Shan State Affairs
Shan State Affairs
A paper prepared by the office of
The Regional Co-coordinator
Australia & the Pacific
Shan State organization
P. O. Box 540
Mawson, A.C. T. 2607
Recently, an idea to establish an “economic quadrangle” or “golden quadrangle” has been talked about with much enthusiasm by business people and officials in northern Thailand, particularly those in Chiangrai. The project, it appears, visualizes the area encompassing northern Thailand eastern Burma, western Laos and southern China as a region of prosperity where cross-border trade and tourism booms.
A number of seminars on the subject had been organized and invitations had gone out to high-ranking officials in China, Burma and Laos to participate and exchange views in an effort to launch joint development programmes in the areas under the project. Substantive matters discussed at the meetings include an effort to start trading with China’s southern region which is expected to be Thailand’s largest market in the future, and an effort to push forward a plan to establish transportation routes linking the four countries. And how are these transportation routes being built?
As far as the Burma portion is concerned, I would like to present extracts from ASIA, Inc. October 1993 issue cover story entitled Burma’s Road of Shame.
The car carrying ASIA INC. Senior writer William Mellor is traveling on the road on which Thailand, Burma and China depend for a sharp rise in their prosperity, when it is stopped by a pile of rocks placed in the middle of the road. From out of the mist comes a clanking of chains. Ghostly forms appear. Shackled figures, leg irons manacled at the ankles, knees and waist, stumble toward the car, arms outstretched. Some of the prisoners are dressed in tattered sackcloth. Others are clad only in loin cloths. A few are little more than children, skinny teenagers with old men’s eyes. Welcome to the world of infrastructure improvement, Burma style-where chain gangs of prisoners break rocks to improve an unsurfaced highway that is increasingly becoming a major artery in the booming triangular trade between China, Burma and Thailand. This bone-shaking 172 kilometer road links Thailand’s bustling border town of Mae Sai to Kengtung, capital of Burma’s infamous Golden Triangle opium growing area, and sealed off from the outside world virtually since World War 2. From Kengtung the road winds northeast for another 75 kilometers to the China border, where it links with a highway leading to Jinghong, Yunnan Province a key trading city and Mekong River port. Reports of Burma using slave Labor road gangs are not new, and the United Nations gas roundly condemned the brutality of the military regime known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). But Burmese authorities apparently care little about what others think of them. In 1991, in an apparent effort to demoralize Shan nationalists, they demolished Kengtung’s finest building, the Golden Palace, which was built some 70 years ago by a Shan princeling.
So who are these Shans that the Burmese military wish so keenly to demoralize, that they are willing to demolish a historic the people who are the topic of my paper.
According to historians, the Shans (who call themselves Tai) lived as an independent people, south of the Yangtse River in China, round about 650 B.C. Certain descendents of those Tai / Shan people are said to have migrated into Burma and the Shan State. Their kins, descended from the same ancestors, now inhabit northeast Assam, Yunnan, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. The Shan people had been gradually pushed south, at about the beginning of the Christian Era by the advance of the Tartars. About 650 A.D. the Shans formed a powerful state in Nanchao, the mordern Yunnan, and could resist Chinese attempts at conquest until 1253.During the years 754 to 763 A.D. the Nanchao Shans extended their rule into the upper basin of the Irrawaddy River and came into contact with the Pyu who were then rulers of the Upper Burma Plains. The Pyu were a race which later merged with others to form the Burmese. Trade and commerce and internal and external relations developed through these contacts, with Nanchao and with China. Even in those days some Shans ventured beyond Upper Burma into Lower Burma to mingle and live together with the Mons.
Even before the fall of the Nanchao Kingdom, the Shans had crossed Upper Burma to establish the once powerful. Ahom Kingdom, in the northeastern part of India now known as Assam. The Shans moved into the area now known as the Shan State in large numbers and settled down and were well established by the time King Anawrahta ascended his throne in the 11th century.
The Shans tried desperately to defend their city and their kingdom of Nanchao from the Chinese attackers, but in 1253 the Kingdom fell into the hands of the Chinese. The Shans, unwilling to live under foreign domination, move towards the south in strength, to seek freedom. They joined up with the Shans already settled in the area, and in 1262 took over Chiengrai, in 1296 Cheingmai and in 1315 took Ayuddhya, and established their own kingdoms. In Upper Burma the Shans established the Kingdoms of Mogaung (Mong Kawng), and Mohnyin (Mong Yang), and in the Shweli basin, the Mao Kingdom.
Looking at the relationships between the Shans and the Burmese, we note that King Anawrahta ascended the Burmese throne in Pagan in 1044 A.D. and during his 43 year reign, he was able to unify Burma under his rule for the first time in history. During this time he sent detachments of his army into the Shan State to ensure the security of his Kingdom. However, he had no intention of annexing the Shan State. He merely wished to defend the low lying plains of Burma from raids by the Shans. For this purpose he established a string of fortified towns along the length of the foothills. Relations between Shans and Burmese became friendlier under Anawrahta’s successors, but the Kingdom of Pagan fell to the Chinese attackers in 1287 A. D. and was destroyed. Then in1312 A. D. a Shan Prince took the Kingly Title of “Thihathu” and ascended the Burmese throne in the City of Pinya.
The (Mao) Shans who had established Kingdoms in Mohnyin, Mogaung and the Shweli areas then overran the Kingdoms of Pinya and Sagaing in 1364 A.D. After they had withdrawn, a Shan Prince from Ava, whose title was Thadominbya, combined Pinya and Sagaing and established a new Kingdom, over which he ruled. The Shans ruled Upper Burma from 1282 A.D. to 1531 A.D.
In 1527 A.D. due to the attacks of the Chaofa of Mohnyin on Ava, the Shans and Burmese of the area left their homes and descended southwards towards Toungoo, where they established a new city and Kingdom. Thohanbwa, the son of the Chaofa of Moehnyin who became King of Ava, was soon assassinated due to his lack of skill in statecraft and administration, and in 1543 A.D. Onbaung Khun Maing succeeded him on the throne.
Meanwhile from Toungoo, in the year 1555 A.D. King Bayinnaung succeeded in unifying the whole of Burma for the second time in the history of Burma . He was able to “persuade’ the Shan Chaofas the to submit his suzerainty. In accordance with the traditions of the earlier Burmese Kings, the administrative setup was that the Shan Chaofas who submitted to the suzerainty of the Burmese King retained full powers to rule over their own State. Because of this relationship was based on mutual respect, the Shans and the Burmese developed a cooperation that was very close. The military forces of Burma include contingents of Shan soldiers who proved their valour on the foreign battlefields.
That is why Shans and Burmese had lived closely together, like brethren, till the fall of Upper Burma to the British in 1886 . So close were the relationships between the Shans and the Burmese that after the fall of Upper Burma, the Shan Choafas,with the intention of restoring freedom to Burma and to the Shan State, chose the Burmese Princes Limbin and Saw Yan Naing to head their confederacy, and started waging war against the British. It was, of course a vain effort. The noble intentions could not be achieved. Instead, the Shan State ended up being carved up in 1893 and confined within its present borders, for the convenience o British administration. From 1886 to 1893, the British Government administered the Shan State by following the traditional methods adopted by Burmese Kings. They recognized Chaofas by presenting them with Sanads, and allowing them to administer their states in accordance with Shan States in accordance with Shan State custom. However, they introduced the British Frontier Area Service “Assistant Superintendents” into the Shan State.
Between 1897 and 1922 home rule was gradually introduced into Burma, and one Shan Chaofa was appointed as representative of the Shans, to the Governor’s Advisory Council, to advise the Governor on matters pertaining to the Shan State . Then from 1922 to 1935, the Dyarchy Government came into being in Burma, and the Federated Shan States was established in the Shan State. The British Commissioner was appointed Chairman of the Federated Shan States Council and the Chaofas were given the privilege of discussing and advising the Commissioner on administration of the General Administration. In 1935 a Government with 91 departments was introduced in Burma. In the Shan States, thanks to the efforts of the Chaofas, a Permanent Executive, selected by the Federal Council, came into being. The Permanent Executive was able to have frequent meetings with the Governor to discuss General Administration matters. Thus the administration of the Federated Shan States was slowly swept within the ambit of the powers of the Shan States Federal Council. By the Burma Act of 1935 the Shan State was administratively separated from Burma proper and put under a second administrative circle. Then in 1942 during the Second World War, the Japanese invaded Burma and the Shan State and occupied the entire country. But even the Japanese treated the Shan State as distinct from Burma. The Shans have always been a distinct entity, free and independent for most of their history.
The Shans after the Second World War
At the end of the Second World War, the British Armies reoccupied Burma. Before the return of the Burma Government –in –exile that had taken refuge in Simla, India, the whole of Burma, including the Shan State came under military administration. During the Military Administration period, civilian matters were dealt with by the Civil Administration Service (Burma), headed by military officers, and known by the initials CAS (B). CAS (B)’s primary function was to provide aid and assistance to victims of war, and to restore the war shattered economy of the country.
The Shan Chaofas, other Shan leaders and the Shan people as a whole had endured great suffering during the war, but had emerged with heightened political awareness. The principles embodied in of the Atlantic Charter, the Teheran Declaration and the Charter of the United Nations acted as beacons for the leaders of the Shan State. They yearned for the right to self-determination for every nationality. The Japanese had during their occupation of the Shan States, unilaterally and forcibly handed over the eastern Shan States of Kengtung and Mong Pan to Thailand and this act together with the oppression of people in general by the Japanese military, had aroused nationalism and the desire for independence in the Shan State and had caused the Shan people to rise against the Fascists, in the same way as the Burmese had done in Burma proper.
The Burma Government –in –exile headed by the Government of Burma, Sir Reginald Dorman Smith eventually returned to Burma. Sir Reginald, who appeared to be totally unaware of the great changes in the political outlook and circumstances that had taken place in the post-war period in Burma, brought along with him a bundle of plans drawn up in Simla, for the revitalization of the former expansionist colonial administration. Among these plans, the one which directly affected the Shan State was entitled “Frontier Areas Administration”. Up until the outbreak of the Second World War, the frontier areas, comprising the Arakan Hills, the Chin Hills, the Naga Hills, the Kachin Hills, the Shan Plateau and the Salween District were designated as Reserved Areas and placed under the direct rule of the Governor. Various types of administration were employed for those areas, depending on the stage of development each area had attained. The plan brought by Sir Reginald Dorman Smith, however, would abolish the various types of administration and replace them with a single type. Whereas in former days, there were traditional leaders such as the Chin Taungoks, the Kachin Duwas, the Shan Chaofas and the Karen Sawkes who administered their own areas, the new plan would replace these traditional leaders with appointed advisory. committees at various levels, ostensibly to bring the administration closer to democracy. Although the new system of administration appeared, superficially at least, to be progressive, in actuality it was devised to ensure a secure foothold for the expansionist colonial administration.
It was inevitable that independence would have to be granted to Burma proper, which had just emerged, with morale raised, from its successful war of resistance against Fascism. The real reason for the Frontier Areas Administration plan was that when the inevitable occurred and independence had to be granted to Burma proper, the frontier areas would form a single unit which would be withheld from the grant of independence.
The traditional rulers such as the Chaofas, Duwas and Taungoks who, heretofore, had ruled according to Customary Law of their own, would under the Frontier Areas Administration system have had to share the administration their areas with the advisory councils at various levels, thus reducing the powers they formerly enjoyed, and at the same time being transformed from being the chief administrator to no more than the official collector of revenue. This was the reason why the Chaofas, Duwas, and the Taungoks refused to accept the Frontier Areas Administration rules.
Everyone understood that Burma proper would undoubtedly gain independence in the near future. However, neither the Administration of the Governor of Burma, nor the British Government would comment on the future status of the Frontier Areas of which the Shan State formed a part. Every available trick was being utilized to exclude the Frontier Areas from the Independence that the British Government was going to be forced to grant to Burma proper. The expansionist colonial government tried its best to cut the political communications between the Frontier Areas and Burma proper, by attempting to sow division and discord between the different peoples, hoping thereby to ensure that there would be no coming together of the two sides.
However, the forward-looking Shan Chaofas made preparations for a conference to be convened somewhere in the Shan State, to be attended by leaders from the Frontier Areas and from Burma proper. Thus came into being the First Panglong Conference in 1946. British officials in the Shan State tried to prevent the issuance of invitations to attend the Conference, to the Burmese representatives led by General Aung Sun.
The idea and spirit of a Union took root at the first Panglong Conference. The leaders of the Frontier Areas became united. It was decided that a second Panglong Conference would be held the next year.
The struggle for independence intensified in Burma. This resulted in the Aung San-Atlee Agreement on the formation of an Interim government for Burma and for the summoning of a Constituent Assembly. The Aung Sun –Atlee Agreement made the question of a union between the Shan State and Burma an extremely urgent matter. On what terms would a union be carried out? Would the Shan State be participating in the soon to be summoned Constituent Assembly? The Shan Chaofas and other leaders of the Shan State needed urgently to come up with the answers to these questions.
In accordance with the Panglong Agreement, the Chaofa of Mongpawn State was selected to be a Member of the Governor’s Executive Council and Counsellor for the Frontier Areas, and Sama Duwa Sinwa Naw and U Vum Ko Hau were selected as Deputy Councellors for the Kachin Hills and the Chin Hills . In this way the desire of the leaders of the Frontier Areas to co-operate with Burma to more speedily achieve freedom was initially put into effect.
In accordance with point 8 (d) of the Aung Sun–Atlee Agreement, the British Government set up the Frontier Areas Committee of Enquiry headed by Labor Party M .P. Col. Rees–Williams to enquire into the best method of associating the Frontier peoples with the working out of the new Constitution of Burma. According to Point 1 of the Aung San –Atlee Agreement, in Burma proper, representatives would be elected by popular vote under the 1935 Act. In the Frontier Areas, however, there had never been any experience with popular elections, and in the extremely short period of time available, election by popular vote was not feasible. The leaders of the Frontier Areas therefore agreed to select and appoint representatives in accordance with the circumstances prevailing in each area. The Federal Council was replaced by a Shan State Council composed of Chaofas and an equal number of representatives of the people to form the electoral body. The Frontier Areas Committee of Enquiry recommended that Shan State sent 25 representatives to the Constituent Assembly.
The Shans at the Constituent Assembly
The Constituent Assembly was convened on the 10th June 1947. With regard to the formation of a Union or Federation, draft proposal No. 2 of the Directives presented the merest outline. But the Shans had put their trust in General Aung San, and he was the type of leader who kept his promises. Unfortunately, the National Leaders headed by General Aung San were assassinated on the 19th July 1947. Among his six colleagues who were killed with him was Chao Sam Htun, the Chaofa of Mong Pawn State, the Councellor for the Frontier Areas and the Representative of the Shans on the Governor’s Executive Council. The representatives of the Shan State committed themselves to achieving Independence by cooperating with the Burmese and continued to participate in the work of the Constituent Assembly in spite of the machinations of the Colonialists who warned them that the situation in Burma was very bad and that the Shan representatives should go home.
But according to the “Blue Book ” which was drafted by the same persons about 15 years later, the Representatives of the Shan State who participated in the Constituent Assembly were
|(2)||Had no understanding of legislative processes;|
|(3)||Were preoccupied with the prospect of total independence within one year;|
|(4)||Were trying to exhibit a united front after the loss of their leaders through political assassination.|
Therefore they were easily misled by the so-called Constitutional Advisers.
With regard to the Division of powers, U Chan Htoon explained that they had studied the various Federal Unions in existence. There were the United States of America, Switzerland and Australia, three countries considered to be the extreme type of federation, where the states hold the residual Powers and the Centre is given only the Powers considered necessary. Then there was Canada which was considered to be a moderate type of federation, where the Federal Government holds all the Powers and allocates only limited Powers to the Provinces. What we have drawn up may be considered rather similar to the Canadian model though it is not exactly the same. To sum up briefly, we have strictly detailed the Powers we are giving to the States, and reserved the remainder for the Central Government to utilize as it thinks fit.
Despite the explanations and changes that were incorporated, the Shan Representatives:
|(a)||were at the time, in deep mourning at the assassination of the National Leaders;|
|(b)||were eager to gain freedom as speedily as possible in accordance with the guideline laid down by their leaders;|
|(c)||never even entertained the thought that their own brethren would begin pressuring and bargaining against them after freedom had been obtained;|
|(d)||never realized that by allowing Burma proper to be combined with the Union Government instead of being established as a constituent state, they would be doing a great disservice to the Shan State;|
|(e)||failed completely to understand that by allowing the division of powers to be conducted according to the Canadian model, the Shan State would lose its dignity and autonomy;|
|(f)||knew only joy at the completion of Constitution in October 1947 in time to be presented to the British Parliament, foreshadowing the transfer of power and granting of Independence.|
It was for the reasons stated above, that the Chaofa of Tawngpeng State, on behalf of the Representatives of the Shan State, rose up and warmly supported the Constitution.
The Shans after Independence
Shortly after Burma’s independence in January 1948, there was a communist uprising (led by Thakin Soe of the Red Flag communists and Thakin Than Tun of the White Flag communists); rebellion by the AFPFL’s own militia , the People’s Volunteer Organization (PVO); mutiny by major components of the 1st , 2nd , and 3rd Burma Rifles; uprising by Muslim Mujahid in Arakan, armed insurrection by the Karen National Defence Organization (KNDO) which enjoyed the support of almost all Karen communities and Karen army units; and a mutiny by some Kachin Rifle units led by Captain Naw Seng. It looked as if U Nu’s AFPFL government would be toppled since it held only the capital, Rangoon ,while the rebels known as “multi colored insurgents”, held the important towns of Moulmein, Pegu, Prome, Insein (actually a suburb of Rangoon), Meiktila, Toungoo and Mandalay. The Shans, however rallied to U Nu’s AFPFL government and stemmed the tide of rebellion.
But the indigenous rebels had barely been contained in the Shan State, when fleeing KMT (Chinese Nationalists) units poured in, and with assistance from Taiwan and the United States, reorganized and proceeded to transform eastern Shan State into a springboard for the invasion of China. Consequently, more Burma Army units had to be sent into the Shan State to deal with the KMT. The Shan government and people at first welcomed the Burma Army, but before long it became just another foreign occupation force.
The military’s reign of terror put the Shan State government, Shan State MPs, civil servants, political parties and Chaofas in a most awkward position since nothing could be done to curb the army’s excesses, as matters pertaining to Defence were claimed to be under the jurisdiction of the Union Government.
Consequently, the leaderless and desperately unhappy people turned more and more to those who preached armed rebellion. In 1959 bursting with bitterness and anger, Shan La and Wa fighters led by a paramilitary police (UMP) officer Bo Maung and a University student Chao Kyaw Htun, attacked and captured the town of Tangyan in northern Shan State . It took the Burma Army, supported by the air force and artillery almost ten days of hard fighting to drive the rebels out.
The armed outbursts at Tangyan in 1959 shocked the Shan State Government as much as it did the Burma Army. So when the opportunity came up, the Shan Government and leaders put forward proposal for changes in the Federal Movement.
The Shans and the Federal Proposal
When the Government of the Union of Burma and the Government of the People’s Republic of China agreed on the demarcation of the boundary between the two countries and when the said agreement was approved by Union Parliament, it became apparent to the Government that the Constitution would have to be amended, especially in relation to its boundaries. The Government apparently thought it would take advantage of the opportunity thus offered to round off the rough edges of the Constitution, if there be any. A motion was accordingly made in Parliament for appointment of a Constitution Revision Committee was appointed with the Hon’ble Judicial Minister, Dr. E Maung, as Chairman. All prominent political parties and all the States were fully represented on the Committee. A few eminent jurists were also co-opted.
The Government laid down three principles for guidance of the Committee in dealing with the question of the revision the Constitution. The principles are as follows:
|1.||Not to infringe the principle underlying the Constitution;|
|2.||Not to infringe the principle of Democracy;|
|3.||Not to suggest any amendment that will sow dissension or promote discord among the races living within the Union.|
At one of the meetings of the Constitution Revision Committee, a Shan representative is alleged to have asked the Chairman what sort of the Constitution they could suggest. The Chairman is alleged to have replied that they could bring forward any amendment that would not infringe on any of the principles set out above; whereupon the Shan State Government called a meeting of the people of the Shan State under the Chairmanship of Mongnai Chaofa, the Chairman of the Shan State Council. The meeting was said to have been well-attended by representatives of all the political parties and some independent people. At the meeting, a committee of 30 men was appointed to go into the question of the amendment of the constitution. The said committee in turn appointed a small committee of six men, called the Steering Committee to discharge the task entrusted by the meeting.
In due course, the Steering Committee produced a report, which we might call the Shan State Government’s “Blue Book”, suggesting several amendments to the constitution, one of which was to make Burma a State and thereafter to make all States equal in status, power and privilege.
The report further set out a list of grievances which the states and their peoples suffer in dealing with the Central Government and its officers. The report was discussed, approved and passed at a special conference called for the purpose. The Kachin State, the Kayah State, the Karen State and the Chin Special Division each sent either their head of State or a member of their Government and representatives of political parties. The Head of the Kachin State and the Head of the Chin Special Division did not agree with the report and refused to support it; whereas members of the political parties of the Kachin and the Karen States and the Chin Special Division were divided in their opinion.
Later, the Head of Shan State suggested calling a meeting of the representatives of all the States so as to re-vivify the dying United Hill People’s Organization. To that meeting representatives of the embryonic Arakan and Mon States were also invited. Five resolutions were passed at the meeting. We are not concerned with all the resolutions except one which inter alia as follows:
“We the people present at this meeting support the principle underlying the report for the amendment of the constitution”.
After the All-States conference had been held in Taungyi, Chao Pye, the Chaofa of Mongnai, Chairman of the Shan State Steering Committee for the Revision of the Constitution, accompanied by Chao Num, the Chaofa of Laikha, Chao Shwe Hmon, the Chaofa of Kehsi-Mansam, U Khun Htee, U Htun Myint (Taungyi ), U Htun Pe, U Kyaw Sein, U Mya Min, U Than Htay and U Than Pe journeyed down to Rangoon, arriving on the 26th of June 196, for the purpose of clarifying to the political leaders of Burma, including the Prime Minister U Nu, the resolutions of the Taungyi All–States conference. Before meeting with Prime Minister U Nu, the Shan Representatives, in accordance with their programme for informally briefing the political leaders about the Federal Proposal, on the 1st of July went to the Pyidaungsu (Union) Party Headquarters, and met with former Secretary-General Thakin Kyaw Dun and explained to him how the Federal proposal came about . The Federal proposal which was adopted by a decision of the Taungyi Conference, they said, should not be regarded as a Shan proposal, but should be seen as a principle agreed to, proposed and adopted by all parties and races at the conference. The proposal was not the result of the fact that the Chaofas having up their tradition powers, were no longer going to be automatically elected to Parliament, from the next General Elections onwards. Thakin Kyaw Dun admitted that he was aware that the States had genuine grievances, but that he considered that these arose from personal conflicts. Therefore he did not think that it should be necessary to revise the constitution merely to resolve problems that had arisen out of some personality conflicts. He urged that in trying to resolve the problem, the spirit of conciliation and avoidance of vindictiveness, which he referred to as the family spirit, should be adopted though which he was confident an acceptable solution could be found.
Other Shan State representatives went to the residence of U Aung Than, President of the People’s Progress Party, and met with leaders of that Party on 1st July. At the meeting it was agreed that the culprit for all the grievances of not only the Shan State, but also for the grievances of all the States, was the AFPFL Government which had been in power for ten years. The AFPFL Government had not only been guilty of chauvinism in relation to the National races, but had been guilty of maladministration, and the problems concerning the National Races had arisen on the base of these misguided action.
Shan State Representative met with leaders of the People’s volunteer Organization (PVO). At this meeting it was stated that the Shan State Representatives had come to Rangoon to dispel the mistrust and the misunderstanding held by the Burmese towards the people of the Shan State. The leaders of the PVO replied that they wanted unity, not dissension, between the national races of the States and the nationals of Burma proper, and that their views on the Federal proposal had been expressed in their message which was sent to Taungyi All-States Conference.
After meeting with the representatives of the Shan State, Prime Minister U Nu held a press conference on the 11th of July. Present at the press conference were Minister Chao Hkun Hkio, and representatives from the Shan State, Minister Dr. E Maung, Minister Bohmu Aung, Chief Secretary U Shwe Mra, Secretary U Win Pe, Inspector–General of Police U Bo, Deputy IGP U Ba Aye and Pyidaungsu Party Organizer U Ohn. At the press conference, Prime Minister U Nu spoke on the Federal proposal as follows:
“I have studied the Shan proposal myself, and have subsequently called today’s press conference, and this is what I have to say. When I studied their proposal, I found that what they have been doing can not be faulted. The Shan representatives, in writing up the Shan proposal and inviting like–minded minority groups to endorse the proposal for submission to the Government, cannot be said to be doing anything wrong. They have merely acted in accordance with the Government’s invitation to bring forward any suggestion for amending sections of the Constitution which present difficulties in actual implementation. The Government had been considering making amendments to the Constitution during the present session of Parliament, and had decided to invite suggestions. When a group of people, with the permission of the Government, draw up a resolution saying this is what we want and present their demand in the form of that resolution, they are only exercising their democratic rights. The Government had no right to be angry at people who are merely exercising their democratic rights. We are not angry at the drawing up of the Shan proposal. But there has been some misconceptions on the issue within the country. I myself had one or two misconceptions, which were dispelled after two meetings with Chao Hkun Hkio, where clarifications were made.
U Nu later agreed to convene a National Conference to deal with the Federal Proposal. The National Conference to discuss the Federal Proposal began meeting at 6 p.m. on the 24th of February 1962 while the Parliament was still in session, in the Main Hall of the Burma Broadcasting Service building on Prome Road.
In the event, the Conference never completed its work. Because before dawn on the 2nd of March General Ne Win’s Bren-carriers fanned out across Rangoon, to overthrow the elected government and install a military dictatorship.
So what had the Shan achieved in the 20 years that followed their decision at Panglong in 1947 to throw in their lot with Burma proper? I suppose the image of those chain gangs, mentioned in the introduction, with leg irons manacled to the ankles and the waist could be representative of what the Shans as well as the ordinary Burmese have got. And what of the future? I don’t know. Countries and Governments look to their own interests first. And in Burma itself, to quote the words of the first Australian envoy to Burma, “Once generals get a taste for power they find it hard to give it up. It gives them great personal privileges and a sense of superiority over ordinary mortals. They are, however, mostly uneducated in any real sense, and have no understanding of the complexities of government in the modern world. They therefore take the easy way –which is to cut the country off from the outside world and stifle the wishes of the people for democratic forms of government.”
Chao Hso Hom
The author is the son of Chao Sam Htun, the Chaofa of Mong Pawn who was assassinated with General Aung San in 1947. In 1958 Chao Hso Hom became the Chaofa of Mong Pawn and was elected an MP in the Chamber of Nationalities. He was one of the 30 member of the Shan State Steering Committee for the Revision of the Constitution of the Union of Burma and was detained for five years after the coup d’tat in 1962.