– Eth­nic pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions could in­vig­o­rate the peace process

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Sai Wan­sai

It seems the new Na­tion­wide Cease­fire Agree­ment (NCA)-sig­na­tory New Mon State Party (NMSP), which has just joined on Fe­bru­ary 13, is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the same fate of ob­struc­tion and pro­hi­bi­tion in hold­ing pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion meet­ings or na­tional-level po­lit­i­cal di­a­logues. Like its coun­ter­parts, the Restora­tion Coun­cil of Shan State (RCSS) and Arakan Lib­er­a­tion Party (ALP) it is un­der­stood as a ne­ces­sity to gather pub­lic opin­ion and in­put for the forth­com­ing third 21st Cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence, sched­uled to take place some­time in May this year.

Ac­cord­ing to the Mon sources, NMSP Cen­tral Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee mem­ber Naing Win Hla said that the Tat­madaw's South-Eastern Com­mand au­thor­i­ties pro­hib­ited the hold­ing of the pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion meet­ing, stat­ing that it should be within the limit of 30 par­tic­i­pants and not over 200, as planned by the NMSP.

Re­port­edly, on March 10, the NMSP was pre­par­ing to hold a meet­ing, to clar­ify why it signed the NCA, to dis­cuss plans and to gather in­put at its Tha­ton Dis­trict Head­quar­ters with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of some 200 peo­ple, in­clud­ing po­lit­i­cal par­ties, civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions and fam­ily mem­bers of the Mon Army. How­ever, the meet­ing was pro­hib­ited by the Tat­madaw say­ing there were too many par­tic­i­pants.

The Mon na­tional-level po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue had been planned in five places with about 250 par­tic­i­pants each be­tween March 10 to 27 by the NMSP.

Naing Win Hla said: “We have tabled and ex­plained the sit­u­a­tion of the meet­ing post­pone­ment due to a com­plaint of high par­tic­i­pant num­bers to the Peace Com­mis­sion (PC) and also the Na­tional Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and Peace Cen­ter (NRPC). And we are wait­ing on how they will re­solve the prob­lem.”

Although openly irked by the sit­u­a­tion, Naing Win Hla said they are de­ter­mined to con­tinue with the po­lit­i­cal ne­go­ti­a­tions adding: “We just signed the NCA so we could en­ter the po­lit­i­cal ne­go­ti­a­tion meet­ing. Now this month, it has not hap­pened ac­cord­ing to our plans. And also the same is hap­pen­ing in other places. We still have a lot of groups that haven't signed, and I con­clude that this could re­sult [or­gan­i­sa­tions] in hav­ing less faith in the NCA.”

The RCSS spokesman Col Sai Nguen, whose or­gan­i­sa­tion also faced the same prob­lem in Shan State said: “We are en­ti­tled to hold free con­sul­ta­tion meet­ings widely within our peo­ple's ar­eas. But the Tat­madaw sees just the op­po­site. That's why we are now try­ing to set­tle the dif­fer­ent views through in­for­mal meet­ings be­tween the gov­ern­ment, Tat­madaw and us.”

Re­gard­ing the NMSP prob­lem, Sai Nguen sug­gested that if a bi­lat­eral agree­ment be­tween it­self and the Tat­madaw couldn't be reached, the way to pro­ceed is through the Union Peace Di­a­logue Joint Com­mit­tee (UPDJC) which is re­spon­si­ble for po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue and di­rect­ing the whole peace process. And if the UPDJC is un­able to re­solve the prob­lem, the NMSP should pro­ceed to Joint Im­ple­men­ta­tion Co­or­di­na­tion Meet­ing (JICM) that is the high­est or­gan that del­e­gates the whole NCA-based peace process.

Mean­while, it has been re­ported that U Aung Soe mem­ber of the PC had said the prob­lem with the Tat­madaw has been ne­go­ti­ated and re­solved. He ex­plained that U Khin Zaw Oo, who is the PC Sec­re­tary and also Tat­madaw rep­re­sen­ta­tive is in­stru­men­tal in re­solv­ing the mis­un­der­stand­ing

Aung Thu Nyein Di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute for Strat­egy and Pol­icy – Myan­mar (ISP – Myan­mar) said: “The prob­lem is that the Eth­nic Armed Or­ga­ni­za­tions (EAOs), gov­ern­ment and the Tat­madaw don't un­der­stand each other. The eth­nic na­tion­al­i­ties take is that com­pre­hen­sive and wide con­sul­ta­tion is needed to gather opin­ion and for­mu­late po­si­tion pa­pers for the peace con­fer­ences, and they also want to do it re­peat­edly. But the gov­ern­ment, es­pe­cially the Tat­madaw, wants them to con­duct such meet­ings with the lim­i­ta­tions on time and space.”

The gov­ern­ment and the Tat­madaw will need to con­sider if such a lim­ited pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion mech­a­nism for the RCSS, ALP and NMSP will foster trust-build­ing. For all its trum­pet­ing that the NCA ap­proach is jointly owned, the pow­ers that be need to show broad-mind­ed­ness now and get rid of its angst that the eth­nic pop­u­la­tion is against it.

A de­gree of trust com­bined with cal­cu­lated risk is the way to go for the gov­ern­ment and the Tat­madaw. And to say the least, it is a low-risk un­der­tak­ing in agree­ing to eth­nic pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion meet­ings in eth­nic states. Such ac­tiv­i­ties could stim­u­late trust-build­ing and who knows, maybe tak­ing a cal­cu­lated risk by trust­ing the eth­nic na­tion­al­i­ties would go a long way to em­power the now stag­nated peace process.

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