One year after the NCA

Both State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Com­man­der-in-Chief Se­nior Gen­eral Min Aung Hlaing marked the an­niver­sary by urg­ing more eth­nic armed groups to quickly sign on to the pact.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - – Staff writ­ers

ON the one-year an­niver­sary of the na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment, both State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Com­man­der-in-Chief Se­nior Gen­eral Min Aung Hlaing called for more eth­nic armed groups to sign the truce.

Speak­ing at a cer­e­mony in the cap­i­tal on Oc­to­ber 15, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi called the NCA the first and most im­por­tant step in the process.

“We are all aware that not all those who we would like to par­tic­i­pate and those who it is worth hav­ing par­tic­i­pate are in­cluded yet,” she said.

She added that rather than fo­cus­ing on how to de­feat each other in fire­power, armed groups in Myan­mar needed to show their will­ing­ness to pri­ori­tise ex­tin­guish­ing the fires of old wounds and bit­ter­ness.

“Should we want peace and a cease­fire, we had bet­ter start with ex­tin­guish­ing the anger and prej­u­dices which are like a fire burn­ing in­side our heart and soul,” she said.

The na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment, forged by U Thein Sein’s gov­ern­ment, rep­re­sents the cul­mi­na­tion of two years at the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble, but failed to de­liver a truly na­tion­wide pact. Just eight armed groups agreed to sign on to the NCA in Oc­to­ber 2015, while at least five eth­nic armed or­gan­i­sa­tions wag­ing hos­til­i­ties against the Tat­madaw con­tin­ued to stay out­side the agree­ment.

Since the Na­tional League for Democ­racy-led gov­ern­ment in­her­ited the peace process ear­lier this year it staged a mass con­fer­ence steeped in sym­bol­ism but light on any sub­stan­tive path for­ward. Au­gust’s 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence brought rep­re­sen­ta­tives from nearly all the eth­nic armed groups, the Tat­madaw, the gov­ern­ment and po­lit­i­cal par­ties to the ta­ble, and was hailed as a land­mark event. But it was also rid­dled with prob­lems of in­clu­siv­ity, fea­tured a walk­out, ended a day early and achieved only a foun­da­tional air­ing of griev­ances.

In the weeks since the con­fer­ence, mil­i­tary hos­til­i­ties have es­ca­lated around the coun­try, with re­newed or in­ten­si­fied out­breaks of fight­ing in Shan, Kachin and Kayin states.

“All peo­ple around the coun­try are watch­ing our peace­mak­ing process. They have high hopes for peace. They are watch­ing what the gov­ern­ment, the mil­i­tary and eth­nic armed groups are do­ing, but I would like to say … don’t un­der­es­ti­mate our peo­ple,” said State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

She en­cour­aged the gov­ern­ment, the Tat­madaw and eth­nic armed groups to vie for a new kind of goal. “What I want to tell the gov­ern­ment, the mil­i­tary and eth­nic armed or­gan­i­sa­tions is to com­pete ... [to see] who is more open-minded, who is more tol­er­ant and who places more value on the fu­ture rather than the past,” she said.

Speak­ing at the same cer­e­mony, Se­nior Gen­eral Min Aung Hlaing said, “It’s true that talks and meet­ings have taken place with­out end­ing fights which sparks doubts that we can ever not be mired in armed con­flicts.”

He added that to pur­sue peace, trust must be built.

“If we ac­cept democ­racy, we need to break down the ob­ses­sion with armed strug­gle which is against democ­racy. To do so, we al­ready have the NCA which has been rat­i­fied by many forces. The NCA clearly states the cease­fire process and fu­ture plans,” he said.

He also jet­ti­soned eth­nic armed groups’ pro­posal that the fu­ture fed­eral Union be made up of states de­fined along eth­nic lines. Cit­ing eth­nic break­down sta­tis­tics with­out giv­ing the source of his in­for­ma­tion – the eth­nic­ity data from the 2014 cen­sus con­tin­ues to be with­held – the com­man­der-in-chief noted that even the cur­rent states are a de­mo­graphic mix that can­not be said to rep­re­sent any one group.

“All of the re­gions and states in the Union should be con­sid­ered home to all eth­nics, not just a home for sin­gle eth­nic group specif­i­cally,” he said.

He added that sign­ing the NCA is a high-stakes, high-re­wards en­deav­our that will en­sure no more new clashes and re­gional sta­bil­ity that will al­low peo­ple to earn their liveli­hood in safety and both sides to build trust.

“How­ever, if it takes a long time to im­ple­ment the peace process, peo­ple will face loss of life and prop­erty and the coun­try will lag be­hind on devel­op­ment. As such, the Peace Con­fer­ence needs to be fol­lowed up through sign­ing the NCA as quickly as pos­si­ble in the in­ter­est of the coun­try and the eth­nic groups,” he said.

A sec­ond Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence is ex­pected to be called within six months of the first.

In the in­terim, the Union Peace Di­a­logue Joint Com­mit­tee (UPDJC) plans to hold a na­tional-level po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue at the state and re­gion lev­els in or­der to fi­nalise the di­a­logue frame­work. Non-sig­na­tory groups are re­quired to first sign the NCA if they wish to take part in the di­a­logue phase of the process.

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