167 prisoners detained in territory controlled by the The Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), the political arm of the Shan State Army (SSA), are to be freed as part of an amnesty announced to mark the event of the RCSS’s Third Congress, held between Jan. 16-17 at the group’s HQ in the southern Shan town of Loi Tai Leng.
Most of those given clemency under the amnesty were imprisoned on drug charges, for violating the law of the RCSS, or were prisoners of war who had not participated in serious attacks on the SSA, Maj. Sai Kham San, spokesperson of RCSS/SSA, told DVB.
“They all were sentenced by our organization’s legal team. As for the prisoners of war, we will confiscate their weapons and free them,” he said.
Maj. Sai Kham San said that he was unaware of recent news concerning the disappearance of Mai Nom Han, chairperson of the Ta-Arng (Palaung) National Party (TNP), plus his wife and seven months old son. It had been speculated the family may have been captured by the RCSS. The spokesperson said that it was against the policy of the RCSS to arrest members of political parties and civilians non-combatants unrelated to conflicts between ethnic armed forces.
“Above all, our troops are not active in Tone Law village where the arrest took place,” he said.
The RCSS claims it will partake in upcoming talks between Shan EAOs in which groups will discuss ways to end the state’s internecine conflict and control the spread of COVID-19. Fighting between the RCSS and SSPP/TNLA has intensified since the coup, leading to the displacement of thousands of civilians.
The RCSS has remained reservedly silent whilst fellow EAOs and PDFs cooperate to end Burma’s military dictatorship. When questioned on the matter, Sai Kham San rather cryptically retorts that the RCSS “couldn’t move as their feet had been twined together”, whilst stating that “local people understand that other Shan armed forces — the SSPP, TNLA and UWSA — were united against the RCSS”, and before attacking the junta, the group would rather resolve this conflict first.
Sai Kham San told DVB that meetings in preparation of the upcoming Shan State National Congress will soon be held, during which a constitution, drafted in accordance with the goals of Shan State federalism, will be put forward. The spokesperson said that ethnic representatives will work together with Shan State lawmakers to create the document.
The RCSS said that it welcomes attempts by ASEAN, the UN and other international actors in solving Burma’s political crisis, and is prepared to cooperate with groups to find solutions.
Maj. Sai Kham San said that the RCSS would even welcome invitations to peace talks held by the military, but only if these were aimed at building a genuine federal union — an outcome which his group feels is the only way to transcend Burma’s political stalemate. A highly diplomatic response.
A total of 21 members were elected to the RCSS’s Central Executive Committee at its Third Congress, and each will sit for a tenure of four years. Gen. Ywet Sit has been elected as the RCSS’s chairperson, whilst Dep-Gen. Sai Yee becomes first vice-chairman and Gen. Khay Ngin becomes second vice-chairman. BURMESE