Let the Chil­dren Cry Freely

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Aung Naing Oo Aung Nang Oo is the Di­rec­tor of Peace Di­a­logue Pro­gram, Myan­mar Peace Cen­ter.

Union Min­is­ter U Aung Min, the chief ne­go­tia­tor of the Gov­ern­ment of Myan­mar, of­ten shares re­mark­able sto­ries about war, peace­mak­ing and ne­go­ti­a­tions to make his point in dis­cus­sions. One story he shared is of chil­dren cry­ing dur­ing the war. This story was passed down to him from a Karen peace­maker and vet­eran fighter.

Echo­ing the Karen peace­maker, the Min­is­ter re­counts, “The chil­dren can­not cry freely dur­ing the war.”

This may be puz­zling for those un­fa­mil­iar with armed con­flict, yet it is true.

Chil­dren in con­flict ar­eas can­not cry freely, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the height of war when fam­i­lies run and hide from mil­i­tary pa­trols. It is dur­ing th­ese most dif­fi­cult and stress­ful times, chil­dren can­not cry freely. And chil­dren may cry for many rea­sons. Chil­dren may be hun­gry while hid­ing for days on end. They may be fright­ened by the sound of gun­fire or shelling. Or they may cry be­cause they see other vil­lagers run­ning away.

And in some cases, when chil­dren can­not be con­soled and cries can­not be stopped, par­ents must take ex­treme mea­sures. They may stuff cloth­ing or some­thing else into their chil­dren’s mouths to stop their wail­ing. In some cir­cum­stances, chil­dren suf­fo­cate.

In Myan­mar, a coun­try gripped with armed con­flict, death, and suf­fer­ing, sto­ries of sur­vival abound. But for those of us deeply in­volved in the peace process, we can re­late to Min­is­ter U Aung Min’s story. As a for­mer sol­dier him­self, Min­is­ter U Aung Min speaks from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence.

But now chil­dren in con­flict ar­eas cry freely. Be­cause of the Na­tion­wide Cease­fire Agree­ment (NCA) signed on Oc­to­ber 15, cries flow freely, at least in the ar­eas in­cluded in the agree­ment.

Even be­fore the sign­ing of the NCA, many bi­lat­eral cease­fire agree­ments helped to end fight­ing. In Mon and Kayah ar­eas, not a sin­gle shot has been fired for more than three years since the bi­lat­eral agree­ments were signed. Un­for­tu­nately, how­ever, small skir­mishes and large con­flicts con­tinue to erupt in in some of the bi­lat­eral cease­fire ar­eas, par­tic­u­larly in North­ern Shan State.

While clashes with some non-sig­na­to­ries may con­tinue, the NCA con­tin­ues to re­in­force cur­rent cease­fire agree­ments that are al­ready work­ing, and those that re­quire more work.

I understand there are many crit­ics of the peace process. The fact that only 8 EAOs signed the NCA is of­ten cited as a prob­lem and fin­gers are of­ten pointed when fight­ing breaks out, prior to and fol­low­ing the sign­ing of the NCA. But what is a suc­cess is that no fight­ing has occurred be­tween sig­na­to­ries to the NCA. There are rea­sons to be op­ti­mistic. Af­ter the NCA was signed, both sides im­me­di­ately be­gan im­ple­ment­ing nec­es­sary mea­sures.

Most im­por­tant of all, the Joint Cease­fire Mon­i­tor­ing Com­mit­tee, also re­ferred to as the JMC, was formed. To­ward the end of Oc­to­ber, all sides met for three days to dis­cuss JMC struc­tures at the Union, State and lo­cal lev­els, terms of ref­er­ence, and mon­i­tor­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

Within the al­lot­ted dead­line, the for­ma­tion of the JMC-U or the Union Level was ac­com­plished. The CoC or the Codes of Con­duct was drawn up and rat­i­fied in the cease­fire im­ple­men­ta­tion meet­ings held in Nay Pyi Taw on Novem­ber 17 and 18.

The JMC and COCs are the most im­por­tant cease­fire-re­lated achieve­ments and the first of their kind in Myan­mar. Given the un­wa­ver­ing com­mit­ment of both sides, the cease­fire sit­u­a­tion looks promis­ing.

This is mu­sic to the ears of so many par­ents af­fected by this war. Their chil­dren can now cry freely. It is also a time for the chil­dren and fam­i­lies of the Tat­madaw sol­diers to cel­e­brate. Be­cause there is no fight­ing and be­cause there are suc­cess­ful mech­a­nisms to pre­vent clashes, there will be fewer losses.

Sadly, some of the EAOs re­fused to sign from the NCA due to var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal rea­sons. The chil­dren liv­ing in those ar­eas not pro­tected by the NCA may not be so for­tu­nate. Per­haps those EAOs that par­tic­i­pated in the NCA ne­go­ti­a­tions but re­fused to sign should re­con­sider their po­si­tion, and let their chil­dren cry freely.

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