Day Two, 28 October 2013: The perfect host
Just before we left for Myitkyina, the Kachin State capital, we met two people:
U Hla Maung Shwe, of Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) who explained to us that the plan agreed with the Kachin Independence Organization/Kachin Independence Army (KIO/KIA) during the 8-10 October talks was for the Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC) to meet with representatives of all the ethnic armed organizations (EAO) in Myitkyina. That was helpful, because earlier we were under the impression that the KIO/KIA, armed with the resolutions from the EAO Conference in Laiza, would be meeting the UPWC alone, with observers from other groups as it had done earlier. Which implied that the Laiza conference, apart from adopting a common stand, must choose a joint negotiating team.
He also informed us that President Thein Sein had assigned himself 3 missions for the rest of his tenure: Peace, Youth and Economy. Accordingly, he would be doing something that has never been done in Burma’s history: sending a message to the conference.
Hkun Htun Oo, the leader of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), who has accepted the President’s request to help foster harmony among different groups and communities in Shan State earlier this year. His efforts resulted in the founding of the Committee for Shan State Unity (CSSU) on 17 October. He told us that the peace process should not necessarily end in 2015 with the possible retirement of President Thein Sein. It must continue after 2015 whoever the next President is. “I also hope that this is not going to be a repetition of the Sri Lankan peace process (which ended with a return to war and subsequent Tamil Tigers’ defeat),” he said.
At 14:15, we were off to Myitkyina on Air KBZ, owned by “Sra Kyawng” U Aung Ko Win whose daughter Nang Leng Kham is the company’s chair. The inflight magazine is obviously named “Mai Hsoong,” the Shan equivalent of “Hello”.
A rousing reception had been prepared by the Peacetalks Creation Group (PCG) formed by Yup Zau Hkawng, a grizzled Kachin businessman, when we arrived in Myitkyina at 16:30, from the airport all the way to the Nanthida Riverside Hotel on the western bank of the Irrawaddy.
From that date to until we flew back on 5 November, I found nothing to find fault with the Kachins’ famous hospitality:
- One or two automobiles were assigned to each EAO delegation, with the group’s banner in front
- Each delegate was given a separate room in Laiza and accorded a free laundry
- Three main meals per day plus two coffee/tea breaks
- Medics were assigned at each hotel to look after the delegates with health complaints
- A trip to Myitsone, where the Chinese-led hydropower dam project was put to a halt by the President in 2011
As I had informed them just before our departure, it was a perfect demonstration of the Shans’ famous saying on the Kachins:
“The Chinese are nice (to you) on the road
The Kachins are nice (to you) at home”
“Our worry is that we won’t be able to reciprocate your hospitality to our satisfaction,” KNU leader Gen Mutu Sayphoe told his KIO counterpart Zawng Hra who came to say goodbye on 3 November. “We may have to ask you to bring your own hammocks, blankets and mosquito nets.”
Well, I’m sure you can make up for all the short comings with ample supply of the famous Karen brew to match the Kachins’ Sabbyi, Mr Chairman. We can all go to Pa-an happy afterward.
|< Prev||Next >|