Na­tion­wide cease­fire non-sig­na­to­ries de­fend cau­tious ap­proach to peace process en­gage­ment

The Myanmar Times - - News - LUN MIN MANG lun­min­mang@mm­times.com

NON-SIG­NA­TO­RIES to the na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment have in­sisted that they are tak­ing the nec­es­sary time to pre­pare for fu­ture dia­logues, not de­lay­ing the peace process, as State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi im­plied at last week’s meet­ing of the Union Peace Di­a­logue Joint Com­mit­tee (UPDJC) in Nay Pyi Taw.

Speak­ing in her ca­pac­ity as chair of the UPDJC, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said time was lim­ited and urged groups out­side the of­fi­cial ne­go­ti­a­tions frame­work not to cre­ate de­lays, ad­vis­ing gov­ern­ment ne­go­tia­tors, sig­na­tory groups and po­lit­i­cal par­ties to find al­ter­na­tives for the par­tic­i­pa­tion of non-sig­na­to­ries in the on­go­ing peace process.

“We should make them have the sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity in this peace process,” she was quoted as say­ing in a state­ment from the Of­fice of the State Coun­sel­lor.

Gen­eral Sai Htoo of the Shan State Pro­gres­sive Party ob­jected to the state coun­sel­lor’s char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion, say­ing mem­bers of the United Na­tion­al­i­ties Fed­eral Coun­cil (UNFC) – a coali­tion of seven non-sig­na­to­ries – were not cre­at­ing de­lays.

He said ret­i­cence to rush head­long into the next phase of the peace process, in his group’s case, re­flected reser­va­tions born out of per­ceived flaws in two bi­lat­eral cease­fire agree­ments the SSPP signed with the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment.

De­spite hav­ing cease­fire ac­cords at the state and Union level, he said the SSPP had been in­volved in more than 500 hos­tile en­gage­ments with the Tat­madaw since the doc­u­ments were signed in 2012.

“We are not mak­ing de­lays. We are tak­ing time and pre­par­ing for the peace process, which is im­por­tant for us,” he said. “If we could ne­go­ti­ate with the gov­ern­ment on the eight points of de­mand quickly, then we could sign the NCA quickly and par­tic­i­pate in the next steps.”

He was re­fer­ring to eight terms set out by the Del­e­ga­tion for Po­lit­i­cal Ne­go­ti­a­tion, a body of the UNFC, that it wants met be­fore com­mit­ting to the NCA.

Of the eight points, the DPN and the gov­ern­ment’s peace com­mis­sion reached agree­ment on four dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions last month.

One DPN de­mand is for the for­ma­tion of a neu­tral tri­bunal to en­force the terms of the NCA that in­volves do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional law ex­perts and judges that are ac­cept­able to both par­ties.

Khu Oo Reh of the Karenni Na­tional Pro­gres­sive Party said the pres­ence of a third party on the tri­bunal was nec­es­sary to re­solve prob­lems that would in­evitably arise in the fu­ture be­tween NCA sig­na­to­ries and the Tat­madaw.

“Since we are war­ring par­ties, our points of view on dis­putes, and con­flicts that would arise in the fu­ture, re­quires a non-war­ring third party,” he said.

At the one-year an­niver­sary of the NCA’s sign­ing on Oc­to­ber 15, Tat­madaw Com­man­der-in-Chief Se­nior Gen­eral Min Aung Hlaing warned that a drawn-out peace process risked fur­ther losses in terms of the prop­erty and well-be­ing of the pub­lic, as well as hin­der­ing the coun­try’s de­vel­op­ment.

But Shwe Myo Thant, sec­re­tary of the Karenni Na­tional Pro­gres­sive Party, urged a pa­tient ap­proach to the process’s next steps.

“I don’t think time is a lim­i­ta­tion. No one should force the oth­ers to sign the NCA. If it [signings] hap­pened be­cause of pres­sure or be­ing forced, the cease­fire won’t even last,” Shwe Myo Thant said.

“I think Daw Aung San Suu Kyi wants to do too many things dur­ing her term. It is not good.”

Her Na­tional League for Democ­ra­cyled gov­ern­ment, which was sworn into power in late March, has made the coun­try’s peace process a top pri­or­ity for its five-year term.

The In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group, an in­de­pen­dent re­search or­gan­i­sa­tion based in Brussels, sug­gested last month that the new gov­ern­ment should make time­lines flex­i­ble and give space to eth­nic armed groups.

Eth­nic Shan politi­cian Sai Nyunt Lwin of the Shan Na­tion­al­i­ties League for Democ­racy (SNLD) said peace ne­go­ti­a­tions were not to be ham­mered through, and rather should pro­ceed on the ba­sis of achiev­ing mu­tual agree­ment among the con­cerned par­ties. The SNLD of­fi­cial said his party would ac­tively par­tic­i­pate in the na­tion­al­level po­lit­i­cal dia­logues based on eth­nic af­fairs, which Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has said will be con­vened later this month.

Po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor U Than Soe Naing said lim­its to who can par­tic­i­pate in the na­tional-level talks should be dropped. He re­ferred specif­i­cally to two pow­er­ful groups along the China-Myan­mar bor­der that have en­joyed au­ton­omy for more than two decades, as well as the UNFC mem­bers.

“Grant­ing seats at the na­tion­al­level talks only to those who sign the NCA is a bad ap­proach. I think the gov­ern­ment does not have a plan for the in­clu­sion of such groups as the Wa and the Mongla. The Na­tional Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and Peace Cen­tre should have a plan to bring them into the peace ne­go­ti­a­tions ring,” he said.

Re­la­tions be­tween the two al­lies along the China-Myan­mar bor­der – the United Wa State Army and the Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance Army, bet­ter known as the Mongla group – have been strained of late.

Nei­ther group par­tic­i­pated in the peace talks that led to the draft­ing of the NCA, nor the sub­se­quent sign­ing of the pact.

“The NCA is an­other Union-level cease­fire doc­u­ment. Be­cause they both have had bi­lat­eral cease­fire agree­ments since 1989, bar­ring them will not cre­ate peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, but in­stead take more time for [achiev­ing] peace,” U Than Soe Naing said.

An­other meet­ing be­tween the DPN and the gov­ern­ment’s peace com­mis­sion is sched­uled for Novem­ber 15 and 16 at the Na­tional Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and Peace Cen­tre in Yangon, ac­cord­ing to Gen Sai Htoo.

‘I think Daw Aung San Suu Kyi wants to do too many things dur­ing her term. It is not good.’

Shwe Myo Thant Karenni Na­tional Pro­gres­sive Party

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