PEACE MOVES? – Only NCA can guar­an­tee farewell to arms, says Myan­mar mil­i­tary chief

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Re­port­ing by Ze­yar Maw for Mizzima, ad­di­tional re­port­ing AFP

“I’d like to say only the NCA is the best guar­an­tee for de­tach­ing the ob­ses­sion and at­tach­ment to armed strug­gle which has been there for over 60 to 70 years,” he said at the event.

Since as­sum­ing power in 2016, Aung San Suu Kyi’s Na­tional League for Democracy Party-led gov­ern­ment has claimed peace their top pri­or­ity. But much de­pends on the at­ti­tudes and ac­tions in the Myan­mar Mil­i­tary’s halls of power.

Myan­mar Mil­i­tary Com­man­der-in-Chief Se­nior Gen­eral Min Aung Hlaing has said that only the Na­tion­wide Cease­fire Agree­ment (NCA) can give the best guar­an­tee for giv­ing up armed strug­gle in the coun­try.

This call came in a speech he made to mark the NCA sign­ing cer­e­mony of the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and Lahu Demo­cratic Union (LDU) held in Nay Pyi Taw on 13 Fe­bru­ary.

“I’d like to say only the NCA is the best guar­an­tee for de­tach­ing the ob­ses­sion and at­tach­ment to armed strug­gle which has been there for over 60 to 70 years,” he said at the event.

He added that sign­ing the NCA was the only way of re­solv­ing po­lit­i­cal is­sues peace­fully.

“Some feel that sign­ing the NCA is not giv­ing in to the gov­ern­ment and Tat­madaw while oth­ers have ill-feel­ings about it. I’d like to say to all eth­nic armed or­gan­i­sa­tions (EAOs) should not have such scep­ti­cism, dis­trust and anx­i­ety about the NCA,” he added.

Myan­mar’s tran­si­tion to peace has been mov­ing at a glacial pace since the process be­gan and ran in fits and starts un­der the ten­ure of Pres­i­dent Thein Sein in 2012.

Ten EAOs in­clud­ing NMSP and LDU have signed the NCA so far. While this in­cludes many of the key play­ers, it leaves about a dozen groups who have not signed up.

The flag­ging peace process has been dogged by con­tin­u­ing fight­ing and wide­spread dis­trust of the army by EAOs.

The lat­est groups to sign the NCA – NMSP and LDU – joined eight other mili­tias who had signed be­fore Aung San Suu Kyi took of­fice. State Coun­sel­lor Aung San Suu Kyi claimed peace was her top pri­or­ity

when her civil­ian ad­min­is­tra­tion took of­fice in 2016 to end five decades of mil­i­tary dom­i­na­tion.

But there has been lit­tle to show for the ef­fort, with swathes of drug-pro­duc­ing eth­nic ar­eas still riven by un­rest that has dis­placed tens of thou­sands.

Both sides in the con­flict – the EAOs and the Mil­i­tary – point fin­gers at each other when it comes to re­spon­si­bil­ity for the con­tin­ued mil­i­tary clashes that con­tinue to force civil­ians to flee to safety.

How­ever, Suu Kyi wel­comed the na­tional cease­fire agree­ment at this lat­est colour­ful sign­ing cer­e­mony at­tended by gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, the army chief and eth­nic rep­re­sen­ta­tives in tra­di­tional clothes.

Speak­ing at the event, the State Coun­sel­lor said the peace process was the key to unlocking na­tional unity.

She con­ceded that the "light of peace... can­not cover the whole coun­try", ad­ding "our coun­try is fac­ing a lot of pres­sure and criticism from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.”

Both the Euro­pean Union and the US em­bassy in Myan­mar wel­comed the sign­ing as a step in the right di­rec­tion.

The EU called for an end to clashes in other con­flict-hit re­gions to make way for more di­a­logue and for peo­ple there to have ac­cess to hu­man­i­tar­ian aid "with­out de­lay".

These lat­est sig­na­to­ries have not ac­tively clashed with the army for some time but were part of a bloc of pow­er­ful rebel armies that re­sisted sign­ing the cease­fire pact un­der the for­mer mil­i­tary-backed gov­ern­ment of Thein Sein.

"We be­lieve in Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, but we'll have to see what hap­pens on the road ahead be­cause the gov­ern­ment and the mil­i­tary are not very united," LDU chair­man Kya Khun Sar told AFP be­fore the sign­ing.

The army no longer rules di­rectly but still con­trols the key home af­fairs, bor­ders and de­fence min­istries as well as a quar­ter of par­lia­men­tary seats.

This gives it a full say over se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions around the coun­try, deny­ing Suu Kyi's civil­ian ad­min­is­tra­tion some piv­otal pow­ers.

That has sparked scep­ti­cism over Suu Kyi's "21st Cen­tury Pan­g­long" peace talks, named af­ter the agree­ment signed by her in­de­pen­dence hero father that promised au­ton­omy to ma­jor eth­nic groups be­fore in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tain in 1948.

"Re­gard­less of the the­atre and pageantry of the NCA sign­ing for the Mon and Lahu, the peace process is broken, and only the state coun­sel­lor's of­fice seems un­aware of this re­al­ity," po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst David Mathieson told AFP, say­ing that the mil­i­tary has been the "main ac­tor de­rail­ing the peace process".

Mai Win Htoo, a Ta’ang Na­tional Party MP, said peace ne­go­ti­a­tions have yet to bear fruit for his com­mu­nity in the restive Shan State.

"Since it started, there has been more fight­ing in my area. Peo­ple have had to run away. They lose their jobs, their homes. It has brought war to our area."

Myan­mar's patch­work of eth­nic groups make up around a third of the pop­u­la­tion, but the gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary have long been dom­i­nated by the ma­jor­ity Ba­mar eth­nic group to which Suu Kyi be­longs.

Decades of con­flict have led to en­trenched views. Crit­ics have ex­pressed scep­ti­cism over the Myan­mar mil­i­tary’s com­mit­ment to peace, given the mil­i­tary clashes that have taken place in the wake of Suu Kyi tak­ing up power.

Mai Win Htoo, a Ta’ang Na­tional Party MP, said peace ne­go­ti­a­tions have yet to bear fruit for his com­mu­nity in the restive Shan State.

Myan­mar State Coun­sel­lor Aung San Suu Kyi, left, with Se­nior Gen­eral Min Aung Hlaing, right. Suu Kyi has stressed that the peace process is the key to unlocking na­tional unity.

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