Saturday, June 13, 2009

Thai Researcher: Shan rebels shifting strategy to win over Shan migrants

By Hseng Khio Fah

(Shanland) -The Shan State Army (SSA) South has been working hard to look for new recruits among the migrant population, according to a Shan case researcher Ms Amporn Jitrattikorn at a seminar held on 11 June at an undisclosed place on the Thai-Burma border.

The SSA has been recruiting from Shan State inside Burma every year, but its mission has not been much of a success as mass of migrants is crossing the border each year. Among those migrants, some are escaping from the SSA’s the recruitment drives.

Col Yawd Serk

In 1999, the SSA’s annual meeting report stated that one of its plans was to find new recruits among young Shan men inside Burma. But by 2007, the SSA command had come to terms with the fact that perhaps half of young Shan population were now residing in Thailand, Ms Amporn said.

“Recently SSA leader Col Yawd Serk issued a statement urging his people to come back to Burma to help him fight for independence,” she recalled.

In order to win the hearts and minds of migrants, to instill nationalism and to look for new recruits from them, the SSA began to build networks with an innovative approach partly through its media strategy.

The new media strategy attempts to incite patriotic feelings among the Shan migrants by delivering leaflets, books, websites, battledfield images and video clips of how people in Shan State are being repressed and tortured by the Burmese military and how the SSA is fighting for its people.

Among those methods, producing and delivering VCDs about those battlefield images is the most effective one to inspire and catch the feelings among the audience, according to her survey. Many people eagerly join the SSA after being exposed to the reality as it is being presented by the SSA inside Burma.

“During the festivals I have observed that the audience especially males always gather and form a big crowd to watch these images together in front of the television set. It can therefore be assumed that they are being captivated by the message being transmitted,” she said.

Ms Amporn Jitrattikorn is a Ph.D in anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin, having received the Master’s Degree from the University of Hawaii, Amnoa.

She had documented about the Shan migrants in 2007 through the report named “Shan Noises: Transnational migrants, popular music and nation of the Shan people.”

The Shan migrant population in Chiangmai is one sixth of Chiangmai’s population, according to her report in 2007.

There are at least 2 million legal and illegal migrant workers in Thailand.

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