Treaty sign­ing prepa­ra­tion be­gins with a rocky start as con­flict con­tin­ues

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Sai Wan­sai

The 20 Septem­ber meet­ing in Yan­gon was sup­posed to be a na­tion­wide ceasefire agree­ment (NCA) sign­ing prepa­ra­tion meet­ing be­tween the regime’s pre­ferred 15 eth­nic armed or­ga­ni­za­tions (EAOs) and the regime. But, with only 8 EAOs at­tend­ing the gath­er­ing it was un­able to form the nec­es­sary com­mit­tees to go ahead with the gov­ern­ment’s plans.

It seems that the regime has been in such haste, prob­a­bly be­cause it is in the mid­dle of an elec­tion cam­paign and needs to pro­duce pos­i­tive re­sult fast, that it had given only three days’ no­tice to the EAOs to ap­pear.

No­tably ab­sent were the Restora­tion Coun­cil of Shan State (RCSS) and Chin Na­tional Front (CNF), the two EAOs that have al­ready com­mit­ted to sign the NCA, but­tress­ing it with a four party joint-state­ment ahead of the 5 top-level EAOs lead­er­ship meet­ing with the Pres­i­dent, which took place in Naypyitaw on the 9 Septem­ber. The joint-state­ment, in­volv­ing Karen Na­tional Union (KNU), RCSS, Karen Peace Coun­cil (KPC) and CNF, has made it clear that they are for sign­ing the NCA, with or with­out the all-in­clu­sive par­tic­i­pa­tion of all EAOs.

Sur­pris­ingly the Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance Army (NDAA), also known as Mong La, was present and is seen as a Chi­nese proxy as was the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) which is con­sid­ered a hard-line or­gan­i­sa­tion firmly teth­ered to the United Na­tion­al­i­ties Fed­eral Coun­cil (UNFC) thus mak­ing the sit­u­a­tion even more un­fath­omable.

What­ever the rea­sons, it was re­ported that Pa-O Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion (PNLO), Arakan Lib­er­a­tion Party (ALP), Demo­cratic Karen Benev­o­lent Army (DKBA), SSPP, KNU, NDAA, KPC, All Burma Stu­dent Demo­cratic Front (ABSDF) at­tended at the Union Peace-mak­ing Work Com­mit- tee’s (UPWC) in­vi­ta­tion.

The Myan­mar Peace Cen­ter (MPC) rea­soned that the low turnout of the EAOs was due to the short in­vi­ta­tion time span, which was sent out just three days be­fore the meet­ing. And so, the prepa­ra­tion meet­ing would be moved to the 3 Oc­to­ber, with the aim of sign­ing the ceasefire treaty in the mid­dle of Oc­to­ber, at least ac­cord­ing to the regime’s func­tionar­ies.

Prepa­ra­tions for “Plan B” or open book sign­ing

The gov­ern­ment’s “Plan B” or open book sign­ing which sees the ini­tial sign­ing of NCA with those who are in agree­ment, fol­lowed by oth­ers at a later date, looks more and more likely, as the 17 EAOs lead­er­ship are still bogged down by prepa­ra­tions for the up­com­ing NCA sum­mit meet­ing at the end of Septem­ber.

The EAOs sum­mit meet­ing is de­signed to map out a com­mon po­si­tion on how to re­ply to the

regime’s pushy agenda of sign­ing the NCA by the mid­dle of Oc­to­ber. One EAOs’ leader likened the sit­u­a­tion to the Thai ex­pres­sion “Phook Mue Choke” or where a man’s hands are tied to be beaten up.

Well-mean­ing sym­pa­thiz­ers have been dol­ing out opin­ions from out­right sid­ing with the regime’s ad­vo­cacy of sign­ing the NCA as it is – as in for­sak­ing the all-in­clu­sive­ness of all EAOs, so that ac­tual po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue could be started, to sug­gest­ing that EAOs, try to squeeze out po­lit­i­cal con­ces­sions to a max­i­mum, be­fore sign­ing the treaty.

But the hard facts are that the rank and file of such well-wish­ers’ fail­ure to pin­point the core prob­lem of “po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ment” in a clear and un­mis­tak­able for­mu­la­tion, which is “power and re­sources shar­ing” through es­tab­lish­ment of a gen­uine fed­eral sys­tem.

Suc­ces­sive mil­i­tary regimes, in­clud­ing the present quasi-civil­ian regime of Thein Sein, con­tinue to un­fal­ter­ingly up­hold the Ba­mar cen­tric po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, with some demo­cratic trap­pings, cou­pled with the de­nial of an eq­ui­table po­lit­i­cal power-shar­ing and re­sources-shar­ing ar­range­ment.

The pol­icy of ‘area con­quer­ing and ad­min­is­tra­tion’

The Myan­mar terms “Nare Myae Soe Moe Yaye” could be roughly trans­lated into “area con­quer­ing and ad­min­is­tra­tion”, and is a strat­egy which has been used con­stantly and con­tin­u­ously to jus­tify the Myan­mar army’s oc­cu­pa­tion of eth­nic home­lands. And, to add a le­gal touch to the no­tion, an in­ter­na­tional term has been ap­plied, by mak­ing use of in­ter­na­tional norms of pro­tect­ing the in­fringe­ment of “na­tional sovereignt­y”; mean­ing: the in­fringe­ment of the eth­nic re­sis­tance forces on its na­tional sovereignt­y rights. Thus, lend­ing le­git­i­macy to the Myan­mar mil­i­tary’s oc­cu­pa­tion and mil­i­ta­riza­tion of the eth­nic home­lands, un­der the pre­text of “na­tional unity”.

But this regime’s as­sump­tion of sov­er­eign mo­nop­oly is con­tested by the eth­nic re­sis­tance forces’ no­tion of “shared-sovereignt­y”, which the eth­nic na­tion­al­i­ties jus­tify and see as their le­git­i­mate rights be­ing robbed by suc­ces­sive, Ba­mar-dom­i­nated, mil­i­tary regimes, in­clud­ing the present quasi-civil­ian gov­ern­ment of Thein Sein, and have there­fore been strug­gling to re­in­state their po­lit­i­cal rights through armed strug­gle.

The oc­cu­pa­tion of the eth­nic home­lands and re­in­force­ment of the Myan­mar army con­tin­ues un­abated, while the NCA de­lib­er­a­tion, whether with sin­cere in­ten­tion or not, is mov­ing par­al­lel on a dif­fer­ent track.

Un­law­ful As­so­ci­a­tion Act

And as if to add in­sult to in­jury, the regime has openly and ac­tively em­ployed Sec­tions 17/1 and 17/2, Un­law­ful As­so­ci­a­tion Act, as a tool to push the EAOs into sign­ing the NCA.

The UWSA, and a num­ber of other groups, was openly threat­ened that if it re­fuses to sign the NCA, it would not be given the right to par­tic­i­pate in the po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue phase and risked be­ing branded an illegal or­ga­ni­za­tion.

But the logic and even the le­gal prospect of em­ploy­ing the Un­law­ful As­so­ci­a­tion Act as a trump card could back­fire, as Aung San Suu Kyi’s le­gal ad­vi­sor has pointed out, any agree­ment signed with an illegal or­ga­ni­za­tion would be nul­li­fied and void, as no such treaty could be le­gal­ized, with­out first lift­ing cer­tain clauses of the un­law­ful as­so­ci­a­tion act.

But it seems that Pres­i­dent Thein Sein has, some­how, be­come aware of such a pos­si­ble le­gal im­pli­ca­tion, for a few weeks ago, U Aung Min told var­i­ous media out­lets that the Pres­i­dent had or­dered that par­tic­u­lar sec­tions of the Un­law­ful As­so­ci­a­tion Act be lifted for those who are ready to sign the NCA, be­fore the sign­ing of the treaty takes place.

Mil­i­tary en­gage­ment with the EAOs

In a re­cent in­ter­view, Com­man­der-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing when asked why armed clashes had oc­curred at the time of NCA dis­cus­sions, replied that there were two or three places, where the bat­tles were hap­pen­ing. But Min Aung Hlaing in­sisted that the Tat­madaw was not launch­ing at­tacks on EAOs des­ig­nated ar­eas, im­ply­ing that there were such de­mar­cated ar­eas of agree­ment, and that fire­fights oc­curred only out­side of such ar­eas.

RFA re­ported on 22 Septem­ber that fight­ing in north-eastern Myan­mar had pit­ted Shan and Palaung rebels against gov­ern­ment troops re­sult­ing in the deaths of troops from both sides in Namh­san and Yat­sout (Lawk­sawk) town­ships. The same re­port said that clashes also en­sued be­tween gov­ern­ment sol­diers and Palaung State Lib­er­a­tion Front (PSLF) troops in Kyaukme and Mong­mit town­ships

SHAN re­ported on 18 Septem­ber that Myan­mar Army Bat­tal­ion No. 152 clashed with RCSS/SSA at Wan Kong vil­lage, 10 miles from south­ern Shan State’s Kolam Town in the town­ship of the same name. Ac­cord­ing to RCSS/SSA sources, three Myan­mar Army sol­diers were killed and one was se­ri­ously wounded.

In the en­su­ing bat­tles, the RCSS’ Shan lan­guage web­site “Tai Free­dom” re­ported that the mil­i­tary used five he­li­copters to lo­cate RCSS/SSA sol­diers on the ground.

An RCSS re­port re­leased on 16 Septem­ber, spec­u­lated that re­newed clashes come amid the Myan­mar Army’s ef­forts to take con­trol of RCSS/SSA con­trolled-ar­eas. The re­port de­scribes a wider mil­i­tary strat­egy in which the Myan­mar Army searches for and then at­tacks Shan troops in the re­gion.

In ad­di­tion, Kachin­land News re­ported on 22 Septem­ber, that the KIA and Tat­madaw fought bat­tles near Nam Lim Pa in Mansi Town­ship, a lo­ca­tion be­tween Laika vil­lage and Munghkawng vil­lage in Mansi Town­ship, and Nam Gut and Maw Tawng in north­ern Shan State. Lo­cal sources said about 10 ca­su­al­ties from the Myan­mar Army were taken to Bhamo Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal.

If the regime would like to make head­way in a dig­ni­fied man­ner, it would be well ad­vised to se­ri­ously re­think its mis­led em­ploy­ment of de­fend­ing its na­tional sovereignt­y pre­text to mil­i­tar­ily sup­press and oc­cupy eth­nic home­lands; and its us­age of the Un­law­ful As­so­ci­a­tion Act as a trump card, for the le­gal im­pli­ca­tion would only nul­lify the whole NCA

Photo: Hong Sar/Mizzima

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