As general elections in Thailand on 3 July draw near, SHAN is finding Shan activist movements both inside and on the border of the kingdom reluctant to comment about what will happen after the opposition Pheu Thai, short of miracle, becomes the ruling party.
Pheu Thai is the offshoot of Thai Rak Thai and People’s Power, both of which were deregistered. The party’s de facto leader is multibillionaire Thaksin Shinawatra who is living in exile since his government was ousted by a military coup in 2006.
“We have nothing to say about what’s happening in Thailand,” said Maj Lao Hseng, spokesman for the Restoration Council of Shan State/ Shan State Army (RCSS / SSA), better known as the SSA “South”, to differentiate it from another SSA (SSA “North”) that has recently returned to the armed struggle after the offensive by the Burma Army on 13 March broke the ceasefire pact concluded in 1989. “That is definitely not our policy.”
The SSA “South” was pushed out of at least 3 of its border bases during Thaksin’s tenure, 2001-2006. One of them took place during the month long siege by the joint Burma Army-United Wa State Army forces in March-April 2005.
The SSA “South” leader Sao Yawdserk, in fact, had only kind words for Thaksin. “In my experience, he’s the only Thailleader who has really tried hard for the rights of us non-Burmans,” he told SHAN during a meeting on 14 February 2006 at his base in Loi Taileng, opposite Maehongson. “While others were calling only for democracy and human rights, he had homed in on the rights of the non-Burmans.”
Other activists were just as guarded. “I don’t think it is appropriate to say anything at this time,” one well known environmentalist said in response to SHAN query. “It’s obvious we’ll have to make the best deal we can with whichever party that comes into power, whether it be Pheu Thai, Democrat or other parties,” added a female rights advocate.
The Shan migrant workers, in the meanwhile, give a more positive response to SHAN’s questions. “During the Thaksin administration, we had lots of jobs to do and we could send enough money back to our families (in Burma’s Shan State),” said one. “Now we barely have enough even to survive. We hope with the return of his party to power, things will get better.”
There are at least 3 million migrant workers in Thailand, according to conservative figures, the majority of whom are thought to be Shans.