Thousands converged at the headquarters of the Shan State Army (South) in Doi Tai Leng on 21 May to celebrate the 52nd Shan Resistance Day and 10-year anniversary of Restoration Council for Shan State. The SSA-S is one of Burma’s largest armed ethnic groups, and has been fighting the government for more than half a century.
Yawd Serk, chairman of the Shan State Army, told DVB that Burma’s multiple ethnic armies are closer to forming an alliance, and through media and wider awareness, the people of Burma and the international community are steadily acknowledging the injustices of the Burmese military government.
What have you achieved over 52 years of resistance, and what needs to be done in the near future?
We have achieved two things: first, we have the experience of what we have done wrong and what we have done right. Second, we know about the people of Burma, that the people of Burma don’t like the [ruling] State Peace and Development Council [SPDC]. We also sense that for the past 52 years we have seen progress within the resistance movement. In the past, we have seen that different groups of resistance armies, like in Shan state, try to fight with one another, and also in other states like Karen state, but now their situation has changed and there is better communication so we can now work together for freedom.
The injustices of the SPDC have been shut away for a long time but now they cannot hide this situation anymore so the news on what’s happening in Burma has been disclosed to the world. We believe that now the SPDC – if they do what they have done in the past – we know they cannot stand firm anymore and we believe we can defeat them in the near future. Organisations such as DVB…now disclose what is happening in the Burma to the rest of the world. The news is important and beneficial to people of Burma so we have seen the progress of the media in this respect.
What is the SSA’s opinion on the Border Guard Force, and will there be alliances with other ethnic groups?
We don’t know the internal conditions and situation but there are three things to express: first, all ceasefire groups made the ceasefire because they believe they can solve the problem through politics. After they made the ceasefire with the SPDC, the government took advantage and broke promises with the ceasefire groups. The ceasefire groups are also armies, as is the SPDC, so it is army on army, not government – the SPDC is a group of soldiers, not a government. Now they have an expanding army so they try to oppress and take advantage of smaller armies. If the SPDC is stubborn in forcing the ceasefire groups to transform into Border Guard Force, then war is inevitable. If there is more fighting, then more people will face difficulty. The 2010 elections will bring nothing, and will create more problems for the people of Burma.
So you do not accept the 2010 elections at all?
I am pessimistic about the  constitution and about the election laws. Now [the junta] are just forcing the people to vote and this means that when the other parties cannot participate, [the generals] are just voting for themselves.
Some ethnic leaders believe that 2010 elections could bring more space for ethnic people.
We don’t see any space. In my mind there are two big political parties, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) and National League for Democracy (NLD). They don’t have any chance to participate in these elections, so with the smaller parties, how can they campaign to attract more people? If there is any space, ethnic groups will only get a small slice of the cake. If there is to be an effective boycott, then no parties should be set up – the SPDC should just do it on its own.
How important is culture and religion in Shan state?
The junta shows their insincerity towards ethnics by trying to belittle and destroy the culture of the people. Justice means that all people live together peacefully; not only for the people of Shan state, but for the people of Burma, there is justice [but] it depends on our group power – if we have the will power then we will be able to win one day. The people of Burma need to use their knowledge to think more and do more to overcome injustice. People must also be loyal to one another, and be mindful of their actions. Regarding the generals and the elections, they need to be very careful: the people in power know that the constitution and election law is not fair, so people need to boycott silently. Setting up a new political party is not beneficial to ethnic people.