An interview with Ko Soe Win Swe, spokesperson for Sagaing Forum, on current military situation and political progress in Sagaing Region.
As part of Operation 1027, the People’s Defense Forces (PDFs) and allied forces have been carrying out coordinated attacks in the Sagaing Region since early November. In a statement issued on 11 November, the Sagaing Forum’s Organizing Committee stated that urgent political progress is needed and that they are working towards the formation of a regional political organization as soon as possible.
In this interview with the Shan Herald, Ko Soe Win Swe, spokesperson of the Sagaing Forum, talks about the current military situation in the Sagaing Region and the political progress that the Sagaing Forum is pursuing.
Q: We have seen the statement released by the Sagaing Forum’s Organizing Committee on the ongoing resistance operations in the Sagaing Region. Can you first tell us something about the purpose of this statement?
A: The purpose is twofold. First, we want to express that we are proud of the military progress in the Sagaing Region and offer our condolences to the fallen heroes. Secondly, in addition to the military progress, the political organization urgently need at the same time. That is why we wanted to send a signal that the Sagaing Forum is also committed to political progress. We have issued the statement on these two points.
Q: The statement mentions some political progress resulting from the meetings and talks with the armed resistance groups. Can you elaborate on what kind of progress this is?
A: We plan to hold the second forum before the end of this year. When the second forum is held, our goal is to have a political organization that encompasses the entire Sagaing Region. With this goal in mind, we are in talks with groups inside and outside the state. We can see this as political progress after the first forum.
Q: We noticed that the Sagaing Forum held a meeting with the Karen National Union (KNU) on 11 November. Does this count as progress?
A: Yes. As Sagaing Forum, we take a bottom-up approach in our region. In our endeavor to build a democratic federal union, Sagaing Forum also wants to play a role. Therefore, we consult with and learn from more experienced organizations on the road to a federal union that share our goals. We then identify common platforms for cooperation. This support from the Sagaing Forum is very helpful in building a federal democracy. As far as progress is concerned, I would also like to mention this point.
Q: Point 5 of the statement calls on the (revolutionary) groups in the Sagaing Region to understand and accept diversity and work together according to the will of the people. What do you mean by that?
A: Our country has great diversity. Viewing diversity as differences leads to authoritarianism. Because “one blood, one vote, one order” means authoritarianism. If we recognize differences as diversity, we can think about how these differences can work together. Only then will there be a democratic approach and an alignment with federalism. In other words, if we look at the root cause of the problem of conflicts that have been occurring in our country for many years, we can say that it is federalism. And federalism is also the means of solving all these problems. The problem is due to (the lack of) federalism and the means of solving the problems is also federalism. So if we want a federal democracy, we have to find platforms for mutual cooperation in the midst of these diverse differences. This is also a reason for convening the Sagaing Forum.
Q: Can you tell us about the situation of the ongoing resistance operations in Sagaing Region? Are PDFs gaining the upper hand?
A: What I can say for sure is that if we continue to fight at the same pace as at the beginning of the armed revolution, the terrorist military’s ability to respond will be greatly reduced. If you look at the seizure of Kawlin, it didn’t happen in one day, it took three or four days. During those three or four days of fighting, no reinforcements could arrive from the nearest towns like Pinlebu. So we see that the ability of the terrorist military council to counterattack has diminished. At this point, I believe that the hoped-for revolutionary victory is not far away if our revolutionary soldiers continue to fight united.
Q: How many people have been displaced in the Sagaing region since the start of Operation 1027? We know that there are also people who are trapped. Is the Sagaing Forum providing assistance to the trapped displaced people?
A: The number of civilian casualties in the Sagaing Region is also very high. If the fighting intensifies, the numebr of civilian casualties increases. That is why we take every single person who has died in this revolution very seriously. We mourn their deaths like their families. I think we need to help and rescue the people in the war zones once the war has started. Therefore, the Sagaing Forum has established the Sagaing People’s Support Group and is continuously carrying out activities to help the displaced people.
Currently, we are helping and rescuing the people trapped on the Kawlin side through our Sagaing Forum Rescue Network. The number of displaced people has increased as the war continues to intensify. But the number of displaced people in our Saging Region is not tangible. This means that they are temporarily displaced persons. Not many people had to leave their homes for years. Many people had to flee for seven months or a year. If we look at the numbers, there are between 40,000 and 50,000 during this period of escalated fighting.
Q: The military council has suffered losses in the fighting this year. Can you tell us about the activities of the military council in the Sagaing Region?
A: For them, it is no longer as easy to travel in the form of long military columns or convoys as it used to be. At the moment, they mainly use guerrilla tactics and infiltration tactics by hiding in civilian clothes. They also receive artillery and air support. These are the means that are using now. What I can say for sure is that they can no longer launch large-scale offensives. They are mainly defending their main bases in the region.
Q: Do you have anything else to say about the current situation in the Sagaing Region?
A: Sagaing Region should be considered a federal unit, and it is high time for the region to establish a political organization. As Sagaing Forum, we are working towards this goal to the best of our ability. Such a political organization would allow the political figures of Sagaing Region to administer their state directly. This would also speed up the revolution and make it more effective.
And since we are aiming for a federal democracy, we can consolidate ourselves politically alongside other states with dignity. Therefore, the emergence of the much- needed political organization at the state level is a primary focus of the Sagaing Forum’s efforts. I expect that this will also be a major topic of discussion at the upcoming second Sagaing Forum.
Sent by Shanni Voice.