Friday, November 30, 2007

Nam Pid Aung

Nam Pid Aung is a dish that originates from Shan, a Thai ethnic group that lives in northern Thailand and Myanmar. Aung means to fry in the Shan dialect, and the dish makes use of pork and tomatoes, both staples of Shan cooking. Nam Pid Aung is now eaten among all northern Thais, regardless of ethnicity.

Chili Paste
-7 large dried chilies, soaked in warm water until soft
-3 peeled shallots
-1 head of garlic, peeled
-2 tablespoons chopped lemongrass (using only lower white part)
-2 tablespoons of shrimp paste
-1 teaspoon salt

-1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
-2 large cloves of garlic, chopped

-1/2 cup ground pork
-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
-1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Fresh, crispy vegetables such as cucumber, long beans, wing beans, cabbage, sliced or chopped into bite-size pieces

Pork rinds
Using a mortar and pestle or food processor, blend curry paste ingredients together finely.

With the mortar and pestle, mash the tomatoes into the curry paste.

Heat oil in a wok over low heat. Add chopped garlic and fry until crispy. Add curry paste and tomato mixture and fry, constantly stirring, until the mixture begins to become fragrant, and oil begins to rise and accumulate, 5 to 10 minutes. Add pork and continue to stir until pork is fully cooked and the oil again begins to rise. If mixture seems dry at any point, add water, 1/4 cup at a time. Nam Pid Aung should have the consistency and appearance of a thick, oily spaghetti sauce.

Serve in a bowl, sprinkled with cilantro, and serve with fresh vegetables, pork rinds, and sticky rice.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Than Shew and ASEAN

Shan New Year Story Background

Maisoong Pee Mai Tai 2102!

May the New Year bring good health, security, prosperity, harmony and success to all Tai! And, may the blessings of the Triple Gem be upon and with all Tai!

One may notice I use the word Tai in the title of this email and in the first paragraph. This use is NOT just to keep the way we traditionally call ourselves: we always call ourselves Tai. But this is also to follow the now established international scholastic tradition, which has been studying about "the various Tai people in general".

The international scholars on Tai, use the word "Tai" to mean not only what the Burmese call "Shan" but to include also "Thai" "Laotian" "Tai-Dam" in Vietnam, "Tai-Lue" in Xixuangpanna, China, "Tai-Assam" and so on. Regarding this term, Professor David K. Wyatt of Cornell University, Ithaca, NY says: "[T]he word Tai," is "a cultural and linguistic term used to denote the various Tai people in general, peoples sharing a common linguistic and cultural identities. ..... The Tai peoples [note the plural form] today are widely spread over several million square kilometers of the southeastern corner of the great land mass of Asia.... we arrive at a total of about 70 million people, a linguistic and cultural group comparable in number to the French or Germans." (David K. Wyatt, "Thailand, A Short History", Yale University Press, 1982, pp.1-2.)

This scholarly term is important, indeed vital, if we are to try to understand about Tai New Year. This is exactly because the Tai New Year began long before "the various Tai peoples" started migrating to South and Southeast Asia in 2nd and then 8th AD. The fact that the Tai people had established themselves, more than two thousand years ago, linguistically and culturally is now well known to at least scholars. On this Wyatt, again, writes: "By the last centuries of the first millennium B.C., we must presume that the major linguistic and cultural families of the people that we regard as Southeast Asian had become differentiated, and to some extent physically separated, from one another." (Thailand, A Short History, p. 5).

Peter Simms and his wife Sao Sanda Ywanghwe, in their acclaimed work The Kingdoms of Laos echo this opinion when they write: “When we come to the earliest accounts of the Tai, which are to be found in the Chinese chronicles in the sixth century B.C, around the time of the Buddha, the Tai had already created a distinct way of life.” (Peter and Sanda Simms "The Kingdoms of Laos: Six Hundred years of History", Curzon Press, London, 1999, p.2.)

In fact, the identification of this distinctness of the Tai in the "middle of the sixth century B.C" was also earlier made by William Dodd, the author of "The Tai Race, Elder Brother of the Chinese". (See also, Joachim Schlesinger, "Tai Groups of Thailand", White Lotus, Chiang Mai, 2001, Ch. 3: Hypothesis about the Origins of the Tai Race.)

This culturally distinct feature would have to include the way we communicate among ourselves. Among them were an administration system, agricultural know-how, a belief system and a calendar. The Tai were, until recently, known for their feudal system of administration. On agriculture, even the Burmese acknowledge that they had learnt agricultural know-how such as farming and horse breeding from the Tai. (For more see Maynmar Nain-gnan thamaing by U Hla Pe for the middle schools in Burma. This textbook was replaced after 1974.)

Little known though is about our calendar. Not about its existence but about its extensive use and its influence. How could we have a distinct administration system if we did not have our own system of calendar? The Tai calendar, I deduce, must have been similar to the Chinese in some way but differed from it in another. The similarity may be in the way we calculate the year using animals as symbols. For instance, pi sur, pi ma (Tiger Year, Horse Year) etc. which the Thai and the Chinese still use. We Shan people also use this. There are 12 animals, indicating, perhaps, the Chinese must have had a 12-months year.

The difference between the Tai and the Chinese calendar though may lie in the way we calculate months. The way the months are formed in Tai calendar (I do not know about the Chinese on this.) is well explained by Professor Wyatt in his other work Nan Chronicle (Cornell University, Ithaca, 1994) which is the translation and remarks on the chronicle of the province of Nan, in the present northern Thailand. He has an appendix on the way we calculate the months. We WERE very fond of the number 60 (sixty) and one month HAD 60 days. So, there were only six months a year.

The fact that we were FOND of the number 60 is also evident in the Tai-Khun's particular way calculating "one round of years". According to the Tai-Khun chronicles extant today, there was one round/cycle of years every sixty years. (Now in Thailand, 12 years is one round/cycle, and if you are thirty six year old, you complete the third round. There was, for instance, a big Birth Day celebration for Princess Sirindhorn on her 36th Birthday. This may even be argued as the Chinese influence on the Thai on this matter.)

For many Tai peoples, however, this use of sixty cyclical-years was retained even after the Tai-Khun had adopted the Chula Sakkaraja from the Mon through Lanna. Sao Saimong Mangrai, a Cambridge graduate, in his famous work, Padaeng Chronicle and The Jengtung State Chronicle TRanslated (University of Michigan, 2002, Second Edition, pp. 53-57) has a note on this. There is also a chart of the sixty cyclical year provided in this book.

The way the sixty cyclical years is calculated in the Tai-Khun calendar is, however, far from being unique to this important branch of the Tai. In fact, as indicated earlier, the Tai all over used this system in their calculation of days that form a month: there were sixty days in one Tai month. The terms used in the Tai-Khun chronicles and those employed by the Tai peoples in other parts of Asia were exactly the same. This is evident in Sao Gang Sur's famous book, Jatissara Nyan (The Knowledge of Past and Future Lives).

In his book, the Tai scholar Sao Garng Sur explained how to form days into month by matching “mother-year” and “children-year”. There are "ten mother-years" (mea pi), and "twelve children-years" (luk pi). Despite their names as "the mother-" and "children- year", the terms were in fact used to count days and months, not year, at least by the time he wrote his work, which was about one hundred and sixty years ago. (The author of a Shan novel, Khun Sam Law Nang Oo Pem, was his daughter. Her name, as you all know, was Nang Kham Gu.).

One scholar, Sai Fa, told me that Pi Mai Tai was officially in use in the two of the six famous Tai kingdoms, Mong Loong and Mong Pa. However, I have yet to search find any evidence either to support or reject it. However, not just how it all began but also how we stopped using our Tai Year remain a puzzle awaiting to be resolved through further study. Our get-together on this New Year should create us some impetus for this important historical and anthropological work.

by : Sao Dhamma

Buddhism in Keng Tung

Buddhism in Kengtung:

Preface:This article undertakes to explore the history of Buddhism in Kengtung for two reasons: first, to celebrate the award of the Aggamahasaddhammajotikadhaja title to the most Venerable Khemacara, the abbot of Wat Jeng Yuen and the head of the Kengtung Theravada Sangha, by the government of Myanmar on 4th January 2002 (for his biography, please refer to a separate article), and secondly to preserve the rich history of Buddhism in Myanmar as a whole.

The subject, the history of Buddhism in Kengtung, is a challenging one that requires extensive research on the part of many scholars and the dedication of many hearts. Sao Saimong Mangrai, once a visiting professor at Cambridge University, England, and research scholar at Cornell University and Michigan University, USA, and Professor Donald Swearer have done some important work related to this subject. To describe my own effort in writing this article, I can but quote the words of Sao Saimong Mangrai: “A beginning has been made” and “it is for future scholars” to advance the subject further.

Since the 13th century, Kengtung has been the largest muang2 in Shan State with an area of 12,00 square miles3, and remains so at present in the eastern Shan State of the Union of Myanmar. Lying between two famous rivers, the Mekhong and the Salween, Kengtung “is a series of (mountain) ranges running north and south, (and) of an average height of 5000 feet, with peaks rising to above 7000”4 Sir James Scott, the British political commissioner in Shan States during the colonial rule, recorded that Kengtung used to export cotton to China and that gold was panned in most of the streams of Kengtung.5 The city was built by King Mangrai6 in 1262, who also became ruler of Chiangsen Kingdom with its capital at Chiangrai from 1296, and then Lanna Kingdom at Chiangmai.7 this followed the destruction of the Nangchao kingdom8 of the Tai by the Mongol Emperor, Kublai Khan in 1253.9 For over eight hundred years, Kengtung was ruled by a Saopha. The last one, Sao Sai Luang, passed away peaceful in Yangon in 1997. saophas of Kengtung where fondly addressed by their people as Braya (lord), Somdej Bra Pensao, “his roya masjesty”, Sao Yodkhamom, “lord above the head”, Saonurho, “lord above the head” or Saopendin, “lord of the earth”10. as described above, Kengtung was the biggest princedom in the former Shan States. Her successive rulers were pious Buddhists who energetically supported the religion of the Buddha. The Tai of Kengtung have developed a culture of their own distinct from their Tai brethren elsewhere. They came to be known as Tai-Khun or Khun after the river Khun situated outside the city, and culturally shared many common features with sibsongpanna and Lanna.

The introduction of budddhism to Kengtung
The Mahavihara Tradition of Arahat Mahinda

The exact date of the arrival of Buddhism in Kengtung is still a subject that awaits scholarly investigation. So far, we can only state that since the Nanchao period (8th-13th A.D) the majority of the Tai people, to which the Tai-Khun belongs, have not professed any organized faith other than buddhis,.11

Historical and archaeological evidence shows that King Mangrai, the founder of Kengtung, was a “staunch supporter” of Buddhism. Among the Buddhist monuments he built was “Wat Chiangman (Chiangman Monastery) in the northeast corner of the modern city of Chiangmai.”12 The fact that he was not a convert suggests the earlier existence of Buddhism in Kengtung and his other Kingdoms.

Buddhism in Kengtung has its root in the great Theravada tradition of the Mahavihara in Ceylon, established by Arahat Mahinda, son of Emperor Asoka, who came to teach the Dhamma in the Island under King Devanam Piyatissa in the 3rd B.C.13 The tradition came to Kengtung via Martaban (now Moktama, in Mon State) and Chiangsen, Thailand.14

The Ramannadesa, of which Martaban formed a part, was earlier known as Suvannabhumi and became the centre of Buddhism after it had adopted Buddhism from one of the Asokan missions led by Thera Sona and Uttara. (King Anawratha (Anirudha) (1044,77), who took 32 sets of the Tipitaka from Thaton, Ramannadesa in 1057, had been in touch with the development of Buddhism in Ceylon throughout his reign.) Kalyani Sima in Bago, built by King Dhammazedi (1472-92), is the most visible landmark of the King Dhammazedi of Pegu sent monks to Ceylonese Theravada tradition in Myanmar. In fact, even before King Dhammazedi of Pegu sent monks to Ceylon for a re-ordination, the Ceylonese Theravada traditions were followed in the Ramannadesa. Four of the five old fraternities mentioned in the kalyani insvriptions were traditions from Ceylon. 15 They are reported to have been banned by King Dhammazedi, who subsequently established a fresh contact with the Ceylonese Theravada order.

Chaingsen, the earliest thai kingdom, was contemporary to Dvaravati (6-11th A.D), the Mon principality within the Khmer Empire. The Sinhalese tradition of Buddhism, known as lankavamsa, came to Chiangsen first via Sukhothai and then Ayuthaya. Sukhothai (1219-1350 A.D) first adopted Ceylonese Theravada buddhism in 1276 from Kakhon Sridhammarat, where monks of Ceylon began propagating the Dhamma a decade or so earlier, together with the local monks who had been educated in Ceylon. This Ceylonese sect was invited to Sukhothai (Sukhodaya) by the king who had heard of their good practice and thorough knowledge of the Tipitaka. King Ram khamheng Inscrption (dated 1276) thus say: “King Ram Khamheng gave donations to the Supreme Patriarch, to every senior monks and to wise monks learned in the Three Baskets – of all whom are greater than any previous teachers of old in the city. Every one of these monks came from Nakonsridhammaraj.”16 Jinakalamali, composed in Pali in 1516 A.D, relates the important missions of the monk Sumana, who had visited Martaban, Ramannadesa, where he had learnt Sinhalese Buddhism, which he later introduced to the newly emergent kingdom of sukhodaya.

Theravada Buddhism came to Chaingsen through the effort of Sumana Mahathera (1030-110 A.D) who with another bhikkhu named Anomadassi studied the Tipitaka in Martaban before returning to Sukhothai. Professor S.J Tambiah writes in his ever popular work, the World Conqueror and the World Renouncer that a Pali chronicle of Thailand, Mulasasana, recounts “Sinhalese sect in Ramannadesa at Pan near Martaban, the leader of the forest dwelling sect honoured by Sinhalese king with the title of Mahasami”, and then speaks “of the two Taai monks, Anomadassi and Sumana who made a visit to Pan to study under Mahasami and to be re-ordained (their action followed by other Thai monks) and of Sumana returning to Sukhodaya at King Lo Tai’s request in order to found the order of Sinhalese monks”. 18 Sumana Mahathera later came to Chiangmai to propagate the Dhamma.

According to padaeng Chronicle written in Mong (Tai-Khun) scripts in Kengtung, Buddhism as practiced in Martaban was brought to Kengtung via Chiangmai around the turn of the 10th ventury A.D by Sumana Mahathera. 19 This suggests that when King Mangrai made himself the ruler of Kengtung, there had already flourished Theravada teachings among the people. But, at the same time this statement appears contradictory to the historical fact that Chiangmai came into existence only “on Thursday, 12 April 1296” 20 And so how could Buddhism have sxisted in Kengtung when Kengtung itself had not been founded? If we take into consideration that the northern part of Thailand had prospered long before 1296 as a part of Dvaravati, Chiangmai therefore must have been in existence before King Mangrai made it the capital of his kingdom. This may be called Pre-Mangrai Chiangmai where people had good connections with Ramannadesa as far as Buddhism was concerned. Charles F.Keyes argues that “the earliest mention of Tai is in an inscription of the eleventh century A.D, but it is almost certain that Tai had been moving into the area of central mainland Southeast. Asia well before that time, perhaps since the seventh century, there was most probably a substantial Tai-speaking population living in the domains of the Mon-Buddhist kingdom of Dvaravati.” And that they “may have been organized as tribal peoples under petty chiefs?”

So, Pre-Mangrai Chiangmai may have been under small chieftains and culturally was much influenced by Haripunjaya (Lampun) which was, according to Camadevi, founded in the 8th A.D.22 This logic applies, also, to Buddhism in Kengtung in the Pre-Mangrai era.
We have lernt of the development of Buddhism in Kengtung through the writings of the Red Forest Sect. as no written record by lineage of Sumana Mahathera himself was left, it is hard to determine the actual monastic practice in the Sunmana Mahathera tradition. Nevertheless, a general understanding of the state of Buddhism in the early tradition can be obtained by studying sources on history of Buddhism n neighboring countries. But that is beyond the scope of this paper. We may therefore rely on the Padaeng Stone Incvription (PSI), Padaeng Chronicle (PC) and Jengtung Chronicle (JC) which, no doubt, favour the second mission led by Somacitta Thera because they were written by the disciples of Somacitta Thera. The PSI dates 1451 A.D and is in the Ramkhamheang Tahi scripts. But we have no verified information as to the dates of the two chronicles.

The Second Mission and Present Sangha in Kengtung

The second mission of the Ceylonese Theravad fraternity from Chiangsen arrived in Kengtung in the early year of the reign of Braya (also pronounced as Phya) Dhamma Culamani (1441-1456). 25 It is said that the father of Dhamma Culamani, Braya Rattabheri (1416-1441), buit the city in a new site in the south of the old one with moats and walls for the defence of the city. There was a demon in the vicinity who was so angry with the king’s encroachment of his area that he haunted the new palace for over ten years. The Braya invited bhikkhus of Sondok Jenlom and Jenglae, one after another, to come and recite the holy suttas to expel the demon. But that was to no avail and the bhikkhus were defeated. On learning of this incident, Nanagambhira Mahathera, now the head of the Sangha in Chiangsen, deputed his senior disciple Somacitta and four other bhikkhus to Kengtung where they first stayed at Hroy-yen. They came to be heard of by the Braya Dhamma Culamani after their encounter with boys of Sondokgham grazing cattle where they resided. They where invited to the palace by Braya Dhamma Culamani and asked to do holy changing for three days and three nights. Medical protection was now given to the Graya and his people because of their strict adherence to the vinaya, “the monastic rules”, and their correct way of chanting the suttas. Their effective chanting protected the people twice later from fire and flood. The Bray built them a monastery called Mahavanaram. Soon, Somacitta thera and his party informed the Braya of their wish to return to Chaingsen. The Braya, instead, persuaded them to stay saying that he would invite their teacher, Nanagambhira Mahathera to come to Kengtung. On their arrival, a new monastery was built by Bray Dhamma Culamani and the populace for Nanagambhira Mahthera and his disciples. The monastery was know as Sihalarattarama, or Wat Padaeng, where the famous chronicle of Buddhism inKengtung seens to have been composed. As Alesander B. Griswold writes in his preface to the translation work by Sao Saimong that this chronicle may be studied with Jinakalamall and “several of its dates can be verified or corrected by reference to those given in a stone inscription whichis preserved in the Red Forest (Padaeng) Monastery itself.” Wat Padaeng thus has been the focus of history of Buddhism I Kengtung since the reign of Braya Dhamma Culamani. Wat Padaeng was also the name of the monastery of Nanagambhira Mahathera in Chiangsen. As we shall see in the next paragraph there was yet another. Wat Padaeng in Chiangmai where the Sangharaja resided. During the founding of the Mahavihara tradition of Ceylon in Kengtung for the second time, we can note the emphasis non the learning of the holy scriptures in this forest tradition, because at Wat Padaeng two libraries wehre constructed almost immediately inside the monastery. 24

Keng Tung City, Shan State

Nanagambhira MahatheraNanagambhira Mahathera, who established the Ceylonese Mahavihara Theravada tradition for the second time in Kengtung, went to Rohana Janapada of Ceylon to study the true doctrine after he and his colleagues had doubts on some Pali grammatical points that were considered to render the ordination procedure inbalid. On the recommentdation of his preceptor, Dhammakitti Mahathera, he went to Sulhothai with five other bhikkhus. There he met the king and his religious tutor, the rajaguru who then asked him to go to Ceylon to lern the true teaching to solve the above dispute. He was given a courtier and another five bhikkhus to accompany him to Ceylon in 1419. having consulted with the members of the Order in the Rohana Janapada led by surinda Mahathera, he and his colleagues decided to seek a new ordination under the head of the Rohana Janapada Sangha, Maha Sudassana Mahathera. 25 Grammatical correctness of the natticatuttha khammavaca seems to have formed the focus of the discussions Nanagambhira had with many Ceylonese monks. 26 As can be expected, the Padaeng chronicle blames Sumana Mahathera for everything that went wrong. From Ceylon and then Ayuthaya, Nanagambhira arrived back in Chiangsen in 1434. here a monastery called Wat Padaeng (Red Forest monastery) was built for him by the Braya, local chief. 27 The name of the monastery indicates that a revival of forest traditions was underway. The situation of the monastery outside the city also suggests that they belonged to the Ceylonese sect. on the structure of the monasteries, Prince Damrong remarks: “The monasteries (outside the town) were regarded as important for the Ceylonese sect. they included the Mango Grove Monastery where the Supreme Paiarch of Sukhothai redided and the Red Forest Monastery, the residence of the Pariarch of Chiangmai”28

As Prince Damrong observed, there came to be two fraternities when a Ceylonese sect, langavamsa, was established in sukhothai and Chiangmai. Kengtung also came to have two traditions, Sondok fraternity and Padaeng fraternity, with the arrival of the second mission. As the two traditions gradually merged in Sukhothai and Chiangmai, only one fraternity was to remain in Kengtung. But, according to the Padaeng Chronicle, this was because the Sondok (Garden or Puppharama sect) left their monastery on recognizing the superiority of the newly established Padaeng (Rd Forest or Sihalarattarama) tradition. This new form of Buddhism is reported to have spread to Tai people of other areas such as Sibsongbanna, Lu, Monglaem, Mongka, Mongmaen, Mongting, Kungma.

Some Salient Features of Buddhism in Kengtung

This topic deserves a separate article on its own. We may cite but a few examples here. Following in the traditions of Nanagambhira Mahthera, who sailed to Ceylon because of a dispute on Pali grammatical points and Pali pronunciation, the Kengtung and Sinhalese Sangha have similar pronunciation of Pali. The pleasing chanting of the great meditator and forest dweller, Khuva Woonzoom, also known as Mong Pong Sayadaw, belongs to this great tradition. Chanting of the paritta among the Sangha in Myanmar generally differs from one monastery to another. This is not the case with the Kengtung Sangha, who has preserved chanting with great care.

In the Kengtung tradition, the begging for forgiveness, Okasa or Awkatha, is in Pali. So is the offering of homage to the Triple Gem, Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.
The structure of every monastery is the same, with cetiya (pagada), vihara (main hall) and bodhi tree, as in Ceylon. This subject is discussed in detail by Sao Saimong in his pioneering work on the Padaeng Chronicle. Most important of all is that the Sangha in Kengtung have a well-formed administrative structure, the head of which is called Annadhamma (pronounced as ayatham), “the most well versed in the Dhamma”.

The Budhhist Literature of Kengtung is vast and was, possibly, until the turn of the last century, one of the most progressing branches of Buddhist literatures in Southeast Asia. According Sao Saimong Mangrai, the Visddhimagga, by the great Pali commentator, Buddhaghosa Mahathera, had long been translated into Tai-Khun language probably before its counterparts in Thai, English and the Myanmar language. Among the transtations of the Visuddhimagga in the latter three language, the English translation, by Professor Pe Maung Tin, was the first. It was completed in 1923. GABamoli bhikkhu, an English monk ordained in Sri Lanka, transtated it for the second time in 1956 and is now widely in use. The transtations into Myanmar and Thai were undertaken only a few years after the celebration of the 2500th Years of Buddhism (1956). However, it is yet to determine the exact date of the Tai-Khun translation.

Extensive quotation of Kaccayana’s Pali grammar n the Padaeng Chronicle shows the impressive scholarship of the Sangha in Kengtung at the time. kaccayana’s Pali grammar, simply known at present as great grammar (thatda-gyi) is one of the most studies texts in Myanmar since the Pagan prriod. professor Madhav Deshpande, a Pali scholar at the Linguistic Department, Michigan University, “was often surprised to find the rules accurately quoted in the text (Padaeng Chronicle) in spite of (the) repeated copying that it must have undergone”. 31 Judging from the way the Vessantara Jataka has been developed, it is not hard to imagine that active buddhist scholarship existed before in Kengtung. the Kengtung version of the Vessantara jataka is now being studied by a postgraduate student as a part of his research at the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka. we hope to learn more of the Kengtung Buddhist literatures as the scholarship on the subjects advances.

End note:

1. The Thai pronounce and thus spell as Chiangtung. Sao Saimong Mangrai uses also Jengtung in his transtation of Jengtung Chronicle (for his explanation see p. 200), which is the pronunciation of the city and state by the people of Kengtung themselves. however, he also employs Kengtung in the text itself. The Burmese pronounce it Kyaington. In this article Kengtung is used throughout because if has long been a standard spelling. Kengtung has a classical name in Pali, khemarattha, "Safe Kingdom" or "the Kingdom of Peace" to translate khema in the light of the famous Mangala Sutta of the Suttanipata. Kengtung city itself is known classically as Tungapura.

by : Sao Dr. Dhammasami

Friday, November 23, 2007

Mai Soong Pee Mai Tai (Happy Shan New Year)

Welcoming the Shan New Year 2102

Welcoming the New Year is one of the oldest and gayest customs celebrated the world over. In the concept of the world, the definition of “The New Year” means that the time of the previous year has passed by and the Happy New Year has begun. The New Year Festival is celebrated in various countries according to the customs and traditions of the people there. “Pee Maue Tai” is the traditional New Year of the Tai (Shan) people. For this year, this event falls on 8 December 2007, which corresponds to the first day of the first lunar month (the first waxing moon of the Loen Tseng). All the Tai will celebrate the festival with special greetings and best wishes for the Tai New Year 2102 (Tai Era) with full happiness.

“Mai Soong” means to be progressive, be advanced (as in status, well-being) and is used as a greeting phrase. “Pee” means year, “Mai” means new, and “Tai” for Tai people in the world. All the Tai welcome all nationalities to visit “Tai New Year Festival” in every Tai villages, Tai towns, Tai cities, and Tai countries.

In most countries, depending on the different national traditions, people celebrate the New Year on different days and in different manners. Some celebrate in April, some in January, etc. During New Year’s Day, some throw water on each other, some pray for best wishes, some dance together, some perform a ceremony of pouring water on respected persons or the objects of worship, some enjoy a playful festival, some shoot off guns and fireworks at dawn or midnight.

Shan New Year in Muse, Shan State

For some the New Year involves scaring away evil spirits, thus giving the new year a fresh start. It marks the beginning of the year. New Year’s Day is thought of as a good time to make New Year’s resolutions – the resolve to do better in the year just beginning than you did in the year just ended. Although they differ as to the time from which they reckon the commencement of the year, Egyptians, the Jews, the Romans, the Islams, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Tai and others all regard it as a day of special solemnity.
Because of advances in this age of globalization, greetings and best wishes for a Happy New Year can easily be sent by E-mail to friends and relatives all over the world. From web sites, researchers can gain more knowledge about the New Year’s Day. For remembrance of the happy Tai New Year, please give a bundle of “mok kwang” (cherry) flower to your sweet heart.

Wat Pa Pao (Shan Temple in Chiangmai, Thailand)

Wat Pa Pao is a Buddhist temple situated in the center of the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, just outside the old city wall and moat. It was founded over 400 years ago by a Shan, and today serves as the main community center for Shans in Chiang Mai.

In February 1997, the Abbot of the temple, with other community leaders, set up a foundation at the temple with the aim of promoting the education of Shan people and the preservation of their culture.

The foundation, which is officially registered with the Thai government, is named the Wat Pa Pao Foundation to Support Education, Art, and Culture. With support from the Japanese Embassy, the foundation was able to start an adult education school at the temple.
The Wat Pa Pao Adult Education School was officially opened on 11 October 1998, in conjunction with the Thai Non-formal Education Department. When the school opened, there were 131 students. This has increased to over 187, with a waiting list of many more.

The school teaches a basic Thai curriculum and is intended to provide Shan youth in Chiang Mai with literacy skills that will enable them to improve their job opportunities and future in Thailand. While the classes are in Thai, the various extra-curricular activities are all aimed at promoting the Shan culture. The school has thus proved extremely popular among the Shan youth in Chiang Mai, who have flocked to the classes both to improve their education and to join in community activities aimed at preserving their own culture.

The initial grant from the Japanese Embassy was sufficient only to cover the initial start-up costs of the school, including the building of classrooms and purchase of equipment. Since the opening of the school, the operating costs of the classes, including the teachers' salaries have been covered by private donations to the foundation. Funding is urgently needed to continue to cover the salaries of the teachers, to purchase teaching equipment and to build more classrooms at the temple, so that more students can be accepted. Anyone wishing to donate to this worthwhile project, please contact the following address:

Wat Pa Pao Foundation Wat Pa Pao 58 Maneenopparat Road Sriphoom Sub-district, Muang District, Chiang Mai Thailand

As the focal point for Shan culture in Chiang Mai, Wat Pa Pao hosts many events each year. One of the biggest celebrations each year is the annual Poi Sang Long festival. This year it will be celebrated at Wat Pa Pao during the first week of April.

Wat Pa Pao also has Shan books and magazines available for purchase.

If you would like to contact Wat Pa Pao, you may write, call, fax, or E-mail:

58 Maneenopparat Road,
Sriphoom Sub-District,
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Shan New Year, Postcard

I make some Shan New year post card for using in Shan New year season for all, more cards and design you can download on

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Shan New Year songs, 2102

2102 Shan New Year
Coming soon

All the best
our Shan People

"Happy New Year"


I agree with your all that we need the leader, but who, where, and when ?better we have start to work in groups, build strong unity and ready for support when we get the person that we call leader..may be that person can be coming from our groups ..who know....!

Today even we have good opportunity inside of Burma we even can't help or support anything to bring Burma to be Democracy country because we have nothing on hand. Yes, we all thinking we work hard for nation but in real, that not enough for make any change in Burma or even in Shan state.

How many people can work full time for nation ? in the other side there has over 400,000 soldiers with full weapon and ready for kill us anytime plus we not only fight with Burma army, we also fight with powerfull countries China and Russian that hiding to backup Burma in United Nation as well.

Please don't get me wrong, I am not blame anyone. I just try to point what is the position we are standing now and how much we have to work hard for our nation.

We talk so many for the word "UNITY" it's enough for talk let build and make it come true. So, give me your hands and I will give mine to work hard for our nation.

by : Sai Sai Tip (

Letters from Shan State

What is it you want to know about Shan State and its people?

If it’s about delicacies, the following titles are your meat and drink: Khao Buk and Khao Yaku, Tai Sar Mei Shan, Nam Phit Phoo and Green Tea.

If it’s about festivals, go read “The Poy Sang Long Festival,” “The Taunggyi Hot Air Balloon Festival,” “Flowing Christmas Day”, Water Festival in Kengtung”, “Thamanae Festival,” “New Crop Ceremony”, “Manau Dance Festival” and “Akhar traditional wedding”.

Then there are compositions on politics, life in Shan State, hunting and a true love story plus two poems, many of which are quite poignant, especially when you remember that they had been written by youths who had just started to learn to write in English 9-months earlier.

A few of them I really enjoyed as I went through the 93-page booklet published by the School for Shan State Nationalities Youth (SSSNY), popularly known as Charm Tong’s School, a tribute to its founder and administrator.

One was about a girl student’s reminiscences on her life on a bus in Taunggyi. “I hurried on to the bus,” she wrote, “and already the bus was extremely full. I only had room for my two feet… The smell on the bus was terrible, like a mouse that had been dead for three days… I had to push and also pull people to be able to get out of the bus”. In the evening, it was the same scene.

It was like that day in and day out. But then though long being away from all of what she wrote about, she still “remember them and miss them much: the bad smell, the smell of Thanakha (Burmese traditional makeup), the innocent faces, hungry faces, guilty faces, selfish faces, and the views from the windows of the bus…”

Another is about a boy student’s life on the village when he was younger, young enough to enjoy playing Ma Tong Tang (Stilts) and racing it with other boys. “In my childhood days, ma-don-dang was my life,” he remembers.

But then one day Burma Army soldiers arrived at the village with their guns blazing. “Some one grabbed my hands and took me into a trench. It was my father… (I thought) “Where is my ma-don-dang?” Without thinking, I got up to go out of the trench. My father held me tightly with anger. “Where are you going?” he asked. “I am going to (bring in) my ma-don-dang,” I replied. “Are you crazy? You are going to be killed doing such bullshit!” he roared like a hungry tiger. The happy evening had turned into a bloody evening. The village had nearly turned into a graveyard.

Then there is a rather strange story about a boy who became a novice monk in order to escape being a fighter in the Mong Tai Army led by the late Khun Sa (1934-2007). However when the MTA surrendered in 1996, the expected peace did not come. What followed were the forced relocations that were to displace at least 300,000 people from 1,500 villages, an event reported in full by the Shan Human Rights Foundation’s “Dispossessed”.

Then one day he did a strange ting. One day, I saw the news about SSA-S (Shan State Army-South) fighting with SPDC around the Thai-Shan border. I was excited and I decided to go to Loi Tai Leng, a camp on the border, to be a soldier. When I arrived, I asked to become a soldier. They said, “You are still young-you cannot be a soldier. To be a soldier you must be 18 years old.” So, they put me in school first.

There are 2-3 other accounts I really liked, but I suggest you to read them as I did while I waited at the Chiangmai airport for my delayed flight to Bangkok.

For further information, please email to

Shall We Give Daw Suu, A Chance?

Scanning through the media, both electronic and printed points to the idea that those who have Cetena and interest in Burma seems to be quite impatient. The major driving force behind, is their own vested interest rather the welfare of the country and people. Viewing internationally, China which is not shy of openly supporting the Junta has succeeded in freezing the Security Council. She opposed issuing a presidential statement on Burma, though not legally binding, unlike a resolutionญcan only be issued with a consensus, even though the majority of the countries in the 15-member Security Council had favored issuing a presidential statement after closed door consultations and briefing by Ibrahim Gambari. “We were disappointed by China’s unwillingness to support a Presidential statement,” said Zalmay Khalizad, the US Ambassador to the UN. The first time that a top US official has come out openly to state that China was not cooperating. It was evident that China and Russia are against sanctions in Burma were counterproductive. Not only a dictatorial country will support another dictatorial country, as I often quote modern Hitler and Mussolini will support a modern Burmese Franco in their hegemonic attempt. Power Politics couple with Geo-strategic factors is the order of the day.

The international community should be reconsider of giving credit to the Genocide Beijing Olympic next year, when Liu Shaowu, the Deputy Director of the Olympic Security Command Center, said the security forces would stop any form of demonstration at or around venues and would be snuffed out far from Olympic sites. With 28,000 journalists expected to attend, the Aug. 8-24 Olympics offer a rare chance for protesters to express grievances against China's Communist Government on issues of human rights including supporting dictatorial regimes and religious freedom. Will the international community stay with folded arms, as Beijing will use heavy-handed policing at the games and prevent the expression of democracy and human rights is still to be seen. Perhaps the reminiscence of Berlin Olympics should be considered (when Jessie Owens won four Gold medals and Hitler never claps once) for the aim and ideals of the world’s Olympic.

Some local activist construe that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has prolonged the lifespan of Burma’s repressive Junta to manipulate events to its advantage and cited examples of 1994, where the butcher Than Shwe met Daw Su for the first time where with much media highlight she was released. She was arrested again in 2000 for making a trip to Mandalay and later released in 2002 where the world thought that there will be a political breakthrough as the Junta slyly released a statement, titled “Turning of a New Page, and looking forward to a better future, in improving the social welfare of our diverse people.” But the “Depaeyin Massacre,” showed the true color of the Burmese Generals. Even though Razali did nothing except for his company Gambari has initiated breakthrough, “In the interest of the nation, I stand ready to cooperate with the government in order to make this process of dialogue a success and welcome the necessary good offices' role of the United Nations to help facilitate our efforts in this regard,” soured the hopes and aspirations of the people of Burma and the world.

Daw Suu has sacrificed herself to be used to see if there's a chance that will benefit the people of Burma. What a noble, Nobel lady? To engage in dialogue with the most hideous and cruel Burmese army generals, who are bent on maintaining their power either by hook or by crook which may or may not lead to genuine dialogue, is really a risky business. In view of the fact that the Junta's self-appointed National Convention one and half decade to accomplish, Daw Suu, has called for a 'meaningful and time-bound dialogue', which will provide the right framework for the Junta to find a way forward to this very serious situation. Obviously there is more skepticism and everybody takes it with a pinch of salt of what the Junta says and does as “lying the very concept of truth,” is their norm. Knowing full well that the Junta has a good record of playing dialogue only long enough to allow international attention to drift away is compounded with the broken promise to Gambari that the Junta has promised not to arrest any more. Perhaps the Burmese saying of “Min Hmar Thit Sar Lu Hmar Ga T้” literally translated as the government without adhering to its word of honor is equal to man that does not keep a promise, is anathema to the Junta

But the small steps are still welcome said Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to the UN who warned that the Junta should not use the process of talks and invitations to Mr. Gambari as a substitute for substantive progress on ending military repression and moving the country toward democracy. “A process for process’s sake will not be acceptable,” he said. In the Security Council only China and Russia highlight the positive elements as they themselves are great liars as far as democracy and human rights are concerned.

Even as Daw Suu was allowed to meet with her advisers for the first time in years, the regime was frantically dishing out promotions to riot police officers while also reshuffling top military ranks that tend to disobey their order to shoot. This is a response to discontent in the ranks. One should recollect that the members of the security forces are just as able as any ordinary person to see that the regime has committed violence against the heart and soul of Burma. By exploiting this conflicting set of loyalties among soldiersญto the regime who in most cases has conscripted them on one hand, and to their Buddhist and human values on the otherญthe movement is showing signs that they have been able to effectively sever most of the remaining ties between the regime and the people. The security forces and the monks were victims of the system, and there was no reason to have a war between victims and victims. One victim wears yellow and the other green uniforms and there was no reason for blood to be shed. Hannah Arendt asserted, “Where commands are no longer obeyed, the means of violence are of no use.”

From this perspective, the regime may be closer than it dares to acknowledge to its final days. Once the security forces begin to join the side of the people en masse refusing to carry out unjust orders the system will no longer be capable of sustaining itself. With no moral authority or political legitimacy remaining, the only thing holding the regime in place is the threat of force. But with every bullet or baton used against the people of Burma, the regime reveals that their ‘strength’ will in fact be their undoing. And now with sustained pressure from the international community, an increasingly tenuous hold on the country’s remaining sources of economic support, and more signs that its own defenders may be less willing to risk being on the losing side of the actualญas well as moralญconflict, the issue is becoming not whether this regime will disappear, but when.

Many tend to believe that the mission of the UN Special Envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, was a failure as he could not meet Senior-General Than Shwe. And prior to Gambari’s visit, the SPDC expelled the head of the UN Country Team in Burma for criticizing the regime. The SPDC is being defiant and aggressive, showing that it does not care what the world thinks. But a meticulous study according to Sao Harn Yawnhwe, the negatives seem to outweigh the positives. He pointed out, why in the first place did Than Shwe agree to talk with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, albeit under certain conditions? He need not even have addressed the question of talking to her if it was really a non-issue. Why did he appoint a ‘Relations Minister’ even before she agreed to cooperate? What was he trying to prove? And to whom? ``he reasoned.

Why was Daw Aung San Suu Kyi now the center of attention as show in the Burmese TV regularly if she is a persona non grata as previously describe by the Burmese Generals? Also, why did the Junta agree to let UN Human Rights Rapporteur, Sergio Pinheiro, to visit the country and investigate the recent demonstrations when he had been refused entry for four years? What is the rationale of the Junta making these gestures? One of the clear answers is that they are trying to buy time as usual to get off the pressure off. They are hoping that in time, the world will forget about Burma and the military can continue to do its business as usual.

It would be na๏ve to assume that the military is trying to find a way to solve the problem. The Burmese generals will not to give it up if they can help it. But they also know they need to respond to the public discontent and the international outrage. They have to find a way out. The Generals also knows that the economic problems will not go away soon. Some of them understand that beating up and killing the monks was a fatal error and that they have crossed the line which they cannot return. Besides the international consensus is also proving to be far more sustained than in the past and the end line is that the Burmese Generals and their cronies are hurting and trying to find a way out of this quagmire. Many a democracy advocates are afraid that the generals will once again succeed in hoodwinking the international community. They want to step up the pressure with sanctions and get the UN Security Council to pass a binding resolution. In other words they want the generals to admit defeat and ask for mercy which will never happens and as Sao Harn has vividly pointed out is also not the best way to bring about a change in Burma.

In any struggle for rights or freedom, a critical variable in a movement’s survival is its ability to adapt; to continue to come up with new and creative tactics that keep the oppressor on notice, and remind the people that the will to resist is shared by their neighbors and countrymen. Observers of nonviolent resistance will sometimes point to the extreme use of violence by a regime as evidence against a movement’s potential success. But an oppressor’s willingness to use repression is not necessarily a determinant of nonviolent success or failure (refer to the cases of Chile and South Africa) because it is not up to the members of the regime themselves to do the shooting, but those in the security forces whose job it is to carry out their orders.

The Burmese Junta derives its sustenance from the crucial support it receives from China who is trying to project its military power in its southward movement into the Indian Ocean. India has no principle, and shamelessly the world’s biggest democracy is not promoting democracy in its neighboring country as it could view things through the lens of national interest. If India, China and ASEAN were to put some teeth in the negotiations of the beauty and the beast there could be some hope. But it is far fledged. Many lessons are learned with the latest Yellow Revolution. The Social Gospel with the Burmese Buddhist became prominent, the clear line between Bama and Mahar Bama (against the Union Spirit) in as much the Ethnic and the Mahar Ethnics (separatist racist) were clearly drawn not to mention that the megaphone diplomacy which the Diaspora is so cherished lead to nowhere. The clear leaders come out with their silent and correct works such as Daw Suu of inside Burma and Sao Harn Yawnhwe of Diaspora and it is to be seen whether the self appointed little Bogyoke Aung San (unwittingly becoming Bo Shu Maung) would follow their lead is for the future to decide.

Even as the UN officials are busy congratulating themselves and preparing for more visits, while other countries happily name new envoys and core groups and discussion panels, let all the people who are involved put up the much needed pressure. The UN Security Council should implement an arms embargo. The Bush administration, which announced targeted banking sanctions against top officials and tycoons, needs to accelerate their implementation, Canada, France has followed suit and the European Union should do more. The censure forms the international community although bellows from the Junta as being bullied by the big powers, the Junta has to make concession to the UN Special Human Rights Rapporteur Professor Pinherio who confirmed that he found no improvements in the human rights situation and reiterated concerns over the harsh detention conditions faced by political prisoners. “Regional governments, individually and as members of the United Nations, have an important role in working for the improvement of human rights in Burma.” was his message and regional human rights activists welcomed Prof. Pinheiro’s statement and urged leaders at the ASEAN Summit not to backslide on pressure for the Burmese military regime. The signs of little progress are welcome but there remain major steps that need to be taken to ensure that the people of Burma have their voice heard about their own future.

Sao Harn has wisely pointed out that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has give up everything to better the lot of the people of Burma. She has patiently endured all hardships. Can we let her take the lead in this matter? She is continuing to meet the Junta’s representative working out some modalities including a time frame and consulting with the National League for Democracy, and has invited others, including the ethnic nationalities, to join her in making the dialogue process a success. Do we not believe that she knows what she is doing? But a close reading of Daw Suu's note shows that she is hardly naive or sanguine about success. Let us allow Daw Suu to speak for herself. Let her determine the timing and set the agenda and don’t rock the boat.

All these consultations will take time. There is a reasonable chance that, in spite of themselves, the generals will have to enter into a substantive dialogue. The key is for the outside world to give the process a chance. Gambari’s mission was to help establish a dialogue, in that he has been successful. It is a much larger achievement than it seems given that the generals do not want a dialogue. Now there is a slight chance that the peaceful uprising of the people and the monks, which the junta brutally crushed, might yet lead to a negotiated political process for long-suffering Burma and its 50 million people. These are things Daw Suu is not free to say, negotiating as she is from isolation and confinement. But having saved the U.N.'s bacon, the least she is owed is some tangible support to strengthen her position -- and the chances that dialogue might succeed

by: Kanbawza Win

Reading Between the Developing Events

Though advanced technology the media as well as individuals have highlighted the demonstration of monks and people in Burma and how the military junta cracked down on the protesters. The junta has tried to hide their brutality from the outside world, but for the first time they have failed. The Burmese people as well as the international communities have witnessed with their own eyes the way the SPDC members treat the citizens, shoot, beat and attack unarmed peaceful protesters. Since the military coup four decades ago, the ethnic citizens in hidden rural areas have experienced similar brutality, in addition to other heinous violations, like gang-raping of women and young girls. Nobody can imagine what they, the SPDC are capable of unless they have seen it with their own eyes, or only when it affects them and their families.

Such brutality and cruelty has also shocked the world including the United Nations, thus the UN Secretary General sent Mr Ibrahim Gambari twice to deliver messages that the UN Security Council strongly deplores the use of violence against peaceful demonstrators in Burma. The Council also emphasized the need to immediately release all political prisoners, and the need for the Government of Myanmar to create the necessary conditions for a genuine dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all concerned parties and ethnic groups, in order to achieve an inclusive national reconciliation with the direct support of the United Nations.

The Burmese military leader, General Than Shwe announced his willingness to meet Daw Suu Kyi if she was prepared to "end confrontation' ' and her support for sanctions and the "utter devastation' ' of the country.

The new sanctions imposed by the United States, Europe and Australia are definitely going to hurt the generals and their supporters. Than Shwe did not hesitate to let Mr. Gambari know how he felt and was quick to put the blame of the devastation of the country on the sanctions imposed on them. As usual the generals are ready to blame other people and everything else except themselves and their own foolish actions. When speaking in Naypyidaw he also informed the Special Envoy that “his previous visit did not bear fruit as the military had expected." The peoples of Burma as well as most international communities know that it is the junta under Than Shwe that has devastated the country. Have they not realised that more than 300,000 Shan, the same number of Karen and 20,000 Karenni have been robbed of their citizenship and driven out of their homes and country of birth? Unknown number of monks, students and oppositions are also homeless and fleeing from their cruel actions and brutality? It is about time the generals accept and undo their mistakes. It is about time too they search into their soul and discover where they have gone wrong to have put Burma and all its peoples in such a pitiful situation. How can they say that the economic and political situation in Burma is viable? It is such an utterly rubbish! When criticised by the United Nations representative about the state of the country they indignantly responded by expelling him.

It seems Than Shwe would agree to have an open discussion with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi only when the latter bows down to him and accept his totalitarian and dictatorial ideology, an ideology so different from hers. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi like her father, Bogyoke Aung San strives to make Burma into a genuine Federal Democratic Union. She believes in the aspiration and spirit of the “Panglong Agreement” that brought all the Nationalities together to ask for joint independence. This is the very confrontation the general is most afraid of, and it is the reason why Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been imprisoned for so long.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has agreed to have a talk with the ruling junta for a reconciliation process but Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan was particularly dismissive of the UN envoy’s suggestion that there should be three-way talks between the government and Daw Suu , with Mr Gambari acting as mediator. “Myanmar will never allow any outside interference to infringe on the sovereignty of the state, I would like you to know that Myanmar is a small nation and if a big power bullies her … we will have no other way but to face this and endure,” he was quoted as saying on state-run TV. Clearly the top generals are not interested in Mr Gambari or the UN playing a leading role in any future national reconciliation process, which is doubtful that there will ever be any such process unless ASEAN and China put greater pressure on them.

Daw Aung San’s decision to cooperate with the ruling junta for a reconciliation process has been highlighted in her statement made on her behalf by the visiting UN special envoy. Daw Suu’s statement, particularly the phrase, “in this time of vital need for democratic solidarity and national unity, it is my duty to give constant and serious considerations to the interests and opinions of as broad a range of political organizations and forces as possible, in particular those of our ethnic nationality races”, seems to have angered the generals tremendously.

Consequently, the generals have set out to create conflicts between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the ethnic nationalities. According to the report in the “ Mizzima”, in November 16, 2007 - The Burmese
military junta's Cultural Minister, Khin Aung Myint in Lashio, Northern Shan State, forced four ethnic armed ceasefire groups to sign and release a statement against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi'. The pre-written statement condemns Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s stance, and says that she has no right to represent the ethnic nationalities. The statement also says the groups support the Burmese junta's seven-point roadmap to democracy. The same procedure was also carried out in Myitkyina and other ethnic areas. News has just come in that the KIO official’s home have been raided by combat troops of the Burma Army and Sa-Ya-Pha, (Military Affairs Security Unit) for refusing to sign pre-written statement opposing Aung San Suu Kyi's statement.

Previous to this the SPDC also ordered villagers to gather in Lashio to demonstrate posing as a pro- military regime group to condemn the monks for taking part in politics and also to burn a picture of President Bush. In rural areas away from the watchful eyes of foreigners the SPDC have the habit of bullying civilians and ceasefire groups to do their dirty jobs for them, showing their cowardice nature. They have perfected how to lie convincingly and manipulate Asean leaders and some international governments.

All these evidences show that the top generals are not in the least interested in the international community’s efforts to encourage democratic change, and are intent on introducing a political system that will consolidate the military’s power into the future. ’Than Shwe and his supporters have no intention of taking part in the tripartite reconciliation process.

‘It is about time China and Asean leaders open their eyes and recognise how bad the real situation in Burma is, and what Than Shwe and his followers really stand for. Aseans are about to sign a historic “Human Rights Charter”, and how proud the citizens of each member states could be, but they can be proud only if it is credible and not tainted by the actions of one their members whose human rights situation is so poor that it is condemned by the majority citizens of the world. “If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem”, (President Abraham Lincoln)

Some pro-democracy activists are campaigning for international communities to boycott the 2008 Olympic in China for supporting and appeasing the military regime of Burma. To boycott the Olympic would not be fair to the people of China nor will it be fair to the athletes who have been training for several years. After all it is an event, which will bring people of all nations of the world together to enjoy and compete sportingly, and to celebrate the highest human physical achievement.

But the competitors and visitors that will be at the Olympic in China will feel uneasy in their hearts if the Chinese Government ignores the suffering of millions of people in Burma and continues to support and appease the most evil dictatorial regime in the world. By altering its policy on Burma and helping it to become a genuine democratic country China has a lot to gain, gratitude from the peoples of Burma and greater respect from all citizens of the world, especially the citizens of China. China and her people together can then welcome visitors, competitors and look forward to the 2008 Olympics with pride.

by : S. N. Oo

Newsman becomes new Shan charter man

One of Burma’s exiled newsmen was elected on Sunday, 11 November, to succeed Shan State draft charter chairman Sao Seng Suk who passed away almost 3 months ago.

The editor in chief of the Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN) Khuensai Jaiyen “reluctantly” became chairman of the Shan State Constitution Drafting Commission (SSCDC) after the conference’s first choice Khun Okker declined the nomination.

The PaO legal expert told the 45 participants, special guests and observers he was a bad choice. “I was born and grew up outside Shan State in Thaton,” he explained. “This should be a job for a native.”

Khun Okker is also deeply involved in drafting the Opposition’s answer to the ruling junta’s draft charter. Others who were elected to lead the Shan State constitution drafting are Shirley Hseng (Kachin), Na Ve Bon (Lahu), Nang Hseng Noung (Women), Nang Hseng Zawm (Shan), Khun Okker (PaO and constitutional consultant), Ta Ai Nyunt (Wa), Na Hti (Lisu), Jaha (Lahu), Min Khant (Kayan) and Asa Mayi (Akha).

Nine constitutional guidelines were also laid down by the three day consultation conference, 9-11 November, for the drafters to follow in a major expansion from the original two guidelines set out in 2000:

*A federal structure (2000)
*A democratic decentralized administrative system (2000)
*Sovereign power derives from the people of Shan State
*To be a member state of a genuine federal union with other states
*To guarantee equality among the Shan State’s ethnic nationalities
*To guarantee ethnic minority rights
*To guarantee basic human rights and gender equality
*To practise a multi-party democratic system
*To be a secular state Khuensai denies he has become a politician.

“I’m only fulfilling my duty as a citizen of Shan State,” he said. “I don’t think I’m made for the rough and tumble of politics.”

Shan State is one of Burma’s non-Burman states that have been drafting state constitutions since 2000. Under the leadership of the late Sao Seng Suk (1935-2007), it has already drawn up its first draft. The second draft is to be completed by the end of 2008.

The Promises of Panglong

A free homeland for the Tai
This, we agreed on at Panglong
The vows and promises we so solemnly made
And now, though it has never been told
By whom the promises were broken
We know who betrayed whom
But the Tai have always been true
Where are the vows and promises of Panglong
Have they all gone, I wonder, with Aung San?

The above song brings home to us the sadness that many Shan peoples feel with regard to the signing of the Panglong Agreement.

History has never been my strong subject, so I am afraid I do not have much knowledge of the Panglong Agreement and Union Day. What little I know of, is just my personal and simplified perspective, so do forgive me if I've got it wrong.

Some people have said to me there has never been a “Union of Burma”, and others say that there has always been conflict among the Burmese and the other ethnic peoples, and that is the reason why the Military regimes have thrived in their “divide and rule” tactics. All the same, I feel that the description of “union” is an individual and subjective matter, as much as the word “reality”, which really depends on one's own perception.

However, there was “unity” to a certain extent among some peoples of Burma, but sadly, it was not strong enough nor deep enough in the peoples' hearts to overcome the problems of Burma.

There were certainly discussions and comradeship between Aung San, Sao Shwe Thaike and the other ethnic delegates in their desire for a peaceful and united relationship between their peoples, but there were also power grasping people who were jealous and malevolent towards the wonderful spirit and great intentions of these esteemed and benevolent leaders.

There have also been a few different personal opinions on the Panglong Agreement, but life is such that one can either look at situations in a negative or a positive light, and history is made not just by one person or a group of people, but by the collective memory and views of all people.

Regarding Bogyoke Aung San, I would think that he was a considerate, admirable, charismatic and persuasive leader who cared for the peoples of Burma's welfare. History tells us that he worked hard for independence from colonial rule and for unity among different ethnic groups.
Anyway, on the part of Sao Shwe Thaike and other ethnic leaders, including the Kachin and the Chin, I understood that the main things they hoped and wished for were full autonomy in local affairs for ethnic peoples and the right of secession for the Shan peoples after 10 years if things didn't work out.

The bottom line was that the ethnic leaders who signed the Agreement did so without being forced to; it was because they trusted Aung San. They believed that he was a man of his word and got things done.

Regarding the Agreement

I understand that a complete account of what actually took place at Panglong has yet to be written.

According to what I have read, there were just nine points to it; the first four, regarding the selection of representatives to the national executive council, the fifth point guaranteed full internal autonomy for Shan State; the sixth, a promise to hold talks on a separate Kachin state; the seventh, a guarantee of fundamental democratic rights; the eighth, financial autonomy; the ninth, financial assistance to Kachin and Chin from the national treasury.

The tragedy was that the tenth point was never mentioned when the Shan, Chin and Kachin leaders signed the Agreement; which was, “the right to secede after attainment of freedom from Confederation with Burma, if and when we choose”.

I for one feel that the leaders should not have signed the Agreement without the tenth point. Understandably, we Shans could not help wondering whether the Burmese delegates had any intention of promising them the right to secede at all, hence hoodwinking the ethnic politicians by saying the matter was too complicated and to be discussed later at the constituent assembly. I read somewhere that the Burmese politicians had no intention of honouring Aung San's promises at Panglong at all.

Although the agreement was not “adequate”, a most important point is that in their hearts, the ethnic leaders' motivation was totally sincere, including Aung San's, who wanted only the best for their peoples, and perhaps rushing into an agreement because they did not want to waste any more time was one of the perils.

On February 12, 1947, the Panglong Agreement was signed, which led to the establishment of the Union of Burma, and hence this day has been celebrated every year ever since by the peoples of Burma as “Union Day”.

However, unfortunately, as it turned out, things did not materialize as the agreement promised, because on the morning of July 19 th Bogyoke Aung San and the whole interim cabinet including Sao Sam Htun of Mong Pawn, one of the three Shan statesmen, were assassinated at the constituent assembly.

Although the Panglong conference happened 60 years ago, the Shans still hold on to the Agreement as a very important part of our history, because it was the dream, the vision and the courage of our leaders who got together and did what was necessary for the future and welfare of their peoples. The Panglong Agreement also was a good beginning for the building of a new relationship based on equality and mutual respect between the ethnic peoples and the Burmese.
The Shan Democratic Union (SDU) had on Union Day 2004, pledged to restore “the Union as aspired to and as intended by our founding fathers”.

The full text of the Shan Democratic Union statement:

Today February 12th, in a small town, Panglong, in the Shan State , an accord that gave birth to the Union of Burma (Pyidaungzu) was signed by the founding fathers of the Union , 57 years ago.

Thus the Panglong Accord of 1947 established a Union of National States, which was co-independent and equal.

However, the Union, which was founded on democratic principles and on national self-determination as inspired to by the founding fathers and the whole people of the Union, did not materialize.

The SDU has taken up the task of restoring the Union as aspired to and as intended by our founding fathers.

We call on the people and nations of all states, leaders, political parties, fronts, armies, activist networks, societal associations, women and youth, to join together to restore the true Union , and to also rebuild our country, our state, and our respective communities and ethnic cultures, languages, traditions, and restore pride in our diverse ways and our unique identities. The Shan State has now been united, with all leaders, parties, armies, and societal and activist networks connected by a cohesive framework of action based on the principle of Common Goal, Diverse Actions. This unity will give us the strength to meet all challenges and to create and utilize opportunities to fulfil the aspirations of all of us and to honour the founding fathers of our Union .
The task ahead is not easy, and especially it is difficult to attain a peaceful and orderly political change and to restore the good life to all our people. Although the task and the path ahead will not be easy, retreat is not our option. Neither is standing still. We – the SDU – believe that our compatriots of all nationalities will meet the challenges and overcome all obstacles.

Onward to the Second Panglong.

We look forward eagerly to the day when there will be another, much better, Panglong Agreement, with all the complete and necessary steps to implement and benefit all the ethnic peoples of Burma.

Let us make it possible to build a nation that reinforces and carries out the Union of our collective spirit.

Let us remember and celebrate Union Day with love, joy, optimism and comradeship, and capture the spirit of Panglong once again.

by : Taisamyone


The reason why the Nepalese people are approaching victory for their democracy revolution is because they have unity of purpose and unity in achieving a common goal. The Nepalese planned their uprising together as “one”, and they acted as “one”. There is certainly a lot we can learn from the situation in Nepal even though it isn't exactly the same as the situation in Burma, and it is worth our time studying what they did well and not so well, and what we can learn from them.

The people of Burma need to follow their example. We all want freedom from the oppressive military regime, but are we ready to work together for the same goal?
Although the people of Burma are all suffering under this ruthless government, are we united enough to work together?

As I see it, the Burmese people, the non-Burmese, and ethnic people still need to work at having complete trust in each other, to be able to work together towards achieving true democracy together.

The ethnic people and the non-Burmese of Burma have been through terrible persecutions and oppression, and to the same extent, the Burmese people too. However, I feel that we need to be more understanding and caring toward each other, whichever group we belong to, and a need to develop some understanding, sensitivity and awareness of each other, in order to be more tolerant of our differences, our religions and traditions.

Many non-Burmese and ethnic people are very wary and suspicious of Burmese people because of how they had in the past been discriminated against, bullied, manipulated and hoodwinked into losing their rights and self-respect by ill-meaning Burmese leaders. Since the dictatorship of Ne Win their situation has worsened over the years, and now they have lost even their basic human rights, autonomy, livelihood, education, basic welfare amenities, been brutally and inhumanely treated and discriminated against.

If we realize that we are all “victims of the system”, we should aim toward a unity of purpose, and throw out negative beliefs such as discrimination, racism, chauvinism or hatred towards different groups of people.

In the past, the peoples of Burma have been able to work together and achieve great things (Panglong, 1988, etc.) even if there hasn't been the positive result we all wanted. We need to regenerate this unity amongst ourselves to work for our common goal – the overthrow of the SPDC regime and the restoration of our freedoms and democracy.

Democracy means a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people collectively, and is administered by them; the common people, or, a state of society characterized by recognition of equality of rights and privileges for ALL people, politically, socially or legally. If this is the kind of fair and just society we want for ourselves and our children, there is no way we are going to get it with the present military regime, or without unity.

This is the time to lay down our differences, develop full trust and caring toward one another, and go forward in full force toward true democracy in everyway and any method we can.

by : Feraya

Your are NOT Forgotten

You are NOT Forgotten
(An Interview with Ben Rogers by Feraya Nangmone and Taisamyone)

BURMA DIGEST: How did you first become involved with Christian Solidarity Worldwide?
Ben Rogers: I first became involved with the work of Christian Solidarity Worldwide in 1994, when I heard Baroness Caroline Cox, who is Patron of CSW, speaking in my university college chapel. She spoke about human rights violations in Sudan, Nagorno Karabakh, Burma and other places that she has travelled to, and I felt profoundly moved to respond. I spoke to her afterwards, asked to get involved, and then I launched an appeal on my university campus to raise funds and awareness. I travelled to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh with Baroness Cox and US Congressman Frank Wolf a few months later, on a cargo plane loaded with humanitarian aid, and that was how it all began! In Nagorno Karabakh, a tiny war-torn enclave that had been bombarded and besieged by Azerbaijan, I met wonderful people who were bravely risking their lives struggling for freedom against all the odds. That was when my commitment to the fight for freedom first began.

BURMA DIGEST: What made you set up CSW in Hong Kong?
Ben Rogers: When I graduated I was offered a job as a journalist in Hong Kong. However, I was becoming more involved with CSW in my spare-time, and I wanted that to continue. I had a dilemma - if I moved to Hong Kong, would I have to give up my involvement with CSW. My dilemma was resolved when the National Director of CSW said: "The job you have been offered in Hong Kong sounds great. We think you should take it. And by the way, will you set up CSW Hong Kong while you are there". So that's what I did!

BURMA DIGEST: How did you first become interested in Burma?

Ben Rogers: I first really became interested in Burma through working in East Timor. I travelled to East Timor after the violence surrounding the referendum in 1999, with my friend Dr. Martin Panter, founder of CSW Australia, who has been visiting the Thai-Burmese border at least twice a year for the past 18 years. While in East Timor, which I have visited many times, Martin started to tell me more about the situation in Burma. I asked if I could travel with him to the Thai border, and so in March 2000 I made my first visit to the Karen and Karenni. I remember swimming across the Moie River to visit the Burma side, Karen State, briefly!!

BURMA DIGEST: We understand that you travelled to different parts of Burma. Please tell us a bit about your experience in different parts of different ethnic states.

Ben Rogers: I have visited the Thai-Burmese border and Internally Displaced People across the border inside Karen and Shan States, about 12 times, and the India-Burma border twice. I have visited Karen, Karenni, Shan, Chin, Kachin and Burman people. My passion is to work for all the people of Burma, not just one or two groups, and to fight for freedom and human rights for everyone in that country. I have met wonderful people of different ethnicities and religions, whose courage, faith, dignity, gentleness, graciousness and generosity is inspiring and humbling. I remember one Shan boy, aged 15, who told me how his mother and father were shot dead by the Burma Army, his village was burned, and he was taken as a forced porter and severely beaten. As he looked into my eyes, he said words which have stayed with me ever since: "Please tell the world to put pressure on the regime to stop killing its people. Tell the world not to forget us." I also remember a Chin person in Mizoram telling me: "We feel so forgotten. We used to pray that someone would come to us, and we used to weep when no one came. Your visit here is a Godsend." Such inspiring and humbling remarks make me determined to continue working for Burma's freedom until it comes.

BURMA DIGEST: Did you see evidence of abuses of human rights whilst you were there?

Ben Rogers: Yes. I visited one IDP village in 2002 just a few weeks after it had been attacked. It had been burned down. All that was left were the ashes. I remember sitting on a piece of wood that had once been part of a church, and talking to the pastor. "We have to leave village after village, house after house,” he said. "Please do not forget us. Please remember us in your prayers." I have interviewed refugees and IDPs with first-hand experiences of torture, rape and forced labour; I have met landmine victims, some of whom had been used as human minesweepers; and I have met former political prisoners and former child soldiers.

BURMA DIGEST: What do you think can be done to stop atrocities against human rights in Burma?

Ben Rogers: It needs a major concerted effort on the part of both the international community and the Burmese people. We need the UN Security Council to address the crisis and pass a resolution. We need China, India and Thailand to stop supporting the regime and to work for change. We need the EU to take a stronger, more proactive approach. We need countries like the UK to provide financial support to democracy building projects and groups on the border involved in human rights documentation, dissemination and education. We need ASEAN to increase its pressure. We also need greater unity among the people of Burma. In East Timor, although there were many different political and even regional/ethnic differences within the country, the people united and formed a common front against the Indonesian occupation, under the National Council for Timorese Resistance, known as "CNRT". They had three very clearly identifiable charismatic and well-respected leaders: Xanana Gusmao, the figure-head, in prison, who commanded the loyalty and respect of everyone, in the same way that Aung San Suu Kyi does in Burma; Bishop Belo, the head of the Church, the spiritual and pastoral leader; and Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta, in exile, who was able to communicate very effectively in the UN and other international forums and media and who travelled the world lobbying. In Burma, it is fragmented. Apart from Aung San Suu Kyi, whom the world knows and rightly admires, there is no clearly identifiable charismatic respected leader around whom everyone could unite. There are many many very very good people doing excellent work, but Burma needs one or two more people whom the world can identify. It would also be good if the people of Burma could unite under one single umbrella, as the East Timorese did with CNRT. At the moment, there are several umbrella groups - NCUB, NCGUB, ENC, NDF, DAB, NLD (LA) .... I find it confusing, and I work on Burma almost full-time and have done for six years. Imagine how confusing politicians and journalists find it. If we could build one umbrella group that everyone - NLD, KNU, RCSS, CNF, KNPP and all the other ethnic groups - joined, then that would single a great unity which would really help the cause.

BURMA DIGEST: Is there any possibility of taking the SPDC to the International Court of Justice? If so, which members?

Ben Rogers: Yes, I think it is possible. There is a very strong case against the SPDC for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide or attempted genocide. Several countries are considering the matter, and we are lobbying them to take it further. It would be wrong at this stage to speculate publicly as to which countries might do this, though. We need to continue lobbying and building up the case.

BURMA DIGEST: What are your views on Karen National Union?

Ben Rogers: The KNU has been courageously fighting to defend the Karen people and promote freedom in Burma, and I have great respect for them and their leaders. They have shown great restraint and dedication and moderation, in the face of extremely difficult challenges, politically and militarily. They have always made clear that they want a peaceful, non-violent, political solution to Burma's problems. Their armed resistance has bravely provided a front-line of defence for Karen civilians facing the attacks of the Burma Army. They have carefully avoided any tactics which could be deemed to be "terrorist", such as attacks on civilian targets, and have been primarily a defensive rather than an offensive force. The KNU is a key player in the future of Burma.

BURMA DIGEST: What are your views on US patriotic act and UK anti terrorist laws with regard to refugees from Burma?

Ben Rogers: I am aware that the Patriot Act has made it difficult for refugees who have any connections to the KNU or other armed groups in Burma. I think the Patriot Act needs to be reviewed. Of course the US and the UK need to be vigilant in protecting themselves against terrorist infiltration and I would be the first to support that. But the people from Burma are not terrorists, indeed quite the opposite - they are people who share our values of democracy and freedom, which terrorists do not - so we should be doing all we can to help them and give them sanctuary.

BURMA DIGEST: What can the World Community do to help the IDP’s and refugees from Burma?

Ben Rogers: It is vital that the international community, in the form of Governments and NGOs, provide funding to the brave relief groups who cross the border into Burma to take medical and food aid to the IDPs. So far, with a few exceptions, the world's governments and the major relief agencies have failed the IDPs badly. That must change, and it is something I am campaigning hard on.

BURMA DIGEST: The Conservative Human Rights Commission is breaking new grounds with the new compassionate policies of the new leadership of the Conservative Party. This is a significant change from the traditional view of the Conservative Party. What role do they have with the pro-democracy and human rights organisations for Burma?

Ben Rogers: The Conservative Party Human Rights Commission actually builds on traditional Conservative values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law, the dignity of the individual and opportunity, articulated throughout history by people like William Wilberforce, who ended the slave trade, Winston Churchill, who defeated fascism, and Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, who helped defeat communism and promote freedom. However, it is very true that those values have not previously been applied consistently in Conservative foreign policy. In the past, we have built alliances with dictators who we should not have supported. The new Conservative Party Human Rights Commission will, I believe, have a very important role in helping to influence our foreign policy, place the promotion of human rights and democracy at its heart, and develop policies for more consistently championing human rights around the world. You can see our website for more information. On Burma, we have held a hearing in Parliament, the Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague has been very supportive on a number of initiatives, including co-sponsoring an Early Day Motion and signing a letter to the UN Security Council, and he made a speech at an event with Charm Tong from the Shan Women's Action Network, which you can see on our website. The Conservative Party Human Rights Commission will continue to put pressure on the British Government and the international community to bring change to Burma, we will continue to develop alliances with the Burmese pro-democracy and human rights groups, and we will not stay silent. The most significant role we can play, at the moment as the Conservative Party is in Opposition, is to keep up the pressure on our own Government to do more.

BURMA DIGEST: Do you think the current changes in the Conservative Party will help them win the next election, and if they do, what will they do for Burma?

Ben Rogers: I believe David Cameron is making some extremely important and much-needed changes, to make the Conservative Party a truly modern, compassionate party which is genuinely committed to social justice. I was one of his earliest supporters for the leadership. I do believe we are now in a position - the best position we have been in in almost a decade - to win the next General Election. If that happens, I am confident that William Hague and David Cameron will be true to their word, and will really place human rights and democracy at the heart of foreign policy. As to what they will do for Burma, it depends on what the situation in Burma is at the time - but I do believe that they will strongly support the democracy movement and do all they can to restore democracy and human rights to the country.

BURMA DIGEST: How do you view the overall current situation In Burma?

Ben Rogers: The overall current situation is terrible. The offensive in Karen State is the worst in a decade. Thousands of innocent civilians have been displaced. The regime appears to be cracking down on the NLD. Although Than Shwe met UN Under Secretary-General Gambari recently, and Gambari was permitted to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, there is no visible sign yet that this was anything more than a trick to lull the international community into a false sense of security. I hope things will change and that the regime will recognise the need to enter into a meaningful tripartite dialogue, but at the moment the political, humanitarian and economic situation is desperate.

BURMA DIGEST: What is your vision for the future and for world peace?

Ben Rogers: I passionately believe that democracy is the key to peace. Truly democratic countries throughout history have never attacked another democratic country. Dictators and tyrants are the cause of war, poverty, instability and suffering. So my vision is for a world in which everyone may live in freedom - with the freedom to express their opinions without fear of imprisonment or torture, the freedom to choose their religion, the freedom to assemble, and the right to hold their government to account. Human rights are basic, simple, and universal. Every human being throughout the world has a right to be treated with dignity.

BURMA DIGEST: What is your last word for our readers and our ethnic brothers and sisters of Burma?

Ben Rogers: All I would say is that I make this promise: that the cause of freedom for Burma is one that I am committed to for as long as it takes. I have dedicated my life to it, and will go on doing so. I will not rest until all of Burma is free, all the ethnic peoples of Burma are treated with equal respect and equal rights, and the country can live in peace and without fear. I love Burma, I love the people of Burma, many of them have become my real and personal friends, and I will do everything I can to contribute to the struggle. To the Burmans, Karen, Karenni, Shan, Mon, Arakan, Chin, Kachin, Rohingya, Pa-O, Padaung and every other ethnic group: you are not forgotten.

Web links

A Land Without Evil: Stopping the Genocide of Burma's Karen People, a Book by Ben Rogers.