period of 2000 to 2006, only one new state emerged, which was a mixture of decolonization trend as prescribed by the United Nations and liberation movement or disintegration of an existing state from the point of view of the Indonesian government.

The global trend seems to be moving towards integration than disintegration, as can be seen by the expansion of European Union, now numbering 25 states. At the same time, the international community's wariness of having to deal with failed states, such as Somalia and Democratic Republic of the Congo, have prompted to reject disintegration and push for more integration.

If one looks around the conflict spectrum in Asia-Pacific region, most opposition movements against the existing states have toned down their secessionist tendency and are now accommodating autonomy solution or federal system arrangement, rather than secession. The Tamil Tiger of Sri Lanka and the GAM of Ache/Indonesia are good examples, which have grasped the changing international mood in relation to their aspiration of self-determination.

Christian Hillgruber, in his " The Admission of New States to the International Community " writes:

The integration of a new state in the international community does not take place automatically, but through co-optation; that is, by individual and collective recognition on the part of the already existing states. By the procedure of recognition, these states exercise their prerogative to determine in advance whether the newcomer, in their judgment, is able and willing to carry out all its obligations as a subject of international law, whether it will be a reliable member of the international community.

Shan State is situated between China and Thailand and also shares thousands of kilometers borderline with both states and couldn't expect recognition easily, even if the Shan could throw out the Burmese occupation forces, for both countries view the conflict as an internal one. Furthermore, while China has adopted an Anti-Secession Law on 14 March 2005, Thailand is bound by it commitment in ASEAN to view Burma as a sole political entity and fellow member of the bloc, not to mention the principle of non-intervention and territorial integrity, which are cornerstones of the organization.

Transformation of Needs and Value System

According to the unpublicized survey conducted by the Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN), the majority of the Shan people would opt for total independence, if given the chance to choose. It is also not surprising that the people would prefer secession, under such immense rights violations and oppression by the Burmese occupation forces. It couldn't be otherwise.

Again, it boils down to the point if the people's desire could be achieved in the foreseeable future, given the unfavorable international mood on such goal setting. Practically, the Shan are faced with a dilemma to choose between secession and genuine federalism. But it is also important to note that the Federal Proposal of 1961, before the military coup, is the brainchild of the Shan leadership at that time, which was aimed at changing the Burman dominated unitary system into a genuine federal structure with equal status for all ethnic nationalities. All non-Burman ethnic groups endorse this as a balanced and acceptable solution until today. Meanwhile, this proposed arrangement also find acceptance among most of the Burman opposition camps as a way to resolve the conflict as a whole.

In this connection, it is also important to look at the ever-changing needs and value of the concerned population at a given space and time. The Kurdish people's participation in the recent Iraq federal setup, the undecided faith of the Albanian people in Kosova, the conflict management in Ache/Indonesia, and the ongoing talks between the government of India and Naga people indicated that they are ready to cut a deal less than the originally aimed goal of secession or total independence. This is perhaps lowering the aspiration to a certain degree but nevertheless, a pragmatic approach and in line with the international mood. But this is not to say that the global trend will stay forever in favor of status quo. The people concerned would eventually adjust their needs and value system, according to the prevailing international norm and structure of the time.

Pragmatic Approach

Finally, if the Shan wants to be heard and advance their aspirations, they would need to seriously think globally and act locally. It would need to sell the idea that it is part and parcel of a viable force, in collaboration with all non-Burman ethnic nationalities and Burman opposition groups, to replace the illegitimate military junta. To do this, "broad coalition-building" among all the opposition is essential, even those within the rank of the enemies, who are ready to reform, embrace justice, equality and democracy should not be neglected.

The Shan cannot win this fight alone and it is crucial that the “multi-pronged” approach is employed, coupled with the motto of "diverse actions, common goal”, as urged time and again by the late Chao Tzang Ywanghwe.

Monday, 6 February 2012

7 February: The gateway to 12 February

You may call it Shan National Day, as it used to be known, since the first Shan National Day was officially designated in 1930 in Taunggyi and later in 1947 at Panglong.
Or, if you think the name, by its name, leaves out indigenous non-Shans in what used to be known as Federated Shan States, you can adopt the new designation: Shan State Day.
As far as I’m concerned, any name will do, as long as the day’s historic significance is not forgotten, just as a rose’s signature fragrance is recognized. In each and everything, man should value its substance more than its label.
So what happened on 7 February 1947 that had called for a decision to commemorate it each year? A short recap will be needed here:
Aung San had just concluded an agreement in London, which promised Independence for Burma within one year. But he needed to ask the non-Burman Frontier peoples whether they would like to join Burma in Independence or if they would rather go it alone.
Many people at that time thought that the Frontier peoples, having little trust in the Burmans, would rather choose to stay under the grudging rule of the post-war British Labor Party government.
But, unknown to most people, Shan, Kachin and Chin representatives, who were jointly holding the Panglong Conference, had already reached agreement that the freedom of their respective people “would be achieved sooner through the cooperation with the Burmese.”
The only problem appeared to be with the Shans, who were still hoping that their newly formed Shan States Saophas Council (later Shan States Council), made up of equal number of the 33 ruling princes and 33 people’s representatives, would be recognized by the British government. Had the British accepted the demand, it was well nigh certain Aung San, who arrived on 8 February, would have to return empty-handed.
There wouldn’t have been a Panglong Agreement to sign and subsequently a Union Day to celebrate.
But, luckily for the Burmese, and unluckily for the Shans, Chins, Kachins and the rest (as some would indeed say) the British turned down the Shans’ call.
The result was the mass meeting held in the evening of 7 February, when the 14 men (7 princes and 7 people’s representatives) Executive Committee of the Shan States Council was declared, which marked the parting of the ways with the British.
This had paved the way for the successful negotiations with Aung San and the Panglong Agreement on 12 February.
Now, 65 years after, many Frontier peoples, especially the Shans, are wondering whether they had made a hasty decision in spurning the British suggestion to place the question of the reorganization of the Federal Council on the agenda of the Council meeting to be held in Taunggyi later in the month. (The Federal Council of Shan States was then presided by the British Commissioner.)
Most probably, it was the wrong decision for the Shans. But, on the other hand, it was also most probably the right decision for the Burmans who had automatically succeeded the the British to govern the Frontier Areas.
Therefore, if I were, say, the President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar now, I would not have hesitated to allow these Shans to celebrate every time 7 February returns with a vengeance. By all accounts, they should be mourning instead. But if they are still punch-drunk enough to choose to be hilarious about it, so be it.
After all’s said and done, it’s all for the best. Or don’t you think so?

“Tai/Shan National Day” or “Tai/Shan State Day”?

One problem facing Shans each year when 7 February draws near is whether the day marking the unity between ruling princes and their people against British suzereignty should be called “Shan National Day” as it used to be or “Shan State Day” as renamed by the military junta that came into power in a bloody coup in 1962.

Those in favor of the former name say we should stick to the historical label
Those against it say “Shan National” only means the day is only for Shans and not for non-Shans who together constitute 50% of the population, according to the pre-Independence census; as such “Shan State Day” is preferable to the historical name

So why did they agree to call it “Shan National Day” in the first place, when, out of the then 33 princely non-Shan princes and two of the leading non-Shan princes (Tawngpeng and Hsihseng) were highly educated and well-informed?

The answer lies in both the ambiguity of the term “Nation” and how rulers and people understand the word, then and now. 

When you look into the dictionary, two simple distinct meanings are found:
All the people in a country
A tribe or race 

At the time when the word “Shan National Day” was coined, it was quite obvious most of the ruling princes thought it applied to all the people in Shan State, then known as Federated Shan States. I remember when I was a kid, people, both Shan and non-Shan, joined together to observe the annually held event.

However, as I grew older, the interpretation began to change. People started saying, “Shan National Day means it is only for Shans, and not us (PaO, Palaung, Wa, Lahu, etc). We should call it Shan State Day, so that all of us are included.” 

All those complainants then and now, appear to be unaware that the decision to name the day as “Shan National Day” in 1947 was signed by none other than Hkun Pan Sing, President of the Shan States Council and Palaung prince to boot. 

By 1963, a year after the coup, it became clear unless it was called Shan State Day, one was certain to risk being called a rebel or a separatist. Among the resistance ranks, the situation was almost exactly the reverse. One could risk being accused as a junta follower by calling it Shan State Day.

To placate both camps, some have begun to call it “Shan State National Day” which in effect pleases few people.

One of my late uncles explained to me why the term National Day was opposed by the junta. “For many countries, a national day means the day you either declare independence or were granted independence,” he said. “The generals simply don’t want youths like you to get ideas about it.”

He may be right. I’m sure he was.

However, unless a new Shan State Council takes the matter into its hand and reaches a new resolution, I’m afraid we will still be arguing among ourselves how we should properly call the day, every time 7 February is in the offing. 

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Yawnghwe palace designated as Buddhist Museum

The Yawnghwe historical museum, previously the palace of Yawnghwe, has been designated as a Buddhist museum by the Burmese military, according to reliable sources.

The palace has been converted into a historical museum, housing some of the most precious artifacts of the Shan princedom since 1369.

Yawnghwe palace
In May 2008, all displayed antiques such as Saofah’s regalia (royal garments worn by Shan princes), lacquer wares, ancient armaments, and two imperial thrones were already moved and replaced with the Buddha images, said a local resident.

“I don’t know where the things were moved. I just saw only the Buddha images are being displayed now,” he said. The age and origin of these Buddha images is also unknown, but it is unlikely that they have the same historical and cultural importance as the previous artifacts of the Yawnghwe historical museum.

However, some locals are saying that the Shan artifacts were reportedly moved to Nay Pyi Taw, the new capital of the Burma.

The report will be updated as soon as more information arrives.

Yawnghwe is one of the oldest principalities of the Shan State. Its last ruling prince was Sao Shwe Thaike, who became the first president of the independent Union of Burma. His consort was Sao Nang Hearng Hkam, the founder of the Shan State Army (SSA).

A similar story has taken palce in northern Shan State with the palace of Sao Kya Seng, Prince of Hsipaw and his consort Sao Nang Inge who wrote Twilight of Burma. This historical building has been closed, according to sources.