The voice of the
Shan State people
for Peace and
Transition
to Democracy

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    2015 Myanmar People Alliance

    Myanmar People Alliance is an alliance of community based organizations, civil society based organizations, activists and concerned individuals working together to achieve a genuine, all-inclusive democracy in Myanmar, based on human rights, equality and rule of law.

    MPA message
    We are the masters of our own life.
    We want to have influence on the way we are governed;
    We want democratic decision making based on our needs to improve our daily life;
    We want guaranteed human and civil rights under the law.
    Therefore: We want a government that serves the people.
    Our vision for a better future
    MPA envisions a democratic society where all people can benefit from the wealth of our country and have the feeling that they belong to a nation that creates equal chances for all citizens under full protection of just laws and policies that are supported by the people.
    The members of MPA believe that in a genuine, all-inclusive democracy people can speak freely and can participate in the decisions that directly affect their life and their community.
    After decades of conflict, we believe this transition period is the right time to create a society where sustainable development is based on sustainable peace. The transition from a dictatorship to a democracy is a complicated process that needs the contribution of all the people to make it genuine.
    Therefore, MPA wants to cooperate actively to create a future where every human being in Myanmar can live a secure and happy life, and where we can feel represented and valued by our government.
    We believe a future Myanmar needs to be a federal state within the framework of the Union to make sure that the diversity of the country is protected. We believe that a federal state based on democratic values and equal rights and opportunities for all citizens will contribute to sustainable peace in the Union.
    We believe people are the most valuable resource of any nation, therefore we believe that in a genuine democracy the government governs the country with the free consent of the people.
    We believe that people are the masters of their own life, and have the right and the responsibility to participate in the process of creating a free and fair society. Therefore, the rights of citizens to participate in the social, economic and political process is more than the right to vote in general elections. We believe access to information; open communication between the people and their government, and cooperation and real power sharing on all levels is needed to create a genuine democratic society.
    Our area of work
    Our country faces problems in many fields. MPA concentrates on Land, Natural Resources and Governance. We believe that land and natural resources together can make a firm foundation for the development of our nation, if they are developed for the benefit of all people. Land is the source of our livelihood, as many of our people are farmers. We are connected to our land.
    Natural resources can be the collective wealth of our country, but unregulated extraction of natural resources is also a threat to our environment, our health and our wellbeing. We believe that all natural resources belong to the nation as a whole, and should only be used for the benefit of all people and only with respect for the environment and future generations.
    Governance is the backbone of our country. Our land, our resources and our lives can only be safe when our government reflects the needs of the people and governs with respect for the common needs of the nation.
    We believe we need laws, policies and regulations that reflect our vision of a democratic federal state where the government represents the people and power is shared transparently between the different levels of government within the Union. These laws should be made through a democratic process of consultation and transparency, and should be implemented fairly and equally for the benefit of the community.
    We take the current transition seriously. We are ready and willing to participate and cooperate in making our country a genuine democratic federal state.
    How we work
    MPA is an association. Organizations and individuals who share our vision are welcome to cooperate with us. We want to work together making our vision for the future come true. As we believe people should be able to actively participate in the making of decisions that affect their life, we focus on sharing information, awareness and knowledge about laws, citizens’ rights and the situation in our country. Informed citizens who are aware of their rights can claim their rightful place in society.
    As we are working for change, we investigate the problems our people are facing, and try to find solutions to solve our immediate problems. As many of the problems people face are directly connected with the lack of good governance and rule of law, we also discuss what changes are needed to make our life better and happier.
    We work directly together with communities, and are building a network between communities.
    We share the issues our communities face and their suggestions and wishes for a better future with the government and other stakeholders on different levels. We organize workshops, trainings, meetings and forums to discuss and share our vision.
    Project 2015
    We made “The voice of the Shan State People for Peace and Transition to Democracy”, because we, as people of Shan State, want to support the transition to a real democratic society.
    About this book
    We believe that in a real democracy people have a voice and can speak out without fear because the government wants to know what the people think and what the people need, because the government cares about the wellbeing of the people.
    We want to speak out and be listened to, because the government makes decisions that directly affect our lives and the life of our community. We believe it is the right of the people to participate in the decision making, because it concerns our life and our future.
    We understand that after decades of conflict it is important to create a society where we can all contribute actively to peace. Only when we have real peace in our country we can have development that benefits all the people.
    We understand that a transition from the past system of military rule to an open democratic society is not easy. Many structures of the past still exist. To change this is not only the responsibility of the government, the civil servants, our political parties, our representatives in parliament and our civil society organizations. Change is also the shared responsibility of all the people. We want to participate in changing our society; therefore, we share our voice.

    We want to live in a country where everybody benefits from the wealth of our country. We want to feel that we belong to a nation where everybody has equal opportunities, and where everybody feels that their rights are protected and their needs are respected by the laws and policies. We value our ethnic identity, and we want to protect the diversity in our country. If we make a society where there is equality for everybody, with respect for diversity, we can end the civil war and live our lives in peace.

    As we live in Shan State, we have concentrated on our own State. In part 1 of this book, we share the problems we face. We understand that many of the problems we face are connected with our system of government and we know that change takes time. Many of the problems we face are connected with our land. We have many cases of landgrabbing, and we face obstacles when we try to register our land. We want to live as farmers, so our land and land security is very important for us. We also share the pressure we face because of all the mining and other development projects in our state. We are suffering health problems, and we are worried for our environment.
    Many of our problems are also connected with the system of governance. We want everybody to know that we are looking for ways to communicate with our government, with the civil servants and with the local leaders. We now have civil rights under the new government, so we have a chance to speak out. But it is very difficult for us to get the information we need. There are many new laws made in the past years by the new government. Part of these laws are supporting the rights and security of our people, our environment and our development, other parts protect the government and serve the interest and benefit of only some people instead of all the people.
    We experience a lack of openness and free communication and information sharing.
    By sharing our experiences and our hardships, we want to contribute to a better understanding of what needs to be changed in our country to create a real democracy with a government that is supported by the people and is working for the common good.

    That is why in Part 2 of this book, we share our proposals for a better future. We want a government that we can trust, but we also think the government needs to be able to trust the people. Therefore, we share our ideas. Before, we were afraid to speak out, because we had no civil rights. Now we believe that we need to tell the government and the other people in our country what we, the people of Shan State think, want and believe. If we keep silent, the government doesn’t know what we want. If we speak out, they can listen to us and we can work together to make a better country for everybody.

    In Part 3 we will share the proceedings and statement of the Forum `The voice of the Shan State People for Peace and Transition to Democracy’, held in Taunggyi from 15 to 17 December 2015

    This book is the first step towards better understanding between the people of Shan State and the people who govern us. This book is about what we experience, what we feel. It is also about our dreams for the future. We have suffered from the conflict and the government in our country for many, many years. We do not want to live our lives in fear anymore. We want to live in a peaceful and free society, where we can trust our government to work together with the people for the benefit of everybody. We believe it is time for change.
    How we collected the information: what we did, where we went.
    This book represents the shared issues and common visions of the people in Shan State, collected through the MPA network.
    In 2014 and 2015, we had 75 meetings, workshops and consultation sessions, attended by 6000 people from all parts of Shan State. In these meetings we talked together about the mining, land grabbing and governance issues and problems communities face because of these issues. We shared stories and experiences, and debated about what kind of change we would need to make our lives better.
    Based on the experiences of the people in the affected communities, we discussed the laws and how they can be applied for the benefit and protection of the people. We designed what would be the proper way to address these issues in a non-violent way and took action accordingly. We debated the system of governance in the country and explored what kind of change would be needed on which levels for the country to become the democratic and free society we envision.
    After our meetings and workshop, the participants would go back to their communities and share their knowledge and insights with the people in their villages.
    After we decided that we wanted to make this book, a team started to work on the draft, sharing every stage with the communities involved through sharing and consultation sessions.
    For the final drafting of the book, the stories we present here were checked and confirmed by representatives of the affected people. The final draft of the book was presented to the communities involved to get their approval.

    We did not speak to and worked with all the people in Shan State. But we, as MPA members, feel that we have made a book that represents the many problems the people from different ethnic groups in Shan State face. Though we could not describe all cases happening in our State, we believe the stories that we present are representing the problems faced through the whole of Shan State.
    The solutions for the problems and the proposals for change come directly from the people consulted. We have debated on the proposals for change often during the process of making this book, and have tried to find ways for change that can be implemented in the process of changing our country into the federal democratic state we envision. What we present here is the common vision of the people in Shan State for change.

    There are areas in Shan State that we could not visit regularly. Even though a Cease Fire Agreement has been signed in October 2015, the civil war in our country continues. Not all Ethnic Armed Groups are involved in the Cease Fire Agreement, and part of our Shan State is still a battle field. Therefore, the areas of north eastern Shan State (Kokang and Wa areas) and parts of Middle Shan State are not covered due to security issues. We hope that we will be able to share the experiences and the stories of the people in these area in the near future. We long for sustainable and inclusive peace in Shan State and in the whole of Myanmar.

    See more: www.myanmarpeoplealliance.net (English)

    website: g.s.b. schagen 2017; text&pictures: Burma Centrum Nederland ©2017