A pilot crop substitution project will be at the top of the agenda in the upcoming Union level meeting between the government and the Restoration Council of Shan State / Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), according to RCSS/SSA leader Lt-Gen Yawdserk.
The two sides have already held 3 formal meetings:
2 December 2011 State-level in Taunggyi
16 January 2012 Union-level in Taunggyi
19 May 2012 Union-level in Kengtung
It was at the Kengtung meeting that the RCSS/SSA delegation, led by Yawdserk himself, had presented its 6-year plan to eradicate drugs. The plan proposes a “livelihood development first” approach rather than a “by force” approach in dealing with the issue.
In response, the government, according to the first point of the 12 point agreement signed between the two sides on the same day, said it “joyfully welcomes” the plan and would submit it the “Head of State”.
The planned meeting, the date and venue for which are yet to be disclosed, will be taking place 5 months after the Kengtung agreement.
The RCSS team, led by Brigadier General Pawng Kherh, will be presenting pilot projects in Shan State South. On the government’s side, national police chief Kyaw Kyaw Tun and deputy home minister Brig-Gen Kyaw Zan Myint will reportedly be joining Naypyitaw’s chief negotiator U Aung Min to consider the proposal. “A representative from the UNODC (Office on Drugs and Crimes), we were told, will also be there as an observer,” said Col Sai Harn, the RCSS “drug czar”.
According to Yawdserk, the government, and especially its military, “need to trust us enough, so the plan could go ahead.”
Apart from that he also acknowledged existing misunderstanding of the plan by the people, other armed movements and even among the RCSS/SSA members.
There are conflicting reports of some SSA officials collecting opium taxes and others forbidding farmers to grow opium poppies. People from Namzang who recently arrived in Chiangmai’s Fang district, said they left their homes after it was learned local SSA authorities had issued orders banning poppy cultivation.
On the other hand, the RCSS/SSA is also holding public consultations in Shan State East and South in preparation for the political dialogue, the third one in the government’s 3 stage peace process. The first two stages are ceasefire and development.