An interview with Nang Swae Kham about the statement of the people of Shan State and 26 Civil Society Organizations supporting “Operation 1027”
On 11 November, the ethnic Shan community and civil society organizations released a statement calling on the Three Brothers Alliance, the People’s Defense Forces (PDFs) and the Myanmar Army forces involved in “Operation 1027” to protect the people during the military conflict.
The statement covers armed conflicts across Shan State and thousands of people displaced due to the threats of territorial control in townships related to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects.
In addition, the statement raises concerns about campaigns that may lead to ethnic conflict and other political and military irregularities in the region.
In this interview with Shan Herald, Nang Swae Kham speaks on behalf of the Shan community and 26 civil society organizations that have shown their support for the ongoing Operation 1027 in northern Shan State.
Q: Can you tell us the reason for issuing this statement?
A: The reason why we issued this statement is that the conflicts in northern Shan State have intensified. The armed clashes between the resistance forces and the military council are causing great harm to the Shan people living there. And there are cases where the actions of the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) on the ground deviate from what they state in their statements.
The situation is like this. So many people have had to relocate. Some can’t relocate themselves properly. They have attacked civilian neighborhoods with heavy weapons. It looks like they deliberately came to the towns to fight each other. Therefore, Shan monks and civil society organizations at home and abroad have joined forces to issue this statement.
Q: What would you like to say about the three Brotherhood Alliance armies carrying out “Operation 1027″ in areas where most Shan people live in northern Shan State?
A: In their statement, they said they launched the military operation with the aim of overthrowing the military dictatorship and eradicating the online gambling scams (locally known as Kyar Phyant). But in reality, they probably have deeper goals. I won’t comment on the rest of the revolution. But at the moment the vast majority of Shan live without any protection and are practically used as a human wall. There have been cases where they have not obeyed international law at all. I don’t want this to happen.
At the moment, the displaced people are stuck in Theinni and other places. They have also made various cuts so that the military council forces can’t move forward. While I understand the need for military cuts, I don’t want them to make such cuts in areas where people are actually living. I want them to protect the people. If they want to fight, I want them to fight in areas away from the towns and villages. We want both sides to look after the interests of the people.
These are the things we are calling for: Don’t fight among the people. Protect the population. At the moment, the humanitarian aid organizations are having great difficulty working. We have to protect them too. And we don’t want this fighting to become a territorial dispute between members of the Northern Alliance. They have had their own territories from the beginning. The Northern Alliance is a long-standing alliance. In some cases, the conflict between them has made the Shan people think differently. We don’t want that.
Q: The ongoing fighting is taking place particularly along the Mandalay-Muse road and in the Chin Shwe Haw border trading areas in northern Shan State. Could this fighting be related to China’s BRI project?
A: We have to think first and foremost about the people living on the ground. No matter what their statements say, whether political or military, we can see huge interests behind it. If I were to point out one of those huge interests, the BRI project could be number one. It could bring huge BRI-related benefits to the EAOs or other resistance groups operating along the BRI route. This is why people largely believe that the territorial occupation for the BRI was planned in advance.
Q: In the current fighting, we see that the military council is also stirring up ethnic tensions between the ethnic nationalities in Shan State. What is your opinion on this?
A: It is nothing new that the military council is sowing divisions among the peoples. It has been doing this for many years, since independence. And after the coup in February 2021, we have seen an increase in military and ethnic conflicts. We also see that they plan in advance and deliberately provoke to cause this.
We see such provocations on social media and in the mainstream media. In the past, people simply blamed the military council. But if you look at the current situation, it is not only the military council, but also a deliberate strategy to destroy the unity of the Shan people and ethnic groups in Shan State by people you can’t see or know. We can see that they are executing plans to cause ethnic conflicts. The people, ethnic groups and EAOs need to handle this more carefully than before.
Q: During the current fighting, access to humanitarian aid for displaced people is difficult because the Brotherhood alliance has blocked transportation routes. What kind of appeals do you want to make to international aid organizations in this regard?
A: We would like international organizations, embassies, civil society organizations, INGOs and neighboring countries to pay attention to this conflict. They probably know themselves that this conflict is not only being waged under the name of armed revolution. They should not simply ignore what they know. We also want them to monitor the situation and contribute to the solution. In this fragile situation, we would like to say to the EAOs and individuals involved in the revolution across Myanmar that we also want the international community and neighboring countries to use their influence.
Their actions can be beneficial to us in some ways. We want them to pay attention to this. We also want them not to harm the people. There are a lot of concerns at the moment. At the moment, Shan State is the target. However, if we look closely, the stakeholders and political analysts know how far the problem actually extends and is not just limited to Shan State. We don’t want even one citizen to be harmed. We also want international organizations to be vigilant and provide assistance.
Q: On 8 November, the military council convened a National Defense and Security Council meeting and vowed retaliatory measures against the Brotherhood Alliance. What concerns have the people raised in this regard?
A: Frankly speaking, no matter which side retaliates, the military council or the resistance forces and the EAOs, it will not solve the problems. The military operation they are currently conducting, no matter what form it takes, is very harmful to the people. There is no chance to bring them to a dialogue. We don’t think there will be any negotiations in the near future. They are doing it with the aim of wiping each other out. This will lead the whole country to disaster. The whole country is being damaged.
Q: There are no armed Shan groups participating in “Operation 1027″. What could happen if they do participate?
A: Looking at the current situation of the Shan armies, it seems that they are in a deadlock. If we look closely, the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) are in a situation where they can’t take sides; they have been cornered by strategic moves by other forces. It will make no difference to them whether they fight or not. Whether they fight or not, they will face retaliation.
In my personal opinion, the Shan armed groups, the Shan political parties and the Shan people are in a deadlock. Everyone is stuck in the middle because everyone’s targets- the targets of the military council, the targets of other armed EAOs, the targets of other revolutionary forces and civil society organizations – all converge on the Shan. The Shan don’t seem to have the ability to solve these problems either.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: I would like to add that the Shan are currently facing attacks from all sides. These are not strategies and military operations that have only recently emerged. They have been planned for many years in advance. It is not easy for the Shan to resist. That is why the Shan must unite among themselves. They have to help each other. And they must learn from the problems of the past, from the mistrust they have shown towards each other, unite quickly and protect their own territories and ethnic groups. They must put aside all grudges. This is now an emergency situation. Everyone needs to realize this and get ready to act.
Q: Thank you for answering these questions.
A: Yes, thank you.
Sent by Shan Herald.