The 10-day visit inside Tatmadaw controlled Burma, 15-24 January, which included the signing of the Union level agreement for security and development and the meetings with both Shan political parties and civil societies, was an important indicator that things were improving but everything depends on the implementation, according to Maj Lao Hseng, spokesperson for the Restoration Council of Shan State / Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA).
The group signed a temporary ceasefire agreement on 2 December and another on 16 January, both in the Shan State capital, Taunggyi.
The second agreement included the setting up of the SSA’s main offices in Homong, opposite Maehongson, and Monghta, opposite Chiangmai’s Wiang Haeng, joint responsibility for the security of border checkpoints and cooperation against drugs.
“So far, so good,” said Lao Hseng. “But mutual trust will develop only after the agreements have been implemented.”
The meetings with two Shan parties: Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) and Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP) were also successful, according to him.
“But, mainly, they were just ice-breakers, because few on both sides knew very little of each other except through what’s on the news,” said another member of the delegation. “Naturally, there weren’t any in-depth discussions of how we hoped to cooperate in the future.”
The SNLD had formed Shan State joint Action Committee with the Shan State Army (SSA) North and the now-defunct Shan State National Army (SSNA) (both ceasefire groups at the time), with Hkun Tun Oo as its chairman, until he and 8 others were arrested and sentenced to 79-106 years in prison in 2005.
Hkun Tun Oo was among the 651 released on 13 January by presidential order.