Thursday, August 31, 2006

Tough year in the offing for Wa

News - S.H.A.N.

Wednesday, 30 August 2006

The visit to Panghsang by Lt-Gen Thein Sein, Secretary 1 of the ruling military council's, August 15 had failed to bring about the relaxation in the restrictions on the timber and mineral exports imposed by China at the request of Burmese authorities, according to both local and non-local businessmen.

Thein Sein had met the Wa's No. 2 man, Xiao Minliang, to negotiate the resumption of the hitherto booming timber and mineral trade suspended since March 26. "He had proposed that the Wa allow junta-operated immigration, customs and schools to move in," said a disappointed Thai businessman of Shan descent. "The Wa, however, had refused to budge." The report was confirmed by a Wa source.

On the other hand, human traffic has not been affected by the ban, which is in sharp contrast to Panghsang's neighbour Mongla in the southeast, run by its ally Sai Leun aka Lin Mingxian, where passages by people are heavily restricted but trucks loaded with coal, manganese and other minerals mined in the area roll into China practically unchecked. (Nay Pyi Taw's schools, customs and immigration are permitted to operate in Mongla.)

Back in Panghsang, timber trucks can pass through the border checkpoints into China 's Meng Lien only after paying a hefty duty, Y 5,000 ($ 625) per ton. In addition, there must be sufficient documentation that the logs originate either in Thailand or Laos , but not Burma. "For big companies, that's not such a big deal," said a Chinese businessman of Shan descent. "But for many other such as ours, it's not an easy option."

Over a year has gone by since the Wa had declared its drug-free stance, and as each month goes by, they are finding it more and more challenging to stick to their word, although Xiao Minliang, on June 26 making the first difficult year of the Wa's "supreme sacrifice", as he called it, had promised to hang on whatever the outcome.

"We had expected that assistance would flow in," said a Wa administrative officer in Pangkham ( Land of Gold ), as Panghsang ( Land of Bamboo ) is officially known. "But what we are getting is only a tenth of what we need."

The UN World Food Programme (WFP), for instance, has only been able to provide rice for children going to school, but not much for adults, according to him.

The WFP, in its April evaluation report, made no bones about the Wa statement. One big problem it has been facing since the ouster of Gen Khin Nyunt in 2004 is that it has to go through a "cumbersome permit process": first, from the Trade Policy Council headed by Deputy Senior General Maung Aye; secondly, from the Rangoon Region Command before transporting rice to Mandalay; thirdly, from the Mandalay-based Central Region Command before transporting rice to Lashio; and finally, from the Lashio-based Northeastern Region Command before transporting it to the Wa, Kokang, Kachin and Palaung recipients.

"What's more, their attempt to sell off their old stock (of heroin) in September (2005) had also been foiled (when the Burma Army, reportedly tipped off by China seized the cargo in Mongpiang)," said the Thai businessman. "So their only way out is to hand over the financial rein to Wei Hsuehkang (which they did on July 4)."

Wei Hsuehkang, the de facto commander of 171st Military Region that adjoins northern Thailand, is wanted both in the kingdom and the United States on drug charges.

Commenting on the latest developments, Sao Seng Suk, Chairman of the exiled Shan Democratic Union (SDU), said, "It seems the junta is doing its best to prevent the Wa from turning over a new leaf."

The WFP meanwhile is planning to continue its food programme for another three years, from January 2007 to December 2009. Besides the WFP, another UN agency, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is operating in the Wa region.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Virtual gambling in Myanmar's drug country

By Michael Black and Roland Fields

MONG LA, Shan State - Myanmar's jungle casinos are open for business again, only
this time with a new media twist that allows casino owners to dodge an official
ban on their operations and Chinese gamblers to play for even higher stakes
without leaving their homes.

Welcome to the latest incarnation of Mong La, Myanmar's low-grade rendition of
Las Vegas and a recurring irritant in China-

Myanmar relations. Situated opposite the town of Dalou in China's Yunnan
province, Mong La in the 1990s established itself as a Chinese tourism hub for
gambling, prostitution and transsexual cabaret shows - not to mention rampant
money-laundering, Western officials contend.

Located in Myanmar's Special Region No 4, the jungle town quickly emerged as a
sinkhole for unknown billions of Chinese yuan, including funds pilfered by
corrupt Chinese government officials, ill-gotten gains from Yunnan-based
organized crime syndicates, and the honest earnings of hardcore gamblers.

In January 2005, the town's many flashy casino-hotels were closed down after
Beijing, irked by reports of corrupt officials squandering state funds on
Myanmar gaming tables, banned their officials and citizens from traveling to
Mong La.

According to people familiar with the situation, China briefly sent a small
number of troops into the remote region to enforce the travel ban and pressure
casino operators to close down their operations. At one point, Chinese officials
threatened to cut Mong La's power supply, which is provided by Yunnan-based
electricity generators.

That hasn't deterred Lin Mingxian, more widely known by the alias Sai Leun, the
town's overlord, who currently commands a 2,000-3,000-strong militia known as
the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA). Sai Leun is believed to have
financed much of the city's gambling infrastructure in the late 1990s from cash
he allegedly earned in the narcotics trade.

The militia leader is now aggressively expanding his enterprise into online
gaming, a fast-growing multibillion-US-dollar global industry that is just now
catching on in China. On April 27, Sai Leun presided over the opening of seven
new Internet-enabled gambling facilities, specifically designed and outfitted
for online China-based gamers. Another 14 gambling venues are being carved out
of the jungle about 16 kilometers southwest of Mong La, set idyllically among
paddy fields and wandering water buffalo.

Asia Times Online recently gained a rare on-the-ground glimpse into the inner
workings of Mong La, arguably one of the most lawless areas of Southeast Asia.
After traveling in a casino owner's luxury sedan, with Chinese hip-hop music
blaring over the radio, down a winding dirt road outside of Mong La, ATol saw a
newly built casino sitting completely surrounded by tropical forest.

Inside the two-story stucco-encrusted building, black leather chairs sit around
immaculate baccarat tables while dead jungle bugs litter the otherwise spotless
new red carpeting. Suspended above the tables are cameras connected to the
Internet, which allow for scores of remote Chinese gamblers to play their hands.
In the center of the room sits a giant Buddha statue, which placidly overlooks
the entire operation.

Mong La's new casinos are a curious twist on Western-style online gaming, which
is conducted solely in cyberspace. From the comfort of their homes in Beijing,
Kunming or Shanghai, Chinese gamblers watch the tables via a live video feed
over the Internet and place their bets through agents on location at the jungle
casinos. The arrangement, says the casino operator, allows the players and
casino operators to circumvent recent Chinese efforts to prevent the outflow of
cash into Myanmar's black markets.

The transactions also entail a measure of trust. Online players inside China
transfer funds into the casino operators' China-based bank accounts. Once the
transfer is confirmed, a player logs on to the casino's website and watches the
game from the cameras above the tables via high-speed Internet while
communicating with his agent via mobile phone. When the hand is played out, the
remote player can opt to have winnings wired to his account or alternatively
order the agent to get the cash physically from the casino.

One of the casino operators who spoke with Asia Times Online claimed to be able
to cover up to US$1 million in bets in this fashion per day. New online casinos
recently opened at nearby Wan Hsieo, Mong Ma and the tract outside Mong La are
able to handle similar financial traffic, meaning total daily turnover at
Myanmar's online casinos could hit $20 million, depending, of course, on how the
cards are played. The operator said investors in mainland China, Hong Kong and
Thailand had contributed funds to the new casinos.


Sai Leun has a long history of risking life and limb. Prior to becoming chief of
Semi-Autonomous Region No 4, he was commander of the Communist Party of Burma's
815 War Zone and was widely viewed as one of the communists' ablest field
commanders. He joined the CPB as a Red Guard volunteer in 1968 alongside Wa
leaders Bao Yuxiang and Li Ziru.

After the breakup of the CPB in 1989, communist-held territory was divided into
so-called special regions, each with its own military and political wings. The
Myanmar generals, led then by military-intelligence chief Lieutenant-General
Khin Nyunt, brokered ceasefire agreements with the militias, allowing them a
large measure of local autonomy over their territories.

As such, the remote regions blossomed into major opium-production and
heroin-refining hubs, affording the region's leaders massive profits on the
illicit-drug trade. For his part, Sai Leun has claimed to have changed his
drug-trafficking ways and in the late 1990s declared his area of Special Region
No 4 a "drug-free zone" with Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the US House of
Representatives, senior United Nations officials and senior Myanmar generals at
his side.

Mong La's resurgent gambling operations have coincided with an improvement in
Sai Leun's health, which deteriorated rapidly after a series of alleged strokes
that coincided with China's armed intervention at Mong La and more recent
pressure from Myanmar's ruling junta to disarm his militia. Sai Leun is
immensely popular in his autonomous area, in part because of his unilateral
decision to exempt locals from paying taxes. He reportedly said during the April
27 opening of the new casinos, "The only burden you will continue to bear is
supplying us with new recruits for our army."

The junta's new calls to disarm Sai Leun's NDAA forces have also raised concerns
with the neighboring and allied 20,000-strong United Wa State Army (UWSA), the
world's largest narcotics-trafficking militia, which relies heavily on
trafficking routes in Sai Leun's territory to move its contraband out of

An official in Mong La characterized the relationship between the NDAA and the
UWSA as "not like brothers but like friends". This friendship is evident in the
UWSA troops who guard and protect many territories around Mong La and the many
luxury vehicles in the town that sport license plates marking them as from UWSA
territories. A junta move against Sai Leun could enflame new armed conflict in
the area, his supporters contend.

At the same time, Sai Leun has taken precautions against future disruptions to
his gambling businesses - particularly from China. To preempt a possible power
cut from China, he ordered the construction of a power plant in a converted
sugarcane refinery, which became operational one year ago and is capable of
independently supplying 30,000 kilowatts of power, well beyond the town's
current needs. Mong La's telecommunication infrastructure, however, is still
controlled by China, which could represent a pressure point on the casino's
Internet connections.

China is still the sole importer of the remote region's rubber and other
commodities and, judging by local markets, the local economy is increasingly
reliant on imports of cheap Chinese manufactures. Sai Leun, casino operators
reckon, has negotiated assurances from Yunnan officials against another Chinese
crackdown on his new-fangled gambling operations. However, a Wa official who
spoke with Asia Times Online in early June was less confident, saying, "The
Chinese can change their mind at any time."

Michael Black and Roland Fields are freelance journalists based in Chiang
Mai, Thailand.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Burmese generals in cahoots with drug lords in Shan State : Drug report

News - Mizzima News
Written by Nem Davies
Thursday, 03 August 2006

Burmese military generals are actively involved in the drug trade, accept bribes and cover up for drug traffickers, said a report released on Wednesday by media in exile the SHAN.

The 64-page report titled 'Hand in Glove,' by the Chiang Mai, Thailand based Shan Herald Agency News took two and-a-half years to compile. It has accused some of the top military brass like, Lieutenant general Thein Sein, the secretary I of the State Peace and Development Council, Lieutenant General Myint Hlaing, Lieutenant General Kyaw Win and some other military officers of having their palms greased by drug lords in Shan state.

Lieutenant General Thein Sein, the former commander of Triangle Region Command with the rank of major general received an astonishing 45 assorted motor vehicles, both for his own use and as gifts for his superiors in Rangoon, said the report.

"The army leaders used to collect taxes on poppy fields, the products and make way for the transportation of chemicals to drug refineries in south western Shan State borders areas," said Sein Kyi, an assistant editor and also field researcher for the booklet to Mizzima.

SHAN interviewed about 80 people living along Burma's borders with Thailand and China which are mostly controlled by pro-junta cease-fire ethnic armed groups. "It is not unlike Afghanistan where most government allies against rebels are found to be drug bosses," the report quoted an informed local as saying.

The report pointed out that the Burmese military expansion, from 168 infantry battalions in 1988 to 528 in May 2005, is one of the factors for military units to be lured to the illicit drug business in opium, methamphetamine and Yaba. The drug lords are from United Wa State Army, Kachin Defence Army, Shan Nationalities People's Liberation Organisation, Kokang and pro-military junta militia forces.

"Many teenagers use these tablets (methamphetamine) on their way to school because they are easy to buy and cheap, " said Sein Kyi. The report claimed that opium production in Shan state is on the rise. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has, however, reported that poppy cultivation dramatically decreased in 2005 to 32, 800 hectares down from 160,000 hectares in 1999.

"The military junta showed outsiders, including UNODC, some places which are easy to reach in areas controlled by ceasefire groups in Shan state. But there are many places which are under military control in very remote areas in the mountains between the eastern Than Lwin river and Northern Namkham rivers where major poppy fields exist," said Sein Kyi.

NMSP not to give up arms unless ethnic rights are guaranteed

News - NMG

Tuesday, 08 August 2006

The New Mon State Party will not give up its arms unless a federal union and ethnic rights are guaranteed, said a committee member of the party on the 59th Anniversary of Mon Resistance Day today.“We’ll have to think hard on giving up arms. It is subject to ethnic rights being endorsed,” said Nai Ong Ma-nge, a Central Committee member of the NMSP. “In 1958, we exchanged arms for peace and we learnt a big lesson. It was a great loss for we were unarmed. There are a lot we need to negotiate about in order to achieve a genuine federal union.”

The party today released a statement urging ethnic ceasefire groups to reconsider the situation they are in, given their inability to resolve the political problems in Burma.

“We urge for a common goal for every [opposition] organization and political party and we should work together in harmony to achieve that goal, with cooperation from the people,” said Nai Ong Ma-nge.Meetings and negotiations [with the Burmese junta] can be carried out if Mon people and the allies work together on common plans, suggested the NMSP.

The party’s chairman Nai Htow Mon, in his statement to the Mon people on Resistance Day, said the party will work hard to solve the political problems through talks across the table.To restore Mon State and gain self-determination rights for Mon people the National Defence Organization (MNDO) took up arms on August 19, 1948.After MNDO, the NMSP continued the resistance and agreed to a ceasefire with the Burmese military junta in 1995.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Ethnic cease-fire group insists on tripartite dialogue

News - IMNA
Written by Loa Htaw
Tuesday, 08 August 2006

Burmese ethnic cease-fire group, the New Mon State Party (NMSP) has again reiterated its demand to the junta to start a tripartite dialogue on the 59th Mon revolution day despite its cease-fire agreement with the regime. The NMSP signed a cease-fire agreement with the junta in 1995 but wants to have a tripartite dialogue for a solution to the country’s political problems.

The NMSP believes that without a tripartite dialogue between ethnic groups, the National League for Democracy (NLD), and the military government, the country’s political stalemate cannot be resolved. “We have been demanding a tripartite dialogue and will keep demanding it again and again. If tripartite talks begin, the situation will improve soon” said NMSP liaison officer Nai Ong Ma-nge. “The situation today is dependent on the government. If it wants peace today, we will get it today” he added. Mon people both in the country and abroad, celebrated the Mon revolution day which falls on the same day as the Burma uprising day on August 8, 1988. The Mon Canadian community also celebrated the anniversary of the revolution day on Sunday and urged in a statement to keep struggling until they get back their own state. Moreover the residents in Mon State also celebrated the revolution day inside Mon State. Mon revolution began for the realization of ethnic rights. Mon people believe, even though Burma will gain democracy, the revolution will not end unless they get their rights.

Monday, August 07, 2006

A bout the SSA-South's 758th Brigade

Prodigal son returns
(04 August 2006 )

Prodigal son returns News - S.H.A.N. Friday, 04 August 2006
It is a classic case of the return of the prodigal son. Col Moengzuen, whose ‘return to the legal fold’ was formally celebrated by the generals on July 16, has returned to the struggle against the occupying Burmese forces, disclosed Col Yawdserk, leader of the anti-junta Shan State Army (SSA) South this morning.His disclosure was confirmed by an independent source from northeastern Shan State this morning. On August 1, Moengzuen and his men withdrew from their base at Namhu Phra Htam in Laikha Township, 79 miles northeast of Taunggyi, following a heated row with a Burmese commander who reportedly called for his total submission and that of his force.The 70-men led by Maj Sai Htoi have already rejoined their former comrades-in-arms from SSA-South, said Yawdserk. “As for Moengzuen, he has pleaded for amnesty through an intermediary,” recounted the SSA-South chief. “I said if there were any concerns about facing the execution squad, he could rest easy. But he had to recognize that he had caused severe damage to the struggle and must face formal inquiries. He will be given a chance to redeem himself afterwards.”According to the SSA’s earlier statement, Moengzuen had committed a four-fold offence:•Communicating with the enemy without sanction from HQ•Unauthorized acceptance of Kyat 60 million ($ 50,000) loan from the locals•Unauthorized levying of Kyat 90 million ($75,000) fine on the locals•Defection to the “Interim Shan Government” (ISG)While it is still unclear as to why Moengzuen had suddenly changed his mind about his new allies after barely 32 days with them, it could be one or all of the following reasons, said sources:•Failure of the Burma Army to live up to their promise (He had demanded the retention of all his former operational area, but was given only a few villages to operate)•He and his men were being employed in the Burma Army’s continued war against the SSA-South•He could not accept the total submission condition by the Burma ArmyMoengzuen (44) was Commander of the SSA-South’s 758th Brigade that oversaw the area between six towns: Loilem, Laikha, Mongkeung, Kehsi, Mongnawng and Namzang, until he announced his allegiance to the newly formed ISG that declared Independence last year. He ‘returned to the legal fold’ on June 29 after a year long sustained military offensive launched by the Burma Army.

Rebel leader ‘did not surrender, only made peace’
No.04 - 07/20065 July 2006

Former Shan State Army (SSA) brigade commander Col Moengzuen denied yesterday that he had capitulated to the Burma Army as reported by S.H.A.N. Saturday (1 July), according to a source in northern Shan State.
Col Moengzuen“He called me up today and said he had only made peace with the Burma Army,” recounted the source who spoke on condition of anonymity. “He would still be allowed to keep his arms and given an area where he could operate.”The source said Moengzuen had held a meeting with a “G-1” officer at Panglaw village, Mongnim tract, Kehsi Township, 3 days after he had “gone over”. According to the preliminary agreement, pending approval by Rangoon:  
Mongzuen and his men would be assigned either to Laikha, 79 miles northeast of Taunggyi, or Kehsi, 69 miles further.
His group would be renamed Shan State People’ Army (SSPA).
“He had refused to adopt the label Shan State Army South (Splinter Group) as suggested by the G-1,”said the source. It is still unclear whether Moengzuen’s little band would be recognized as a pro-Rangoon militia force or as a ceasefire group like the Wa, Kokang and SSA-North. Other sources however argue that since Moengzuen had made a de facto surrender, the likelihood of being accorded the same status as the Wa, Kokang and others is slim, “unless Rangoon believes he is as strong as he claims and thus can serve as an effective tool in its war against Loi Taileng (SSA-South base on the Thai-Burma border).”Moengzuen’s force, according to himself, was 2,727 strong when he announced his support for the Interim Shan Government (ISG) formed by a group of expatriates that declared independence last year.Meanwhile, the ISG members in Thailand have rebuffed the reports of Moengzuen’s surrender as a propaganda exercise by Loi Taileng. “If he had really surrendered, why have we not heard it from Rangoon’s media?” retorted one senior member when questioned yesterday. 

Rebel leader goes AWOL
No.01 - 07/20061 July 2006 

Col Moengzuen, who broke away from the anti-Rangoon Shan State Army (SSA)- South to work with the Interim Shan Government (ISG) formed by a group of expatriates last year, has been out of touch for days in a row, said sources from the border:
The last time he was heard was Wednesday (28 June) when he was reported heading towards Kehsi, 184 miles northeast of Taunggyi, with 60-of his men. "Villagers told us he appeared to have more weapons than men due to desertions and resignations," said a truck driver.
His disappearance has led to speculations that he had probably surrendered to the Burma Army. In fact, sources from the SSA-South believe Moengzuen had given himself up to the Burmese troops on Thursday at Pangpo, a village 7 miles west of Kehsi.
S.H.A.N. sources however have been unable to lend confirmation to the report so far.
Photo:Louis Boucaud 
Moengzuen (#3, front row) and Pawngkhurh (#5, front row) during basic training, 1984
"If the report turns out to be true, the ISG would be left with only one foot to stand upon," commented a veteran Burma watcher. Its two mainstays right from the beginning have been Sao Hso Khanfa (President of the ISG and son of Sao Shwe Thaike, late Prince of Yawnghwe who become the first President of Burma in 1948) whose presence has lent a sort of legitimacy, dignity and credibility to the movement, and Col Moengzuen, the group's standard bearer in the field, according to him.
According to the SSA-South, it had dispatched Lt-Col Pawng Khurh in April to the south with two missions: to replace Moengzuen as Commander of the 758th Brigade and to deliver him a formal directive from Loi Taileng to return to the fold. "He would not be punished in any way," assured Col Yawdserk, Moengzuen's former boss until April 2005, when he switched his allegiance to the ISG. "We know he meant well, but we'd like to know what led him to do what he's been doing."
Sources coming from southern Shan State also told S.H.A.N. how Lt-Col Pawng Khurh had tried to convince through local intermediaries that his intentions were peaceful. "Please let him (Moengzuen) know we're not here to fight him," he was quoted as saying. "We won't fight even if he wants to."
Col Moengzuen nevertheless had refused to meet him and has since been playing hide and seek not only with his replacement but also with the Burma Army troops in the area. Reports of his negotiations with the Burma Army have time and again reached S.H.A.N., but each time denied by the ISG and by himself.
Moengzuen's force, later renamed SSA-Central, was according to him 2,727 strong when he announced his support for the ISG on 25 April 2005. Later on 21 May 2005 (Shan Resistance Day) he further declared that 272,714 troops under the command of the ISG were fully ready to regain the freedom of Shan State.

Shan army on "peace mission"
No.14 - 05/200617 May 2006 

A 300-strong force was dispatched last month by the Shan State Army 'South' to areas in central Shan State, where one of its brigade commanders had switched allegiance to a rival group last year, according to sources from the border:Despite speculations that the expeditionary force commanded by Lt-Col Pawng Khurh might be on a combat mission against Col Moengzuen, formerly Commander of the SSA South's 758th Brigade and currently Commander of the recently renamed SSA 'Central", insider sources have maintained the operation was essentially political. "We could have sent a bigger force, couldn't we?", a senior officer asked rhetorically. Since a hitherto unknown group led by some Shan elders, claiming support by 48 of the 56 townships of Shan State, had set up a Shan Interim Government (ISG) and declared Independence on 17 April 2005, tensions have been growing between the two sides, especially after Moengzuen's defection. He has repeatedly ignored directive after directive from Headquarters to present himself at Loi Taileng, the SSA South's main base on the Thai-Burma border.Apart from his erstwhile associates, Moengzuen and his troops in the Six-Corner area (between Mongkerng, Kehsi, Mongnawng, Namzang, Loilem and Laikha) are also facing an annihilation campaign by the Burma Army."It doesn't make sense to fight among each other if both are fighting against the common enemy, the Burma Army," said a worried militia commander who called S.H.A.N. from his base. "We have let the people down once by an 8-year internecine war between us (1972-1980, between the SSA, which became the SSA 'North', and the SURA, which became the SSA 'South'). The lesson should have been properly learned by now." The 200 mile march from the Thai border to Mongkerng by Col Pawng Khurh, however, was not a peaceable one. The force was reportedly chased and intercepted by columns of the Burma Army all the way from south to north resulting in not a few clashes, according to local sources:
28 April, at Namkarb, Mongpan township with Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 520; killed 4 and captured 3 G-3 automatic rifles.
On 2 May, at Kunghak, Mongnai township with LIBs 332, 520, 574 and 576; killed 4 and wounded 3.
The clashes were neither confirmed nor denied by the SSA. All sources nevertheless agree that the expeditionary force has arrived at its destination in central Shan State.

Col Moengzuen :

Other names
Kawsanla, Mawk Zeng
Place of Birth
Tonhong Village, Kholam Tract, Namzang Township
Sai Kham Hsai, Nang Nawng
Ingta 41, Tawna aka Kherhzuen 39, Nang Yen 35
8th standard (Burmese), 3rd standard (Chinese)
Joins resistance, enlists with Yawdserk, Commander, Battalion 404
Instructor at Mong Tai Army base camp, Homong
Own command
Refuses to surrender, Joins former commander Yawdserk, designated Commander, 758th Brigade
Holds Peoples Conference in Namzang, decides to form government and declare independence.
(25 April) throws in his lot with the Interim Shan Government (ISG) .
- Burma Army launches offensives - Negotiation begins
- Shan State Army South HQ dispatches Lt-Col Pawng Kherh (300 strong) to replace him, invites him to return to base - (7 July) Rangoon announces Moengzuen returning to the legal fold with 848 men, 24 heavy weapons and 834 small arms.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Karen Moengzuen in the making: key Shan dissident

A Karen Moengzuen in the making: key Shan dissident

News - S.H.A.N.

Tuesday, 01 August 2006

Reacting to the recent announcement by two Karen commanders of their decision to act independently from the Karen National Union's leadership, a noted Shan dissident told S.H.A.N. yesterday that he saw a situation developing among the Karens which was similar to that of the Shans culminating in the surrender of one of its former commanders on July 16.

"For years (Lt-Col) Moengzuen (of the 758th Brigade) had proposed we form a government and declare independence," the dissident told S.H.A.N. saying he is a friend of Col Nerdah Mya, Tactical Commander of the Karen National Liberation Army's General Headquarters Battalions and one of the signatories to the announcement on July 30.

"Loi Taileng [headquarters of SSA-S] had not agreed but nevertheless invited him to present his case at the General Meeting, to which he refused citing his ongoing commitments. Since then, he had been something of a lone wolf although nominally under central command.

"In 2004, Moengzuen held a "People's Conference" in his domain that took the decision to form an Interim Shan Government (ISG) and declare Independence.The ISG, under the titular leadership of Sao Surkhanfah, son of Sao Shwe Thaike, Prince of Yawnghwe and President of the Union of Burma (1948-52), came into being on March 25, 2005.

On April 17, 2005, recommended as an auspicious day by an astrological counsel, Independence was declared. A week later, Moengzuen pledged his allegiance to the ISG. However, 15 months later harassed by the Burma Army units, including a 10-battalion Military Operations Command (MOC) No. 5 from Arakan State, he "returned to the legal fold" without informing the ISG.

"I fear the same outcome is in store for these Karen commanders," he said, "if common sense does not prevail, regardless of their promise to adhere to the late Saw Ba U Gyi's principles."One of Saw Ba U Gyi's four cardinal principles is "Never to surrender our arms." Moengzuen had also assured S.H.A.N. in February, " I was trained to fight, not to surrender."