You are on page 1of 3

Shan Conundrum in Burma: A must read for those opting for collaboration with the junta

Written by S.H.A.N.
Monday, 17 May 2010 18:39

Namkham U Htun Aye, at the age of 50, became Chairman of the Shan State Affairs Council,
set up by the 1962 coup leaders, the office he was to hold for the next 12 years.

A co-founder of the Shan State People’s Freedom League (SSPFL), founded before Burma’s
Independence, he was, like many Shans at that time, a social democrat. “My father’s political
objective was to remove the social and economic inequality between the overprivileged
feudalistic class and the underprivileged agricultural proletariat,” wrote the author who was his
youngest son. “He thought that the Shan were never an integrated society because of class
consciousness under the feudalistic order.”

He was elected in 1948 to the Chamber of Deputies where he served until 1960. Following the
coup by Gen Ne Win on 2 Ma

1/3
Shan Conundrum in Burma: A must read for those opting for collaboration with the junta

Written by S.H.A.N.
Monday, 17 May 2010 18:39

rch 1962, over the call for the amendment of the 1947 constitution into a federal one, he was
appointed to head the Shan State Affairs Council. “Kyemon (The mirror) daily wrote that the
general reportedly told my father to accept the chairmanship of Shan State, if he didn’t, he
should commit suicide by hanging himself,” recalled the author.

“My father,” he continued, “was only a figurehead though.” It was the commander of the Eastern
Region Command of the Burma Army who wielded the real power in Shan State.

Naturally, he got into “skirmishes on several occasions with the military,” of which three were
described by the author:

Episode 1: The white grand old historic building on Taunggyi’s main road that had housed the
State Legislative Assembly prior to the coup was taken and transformed into a
college-girl-student hostel. “My father objected to this plan but he was powerless to stop it.” At
the same time, “Some people blamed my father for his complicity in the act of transforming it.”

Episode 2: Toward the end of the 1960s, there was a shortage of rice in Namhsan, the former
Tawngpeng State in the north, due to the restriction on transportation by the military. “Naturally,
their representatives came to Taunggyi and complained to the chairman of the Shan State
Council. My father went up to the region to get a first hand account of the situation. At the
extraordinary meeting between the Revolutionary Council and the chairmen of Shan, Karen,
Kachin, Chin, and Kayah, my father stood up and spoke out about the critical condition and
hardship the people had endured in the region. General Ne Win was furious. There was to be
no one who died of famine under his rule, Burma even exported rice, he thundered. Of course,
only good reports came up to the general and he was devoid of realities. My father held his
ground with firmness.”

The next day, U Htun Aye was summoned by Ne Win’s second-in-command San Yu who told
his boss “did not need any advice or suggestion from the outside.”

Episode 3: During the drafting of what was to become the 1974 constitution, U Htun Aye had
disagreed with some articles in the draft regarding the status of states. “My father argued that
downgrading the status of Shan State to the divisional level was is stark contrast to the Union
spirit. The military remarked that my father was persona non grata and chose the head of
Kachin State as chairman of the Advisory Committee (instead).”

He nevertheless did not escape being accused as a regime puppet even by the author. On that
occasion, “My father slapped me hard across the face. He explained to me that he was involved
in politics for the benefit of the people of Shan State and under the difficult and complicated
circumstances; a subtle approach was needed in dealing with the Burmese authorities. This
subtle strategy could not be interpreted as kowtowing. When the Shan had neither military nor
financial clout, my father had to perform a delicate balancing act between the Burmese military
and those who opposed outright.”

2/3
Shan Conundrum in Burma: A must read for those opting for collaboration with the junta

Written by S.H.A.N.
Monday, 17 May 2010 18:39

Throughout
father
Chinese-style
Burmese
sarong.
supposed.
Following
“elected”
all
the
U the
Rangoon
sister
languages
  Htun
He always
head,
and
--passed
After
“These The
military.
Aye
in
reading No
me;his
wore
jacket
turban, tenure,
whenever
military
decisions
as
the way
president
school.
was
1974.
away
persons her
the not
in Shan
which
My sans
he
would
adoption
made
senior
Heamong
2002
book,
are he trousers,
preferred
of
at
of
father
worked
found never
Iattended
goescollar,
he
the
Uthe
Ne
years
at only
gohim
new
new
them.
did
the
recalled
neither for
atforgot
in
not
age afew
state
and
with
ahis
the
“He
what
existing
for baggy
Burmese
Win’sto come
socialist
want
of to
aown
90.
The
in remind
constitution, pantaloon,
functions
Burmese
Shan to
garb.
residence,” the
republic.
medical
was
years
to
the Lord Gen
appointed
accept
world:
welfare both
turban,
and
state
He
was
before
school The
Ne
the
Buddha himself
and
dinners.
which
gave
filled
he
norand
as Win I ita
banquets
People’s
post up
retired
Work
said
for Shan
toand
Once
a
become
was
but
the with
in inothers
aownjacket,
piece
he
Burmese
Burmese
Parliament, what
which
received
ofat silk
pasoe,
friend
representatives
Uwelfare
Inspection
completely
he
studying
did Ne
so
Anguttara
welfare of forWin
Council
from
the he
to
“set
the
Nikaya: awas
and was.
wrap
costume,up aof “My
ready-made
in 
or around
Mandalay.”
Iman’s
selected
was
foreign
public
sake to
member rectify
myinby
life.”
The
firebrand
timber
This
excellent
He
highest
How
who He
He
person
person
who
Ielections,
leaveare
then who
who
inand
a
from
and
works
being
thiscan works
works
forest.
who
who
where acan
works
exalted
we works
supreme.”
for the
approached
decision for
for
funeral out
categorize
towethe the
his
the
neither
pyre
for welfare
own
welfare
thethat
ofNamkham
welfare
place
by his
the for
ofown
them?
reader. three
both
presentof
welfare
of
serves
his
welfare
two others,
own
welfare
U but
both
persons.
of no
persons.
himself
Htun
junta not
but but
himself
welfare
purpose
others
toand
Aye? not
for
but
not
serve the
and
nor
for
others
And for
either
not
as for
the
the his
welfare
others
is own
welfare
chief
candidates
upcoming ofand
another’s
his as fuelothers
in
welfare
others
in aothers
welfare
village
best,
Namkham
the isUor
like
isistopmost,
more
most
upcoming asa Ayes
Htun

3/3

Related Interests