The Shan struggle for self-determination cannot expect support from non-Shan ethnic groups residing in the same state unless Shans accede to their demand for local autonomy, according to a survey conducted by S.H.A.N. at a recent youth meeting.
"Like Shans, we want to preserve our language, culture and ethnic identity," wrote one of the 12 non-Shan youth attending a Shan State Youth meeting on the Chiangmai border on 21 May. "No sub-state for us, no support from us for Shan fight," declared another.
All without exception ticked "Yes" to the question, "Should non-Shans have a self-administered sub-state of their own in the new Shan State?"
By contrast, 65% of the 31 Shan youth participants at the gathering were appalled by the idea of having to share the cake - an area of some 160,000 square kilometers (62,500 square miles) - with their compatriots of different stocks, which include Pa-O, Palaung, Wa, Kachin, Danu and Lahu, among others. "If we are required to comply with the territorial demands from each, I fear there will be no land left for Shans," worried one Shan youth. "Can't they just be satisfied with allocations of portfolios in the government, such as becoming the head of state?" asked another.
To which 32% of the Shan respondents counselled reason:
During the former days, the Shan state used to be a federation of 34 principalities (21 Shan, 7 Danu, 2 Pa-O and one each for Wa, Palaung, Padaung and Kokang). Sharing power and territory is nothing new to the Shans.
If we don't agree to their demand for self-rule, do you think they will be happy living with us?
Why is self-rule considered good for Shans but bad for non-Shans?
One Shan youth came up with a somewhat ingenious proposal:
"They must help us if they want to have their own sub-states."
90% of Shans expressed their wish to see an independent Shan State. 81% of them were expressly against a reunion with Burma, which the Shan State had joined in 1947. "I know the hurdles facing the Shans, but freedom is better than to continue association with deceitful people," insisted one.
Surprisingly, 50% of the non-Shans indicated their support for an Independent Shan State. Still, 83% of them said they would prefer a reconciliation with Burma, if it agrees to a genuine federation. One complaint about the majority ethnic group in Shan State was: "Many Shans think of Shan State only in terms of Shans, like Burmans today think of Burma".
Other findings include the following:
Official language - English - 64.5 Shans, 75% non-Shans
State Constitution - Yes - 100% Shans, 91.7% non-Shans
One non-Shan urged Shans to be broadminded and the rest to be open-minded.
According to 1931 census, 47% of the population of Shan State are Shans. However, the Shan State Government (1948-1962) maintained there were 68% Shans. Burma's current rulers meanwhile have a different figure. State-run Working Peoples Daily, the predecessor to today's New Light of Myanmar, placed the population of Shans at a mere 38.6%. In the face of these conflicting statements, most dispassionate Burma watchers have recourse to the 1931 figures.
21 May 2005
Shans – 31
Non-Shans – 12
Total – 43
1. Should the new Shan State be an independent sovereign country?
Shans Yes 28 (90.4%)
No 1 (3.2%)
Undecided 2 (6.4%)
Non Shans Yes 6 (50%)
No 6 (50%)
2. Should the Shan State join the new Federal Union of Burma?
Shans Yes 5 (16%)
No 25 (81%)
Undecided 1 (3%)
Non-Shans Yes 10 (87%)
No 2 (13%)
3. Should non-Shans have a self-administered sub-state of their own in the new Shan State?
Shans Yes 10 (32%)
No 20 (65%)
Undecided 1 (3%)
Non-Shans Yes 12 (100%)
No 0 (0%)
4. Do you think the Shans in the new Shan State will practice discrimination against non-Shans like the Burmans are doing today?
Shans Yes 2 (6.5%)
No 29 (93.5%)
Non-Shans Yes 5 (42%)
No 0 (0%)
Undecided 7 (58%)
5. Which language should be official in the new Shan State?
Shan 0 64.5%
Burmese 2 6.5%
English 20 64.5%
All 3 9.7%
Shan 2 16.7%
Burmese 1 8.3%
English 9 75%
All 2 16.7%
6. Do you believe the Shan State should have its own constitution?
Shans Yes 31 (100%)
No 0 (0%)
Non-Shans Yes 11 (91.7%)
Undecided 1 (8.3%)