According to sources close to the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) better known as Mong La group, Burmese officials presented NDAA’s representatives with presents that may have reportedly carried symbolic significance relating to astrology when the two sides met on 9 October meeting in Kengtung, Shan State East.
The said presents were gold colored rings featuring 9 gems in each (a significant number in astrology and numerology), providing enough rings for both members present and not present, said a source from Mongla.
In addition, the government officials also presented gifts of miniature coffins, with small glass bottles inside each.
Burmese government officials have long relied on astrology, fortune telling, and numerology for certain decisions. According to the Lowy Institute for International Policy, government figures have also reportedly been interested in “yadaya” in the past- a ritualistic practice used to prevent disaster and bad luck.
Mong La officials are confused in how to characterize the symbolic gifts they have received. On the one hand, they have found the gifts amusing, as they are generally insignificant child’s toys.
“It was funny; on the other hand it was a disappointing action. How could the diplomats of the government dare to do such foolish act? Everyone was disappointed. Every high ranking officials and even the Chairman (Sai Luen) received the miniature coffins,” the source said.
However, they are also aware that the gifts are symbolic and carry perhaps a more sinister or insulting meaning. Whether the symbolic gesture was meant to send a specific message or simply to confuse and play mind games is yet to be determined. The presentation of ambiguous gifts by government officials in strategic negotiation talks has only served to agitate an already complicated relationship.