Time to wel­come out­side ex­per­tise to help the peace ne­go­ti­a­tions

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - WIL­LIAM DENG DENG news­room@mm­times.com Wil­liam Deng Deng is chair of the South Su­dan Dis­ar­ma­ment, De­mo­bil­i­sa­tion and Rein­te­gra­tion Com­mis­sion.

WHILE the decades-long con­flict in Myan­mar is un­ques­tion­ably unique, some of its as­pects re­sem­ble those in other coun­tries af­flicted with pro­tracted in­ter­nal armed vi­o­lence. Many of th­ese have ben­e­fited more than Myan­mar has from the at­ten­tion and in­volve­ment of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

In­ter­na­tional in­volve­ment in the Myan­mar con­flict has been dis­creet. The mil­i­tary regime that gov­erned the coun­try for decades showed no in­ter­est in con­sult­ing for­eign ex­perts, and the U Thein Sein ad­min­is­tra­tion elected in 2010 mostly lim­ited in­ter­na­tional en­gage­ment to the pro­vi­sion of fund­ing. For in­stance, the for­mer Myan­mar Peace Cen­ter, es­tab­lished to as­sist the Union Peace­mak­ing Cen­tral Com­mit­tee and the Union Peace­mak­ing Work Com­mit­tee for the peace process, was opened as part of an agree­ment with the Nor­way-led Peace Donor Sup­port Group. It was launched in Novem­ber 2012 with a start-up fund of 700,000 eu­ros from the Euro­pean Union, a mem­ber of the PDSG. In 2013, the cen­ter also re­ceived US$1.2 mil­lion from the Ja­panese gov­ern­ment.

The cur­rent gov­ern­ment in Nay Pyi Taw has like­wise showed every sign of want­ing to go it alone in deal­ing with the eth­nic armed groups. Though rep­re­sen­ta­tives of China, Ja­pan and the UN have been in­vited to ob­serve at some key stages, car­ry­ing the peace process for­ward has been very much an in­ter­nal Myan­mar af­fair.

How­ever, a pool of in­ter­na­tional ex­per­tise does ex­ist, com­pris­ing spe­cial­ists who have been in­volved for many years with seem­ingly in­tractable prob­lems of in­ter­nal armed con­flict in other coun­tries. Might the time have come for the Myan­mar gov­ern­ment to draw more openly upon this ex­per­tise?

An­other con­flict Myan­mar could per­haps learn from is South Su­dan. South Su­dan’s long his­tory of mostly in­ter­nal con­flict spawned a cul­ture of armed vi­o­lence and a highly mil­i­tarised so­ci­ety which, to­gether, are a recipe for con­tin­u­ous armed re­bel­lion. The coun­try’s bit­ter and pro­tracted war of in­de­pen­dence lasted for more than 50 years as mul­ti­ple armed groups fought against the cen­tral gov­ern­ment in Khar­toum.

The talks that even­tu­ally helped re­solve th­ese in­ter­con­nected con­flicts arose from a gen­eral con­sen­sus that the only way out was a ne­go­ti­ated set­tle­ment that would ben­e­fit them all. The sub­se­quent fail­ure of th­ese agree­ments and the re­turn to war in South Su­dan came about be­cause the con­sen­sus was not in fact shared by all, and the ef­forts to de­mil­i­tarise the coun­try and cre­ate lo­cal economies stum­bled very early on through lack of real agree­ment. In fact, parts of South Su­dan never felt fully part of the peace process. In­stead, ex­cluded and marginalised, they re­sorted to vi­o­lence when pol­i­tics got them nowhere. Myan­mar can take steps to avoid a sim­i­lar fate.

In the Myan­mar con­text, the gov­ern­ment and the eth­nic armed groups will have to ne­go­ti­ate a peace­ful set­tle­ment that will in­evitably touch on what hap­pens to the forces that cur­rently ex­ist in the coun­try: not just their com­mand struc­ture, but also the in­di­vid­u­als who serve in them. Ques­tions will be raised and de­bated about how the rule of law can ex­tend to all parts of the coun­try as the mil­i­tary re­spon­si­bil­ity for sup­port­ing in­ter­nal law and or­der shrinks with each stage of the jour­ney to­ward peace.

The agree­ments on th­ese is­sues be­come the se­cu­rity frame­work for the broader peace agree­ment. The ac­tiv­i­ties to de­liver this agreed se­cu­rity frame­work tend to come un­der the um­brella of Se­cu­rity Sec­tor Re­form, a tech­ni­cal term that refers to all the pro­grams and fund­ing re­quired to put in place the agreed se­cu­rity frame­work for the fu­ture and the sup­port it will re­ceive from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity once agree­ment is reached.

Part of this will in­clude man­ag­ing the mil­i­tary forces that by agree­ment are no longer needed. This means agree­ments to even­tu­ally dis­man­tle sur­plus mil­i­tary or­gan­i­sa­tions, dis­arm sur­plus troops and find a way to rein­te­grate them back into com­mu­ni­ties safely and in a way that sup­ports the peace process, the econ­omy and re­spect for the rule of law.

The es­tab­lish­ment of agreed se­cu­rity ar­range­ments should fol­low soon af­ter the reach­ing of a po­lit­i­cal agree­ment. Se­cu­rity ar­range­ments should al­ways be pre­ceded by a de­tailed SSR agree­ment and fol­lowed im­me­di­ately by the in­stal­la­tion of a com­pre­hen­sive and ad­e­quately staffed and funded dis­ar­ma­ment, de­mo­bil­i­sa­tion and rein­te­gra­tion pro­gram. De­mands by any side that their op­po­nents should dis­arm first tend to hin­der progress to­ward cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment con­ducive to reach­ing agree­ment and would not help build con­fi­dence. Part of the rea­son the Su­dan con­flict lasted so long was the in­sis­tence that one side or the other should dis­arm first.

In gen­eral, ne­go­ti­a­tions are con­ducted on the as­sump­tion that any agree­ment will re­quire the even­tual con­sent of all par­tic­i­pants.

If Myan­mar is to avoid the early mis­takes made by sim­i­lar peace pro­cesses, it would do well to in­volve all groups at the ear­li­est pos­si­ble stage, in the knowl­edge that a cease­fire is a key tool to cre­ate the con­di­tions for the longer jour­ney to­ward peace – a jour­ney that will even­tu­ally and in­evitably see a grad­ual trans­for­ma­tion of the se­cu­rity sec­tor to some­thing that all the peo­ple of Myan­mar can be­lieve rep­re­sents and pro­tects them equally. This trans­for­ma­tion will in­clude dis­arm­ing fight­ers and help­ing them be­come civil­ians tak­ing their own steps on the jour­ney to peace.

In­ter­na­tional ad­vis­ers can help by bring­ing knowl­edge and ex­per­tise in the de­sign and con­struc­tion of dis­ar­ma­ment and de­mo­bil­i­sa­tion pro­ce­dures in re­mote and in­se­cure lo­ca­tions, as well as prop­erly sup­ported rein­te­gra­tion pro­grams to help for­mer fight­ers re­turn to civil­ian life. What worked in the forests of the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo and South Su­dan could also work in the moun­tain passes of Kachin or Shan states.

Photo: Aung Khant

The com­man­der-in-chief, Up­per House Speaker, vice pres­i­dent and state coun­sel­lor pose for a pic­ture on the first day of the Pan­g­long con­fer­ence last month.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Myanmar

© PressReader. All rights reserved.