Are frosty NLD-mil­i­tary re­la­tions fi­nally thaw­ing?

The Myanmar Times - - News - EI EI TOE LWIN eieitoel­win@mm­times.com

OB­SERVERS are cau­tiously pars­ing two re­cent events fea­tur­ing prom­i­nent mil­i­tary of­fi­cers in the hope of read­ing their im­pli­ca­tions for na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and the suc­cess of the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence due to be­gin next month.

On Mar­tyrs’ Day, July 19, mil­i­tary Com­man­der-in-Chief Se­nior Gen­eral Min Aung Hlaing joined State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at her home in Yan­gon for lunch fol­low­ing a do­na­tion cer­e­mony and meet­ings with sev­eral reli­gious and in­ter­faith lead­ers. The fol­low­ing day at a press event, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Mya Tun Oo, the head of mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence, ad­mit­ted mil­i­tary in­volve­ment in the deaths of five Shan civil­ians.

Some an­a­lysts warn against mis­tak­ing such ap­par­ently good omens for real progress un­less and un­til they are fol­lowed by prac­ti­cal re­sults.

Fol­low­ing last Novem­ber’s elec­tion, re­la­tions be­tween the mil­i­tary and the Na­tional League for Democ­racy were as­sumed to be edgy at best. The op­po­si­tion party’s land­slide vic­tory at the polls had stripped the mil­i­tary of its pro­tec­tive po­lit­i­cal cover af­forded by the Union Sol­i­dar­ity and De­vel­op­ment Party. But four months into the change of of­fice, ob­servers are seek­ing signs of a thaw.

Mar­tyrs’ Day was the first ma­jor pub­lic event con­ducted by the new govern­ment to be at­tended by the com­man­der-in-chief. While cer­e­monies and the lay­ing of wreaths oc­curred na­tion­wide, Snr Gen Min Aung Hlaing chose to pay his re­spects along­side NLD dig­ni­taries be­fore join­ing the state coun­sel­lor.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi – joined by the two par­lia­men­tary Speak­ers, the chief jus­tice, for­mer Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann and the com­man­derin-chief – shared a meal with two prom­i­nent monks.

Be­fore the his­toric event, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi vis­ited the Mil­i­tary Museum in Nay Pyi Taw on July 15 and met with the United Na­tion­al­i­ties Fed­eral Coun­cil (UNFC). Pho­to­graphs re­leased by the com­man­derin-chief’s of­fice showed the coun­try’s two most prom­i­nent of­fi­cials ap­par­ently smil­ing and jok­ing to­gether.

Po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor U Yan Myo Thein cau­tioned against read­ing too much into the highly pub­li­cised meet­ings. “Every­body praised this close work­ing re­la­tion­ship and be­lieved it was the start­ing point for na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. But the pho­tos don’t nec­es­sar­ily mean re­la­tions are good,” he said. The true test, ac­cord­ing to an­a­lysts, will be how well the peace process goes.

“If re­la­tions re­ally are good, we’ll see more than a few photo op­por­tu­ni­ties. If we see progress in the peace talks, then we can say there is a good re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two lead­ers,” U Yan Myo Thein said.

The state coun­sel­lor aims to hold the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence be­fore the end of Au­gust, and has stressed that her govern­ment is seek­ing to make the con­fer­ence as in­clu­sive as pos­si­ble. How­ever, the Arakan Army, the Ta’ang Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army and the Myan­mar Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance Army have been de­nied ac­cess by the Tat­madaw un­less they give up their arms. Mean­while, eth­nic armed groups, and par­tic­u­larly those that did not sign last Oc­to­ber’s so-called na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment, have urged the govern­ment to push for the in­clu­sion of the three groups.

“It’s im­por­tant how Daw Aung San Suu Kyi ne­go­ti­ates with mil­i­tary chiefs over the con­fer­ence. The in­clu­sion of these three groups would be a sign of mil­i­tary sup­port for govern­ment pol­icy based on na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion,” said U Than Soe Naing, a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst.

At Lt Gen Mya Tun Oo’s press con­fer­ence, he de­clared govern­ment-Tat­madaw re­la­tions to be good, adding that the mil­i­tary had been ac­tively par­tic­i­pat­ing in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of govern­ment pol­icy to build peace.

How­ever, he added that no spe­cific one-on-one dis­cus­sions had taken place be­tween Snr Gen Min Aung Hlaing and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on the con­ven­ing of the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence.

“But we have learned that the govern­ment un­der­stands they should pave the way to the peace process in ac­cor­dance with the NCA,” he added.

Ad­dress­ing the in­clu­siv­ity of the Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence, Lt Gen Mya Tun Oo re­it­er­ated that the three armed groups had to demon­strate a de­sire to re­lin­quish armed con­flict as a way of deal­ing with the govern­ment.

NLD spokesper­son U Win Htein has said he be­lieves the par­ties can find a way to con­vene the con­fer­ence suc­cess­fully on the ba­sis of mu­tual un­der­stand­ing with the Tat­madaw.

“I un­der­stand re­la­tions be­tween Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the mil­i­tary lead­er­ship are bet­ter than last year, as our leader con­sis­tently seeks to achieve her goal of na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion not only with the Tata­madaw but with all other par­ties. We will move for­ward with a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude as the sit­u­a­tion con­tin­ues to evolve,” he said.

Photo: State Coun­sel­lor’s Of­fice/Facebook

The state coun­sel­lor and Se­nior Gen­eral Min Aung Hlaing met with prom­i­nent monks on July 19.

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