The New Light of Myanmar has a 1500-word article on a recent visit by a delegation from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation to the northern Shan State and Mandalay. The headline is: “Leader of Spokes Authoritative Team of the State Peace and Development Council Minister for Information Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan receives scholars of Friedrich Ebert Foundation FES, scholars tour Shan State (North), Yeywa hydel project in Mandalay Division” (7 October 2007).

Like with many of our posts, if anybody knows more about this “study tour” I am sure readers will be keen to digest your comments. It would, of course, be great to know more about the specifics of this trip and about what The New Light of Myanmar has, perhaps, not reported.

The article notes:

Scholars of Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) headed by Dr P Christian Hauswedell went on a study tour of development achievements of Laukkai of Special Region No 1 and Kaungkha of Special Region No 5 in Shan State (North), Muse 105th-mile border trade station, the gateway to the People’s Republic of China and trade businesses in Muse, and Yeywa hydroelectric power generation project in Kyaukse Township in Mandalay Division on 1 and 2 October.

The FES scholars together with local and foreign journalists arrived in Laukkai in Special region No 1 in Shan State (North) on 1 October morning.

They were welcomed by national race leaders, district and township level departmental officials and local national people.

Afterwards at the Anti-Narcotic Drugs Museum in Laukkai, U Li Man Kwan on behalf of Special Region No 1 national race leader U Phon Kyar Shin briefed regional development endeavours and accomplishments in cultivation of opium substitution crops. FES scholars inquired the requirements in carrying out regional development activities, U Li Man Kwan replied that there were requirements in transportation for agricultural produces…

…The FES Foundation included 13 scholars with two from the European Union and the European Parliament. The two scholars from the EU and the Eurpean Parliament were unable to attend the workshop though they were in Yangon because they were recalled due to the foreign media’s exaggerated broadcasts on the demonstrations that took place in Myanmar.

Update 9 October 2007:

A New Mandala reader has sent me this response –

Holy smoke! The went to “Kaungkha” the KDA (Kachin Democratic Army) HQ (between Kutkai and Lashio) and met Mahtu Naw, head of the KDA. I got sicker than a dog at a wedding there with food poisoning, which I’d gotten from food someplace else. Fortunately, I didn’t meet Mahtu Naw, but he did sit in front of me in church in Lashio one Sunday. Anyway, notice that the article made no mention of the KDA directly, or that they were (probably still are) involved in drug trafficking and, even more objectionable from my perspective, logging. A 100 acre tea plantation is pretty laughable when you consider that there are lots of villages in the area that were growing at least that area of poppies in the late 1990s.

At the time I was there in 1997, there were three “peace groups” in that area, the KDA, the KIA (Kachin Independence Army) and the Kachin Rangers, a pro-regime private militia who had fought for the military regime against the KIA, and also Khun Sa. The Kachin Rangers would be sort of analogous to the Rawang RRF. However, I don’t think they are included in the three forces Mahtu Naw referenced; I suspect he is talking about the NDA (New Democratic Army – Kachin)instead.

Also, my understanding has been that the KDA, KIA etc are under pressure to give up their arms and become strictly political organizations.

How does this jibe with the statement that eventually the KDA troops will become auxiliary forces?