In response to criticisms that the 3-day Shan conference in Rangoon that concluded Wednesday, 28 November, did not come up with formal resolutions, its organizers have countered with statements that the meeting augurs well for subsequent peace building efforts.
“We were not able to hold this kind of meetings where we could speak freely before,” said Hkun Htun Oo, leader of the 1990 elections winning Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) in Shan State and the meeting’s patron. “But this time, we have been allowed to do it, without any (official) interference. Peace can be established only under such congenial atmosphere.”
The meeting’s spokeswoman Nang Voe Seng agrees. “This is the first time in 50 years that we are allowed to hold such a meeting,” she said. “Naturally, there were many participants each of whom had many things to say. We had been able to discuss ways and means to achieve peace and exchange views for the first time. And we were able to reach consensus among us on several topics although there wasn’t time to draft and discuss on the agreements formally.”
The participants, for instance, had unanimously agreed that federalism was the answer to the more than 60 year old conflict in Burma, she pointed out.
The organizers also expressed their appreciation for President Thein Sein and his government, without whose “permission and encouragement”, this meeting would have taken place.
According to Hkun Htun Oo, the next step would be to hold and all Shan State conference for peace.
Critics however have warned organizers not to be carried away by this initial success. “Remember the 1960-62 federal amendment movement,” said one to SHAN. “State level and inter-state level conferences were allowed to hold freely. But when the national level seminar was held to discuss it, the army took matters into its own hands.”
Gen Ne Win, who led the coup d’etat on 2 March 1962, reportedly told his close associate U Chit Hlaing later that the military takeover would not have taken place, had he then understood the Lord Buddha’s teachings the way he understood them “now”.