Lt-Gen Yawd Serk, leader of the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS), has appealed to the two leading Shan parties: Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) and Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP) to defer their separate calls for 8 states (SNLD) and 14 states (SNDP) for the sake of unity.
“If our common demand is the implementation of Panglong Agreement and Federalism, that should be sufficient for our unity,” he told the 6- member fact finding commission appointed by the Committee for Shan State Unity (CSSU) on 3 May.
The commission (4 male, 2 female) wound up its mission that began on 7 June on 16 July with the meeting with the RCSS/SSA leadership at its Loi Taileng main base between Thailand’s Maehongson and Shan State’s Mongpan township.
Its mission was to find out how the CSSU, formed October 2013 by 2 Shan political parties, 2 Shan armies and 9 Shan civil society organizations (CSOs), could be further strengthened and expanded.
The SNLD’s 8 states stand: Burma Proper as a single unit together with 7 non-Burman units (Arakan, Chin, Kachin, Karen,Karenni, Mon and Shan) and the SNDP’s 14 states stand: 7 Burman/mixed regions with 7 non-Burman states have for years served as an immovable stumbling block between the two.
Academics including the much respected late Chao Tzang Yawnghwe (1939-2004) have suggested that the number of states is of less importance than whether the country is federal or not, but so far they have failed to hit home.
To aggravate things, some non-Shans are demanding separate statehoods, most particularly the Wa on the Sino-Burma border led by the United Wa State Army (UWSA).
“Nevertheless, the positive outcome of the 40-day mission has been the agreement by all groups concerned to promote and preserve unity, and most importantly, to speak with the same voice.” said Peun Kham, 65, leader of the fact finding commission, who is much respected among the Shan circle especially in Shan State East.
The commission is to resume its fact-finding mission before the first anniversary of the CSSU.
According to Harn Yawnghwe, Executive Director of Euro-Burma Office (EBO) that has been assisting the development of democracy and federalism in Burma, common stand should be reached on the questions of 8/14 states and the separate statehood call by Wa before Shan unity could be cemented and expanded to include non-Shans.
The quest for unity has become more and more challenging as the 2015 general elections remain only a year away. Critics have pointed out that without unity and basic understanding between the SNDP and SNLD, election victory in Shan State will be in the hands of either the National League for Democracy (NCD) or the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).