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At 08:33 PM 4/6/97, you wrote:
>From: Ken and Visakha Kawasaki <brelief@xxxxxxx>
>Subject: "We Need Real Peace" The Palaung (or Da Ta-ang) people of Burma
>We Need Real Peace
>The Palaung people, or Da Ta-ang as they call themselves, live mostly in the
>mountains of northwestern Shan State. Numbering over one million, the
>Palaung -- a Mon-Khmer sub-group -- have a long history and unique languge
>and literature. The predominantly Buddhist Palaung are famous in Burma for
>growing high quality tea.
>The Palaung took up arms against the Burmse military regime in 1963 to
>demand greater autonomy, but the main resistance army, the Palaung State
>Liberation Army (PSLA) signed a ceasefire with the SLORC in April 1991. Some
>PSLA members broke away to form the Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF) in
>1992. The following is an interview with Mai Aik Phone, member of the PSLF:
>Q. Why did the Palaung agree to a ceasefire with the SLORC in 1991?
>A. They had no choice. After the collapse of the Communist Party in 1989,
>all the armies around the Palaung made ceasefires -- the Kachin 4th Brigade,
>the Shan State Army, the Kokang, the United
>Wa State Army. The Palaung was the only group Ieft, so there was great
>pressure from the SLORC. They started terrorizing the Palaung civilian
>popuIation. They burned down villages, and in early 1991
>they captured 3 Palaung monks from the village of Tached and put them in
>sacks and burned them
>alive. The Palaung people begged their leaders to agree to a ceasefire, so
>they finally gave in.
>Q. Have there been any benefits for the Palaung people since the ceasefire?
>A. The Palaung living in the areas controlled by the PSLA (around Namsan and
>Mantong) have been left alone by the SLORC. But that is only one part of the
>Palaung population. The Palaung living in other areas of Shan State are
>suffering from human rights abuses like everyone else. They are being used
>as porters, forced labour, and many were forcibly relocated last year. The
>PSLA has not been given any political rights by the SLORC. They can only
>carry out some business in their area. They have been attending the SLORC's
>so-called National Convention, but they know it is a farce. It is
>humiliating for them to be referred to by the SLORC as a "peace" group, and
>to have to put up the SLORC flag in their offices. This is to trick people
>into thinking that real peace has come to the Palaung area. In fact, we know
>it is a false peace, that is why we broke away to form the PSLF.
>Q. What is the aim of your front?
>A. We want true peace, democracy and human rights for the Palaung people. We
>also want self-determination. To achieve this we must cooperate with the
>other ethnic groups and Burmese pro-democracy groups to oppose the SLORC.
>We also want to spread information about what is really happening to the
>Palaung people to the outside world. We have recently set up a human rights
>Q. What problems are you facing?
>A. Many problems. We used to be based at the Karen Headquarters of
>Manerplaw, but this was captured by the SLORC in 1995. From the Thai border,
>it is also difficult to travel to the Palaung area.
>There are several thousand Palaung refugees in Thailand, mostly from central
>and southern Shan State. They have fled to Thailand over the last 18 years
>to escape fighting and forced recruitment into local armies. Unfortunately,
>there has been little publicity about this. Some people do not even know
>that any Palaung refugees exist.
>Q. Do you think there is any danger that Palaung culture will disappear?
>A. The longer that SLORC remains in power, the longer this danger exists for
>all ethnic groups. The are trying to assimilate everyone into the Burman
>culture. Until recently the teaching of ethnic languages was banned in
>schools. Now they have started allowing some languages to be taught in
>schools, but we know this is just a cosmetic move to make it look as if they
>are promoting ethnic culture. In fact, proper rights must be given to the
>ethnic peoples so that they can safeguard their own culture. Until this
>happens, instability and fighting will continue, which is a major threat to
>indigenous culture. For example, the Palaung refugees in Thailand are now
>forgetting their old customs. And how will all the Palaung villagers
>recently relocated from the hills to large relocation sites by the SLORC be
>able to maintain their culture? We need real peace and the right to
>establish our own state to ensure that our culture survives.
>Burmese Relief Centre April 1997 Newsletter