THE PEOPLE OF 2004
covering burma and southeast asia
Monday, July 15, 2019
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THE PEOPLE OF 2004


By The Irrawaddy DECEMBER, 2004 - VOLUME 12 NO.11


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(Page 12 of 25)

 

Ethnic Leader________________________________

Shwe Ohn

 

Shwe Ohn, 82, is a long time Shan ethnic political leader renowned for his critical voice.

 

Shwe OhnShwe Ohn’s political engagement dates back to the colonial years of the 1930s, and he knew national hero Gen Aung San personally. At the 1947 Panglong conference to form the Union of Burma, Shwe Ohn was an observer and a journalist.

 

A strong advocate of federalism, he wasn’t happy with the 1947 constitution, which he dubbed a “unitary system constitution” unsuitable for a multi-ethnic Burma. He pushed instead, with others, for a federal democratic union of Burma.

 

During the reign of late dictator Ne Win’s socialist regime, Shwe Ohn found himself deprived of political room to maneuver, despite keeping in touch with the veteran political community.

 

When the 1988 democracy uprising broke out, Shwe Ohn founded the Shan State People’s Freedom League for Democracy, or SSPFL. The SSPFL forged a political alliance with the National League for Democracy, or NLD, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, but was later de-registered by the junta.

 

Shwe Ohn is also a leader of the banned United Nationalities League for Democracy, or UNLD, a coalition of ethnic political parties. He was jailed for one year for suggesting to the junta-organized National Convention in 1993 how it could be held in a truly democratic fashion.

 

Shwe Ohn hasn’t spared the NLD leadership in his criticism of Burmese politics, and says Aung San Su Kyi seems to be “upset” at what he has to say.



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