Peace process col­lapses

Mizzima Business Weekly - - FRONT PAGE - Sai Wan­sai

An eth­nic armed or­ga­ni­za­tion’s (EAOs) Sum­mit Meet­ing was held at The Park Ho­tel, Chi­ang Mai, from 28 to 30 Septem­ber to dis­cuss the sign­ing of the Na­tion­wide Ceasefire agree­ment (NCA).

Some one hun­dred par­tic­i­pants from 19 EAOs – 17 Na­tional Ceasefire Co-co­or­di­nat­ing Team mem­bers, and observers from the Restora­tion Coun­cil of Shan State/ Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) and the Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance Army – Eastern Shan State (NDAA-ESS) - were present.

At the end of the sum­mit, 7 groups de­cided to sign the na­tion­wide ceasefire agree­ment (NCA) while the rest re­main re­luc­tant to fol­low the gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tive of ink­ing the treaty by mid-Oc­to­ber.

Par­tial ceasefire sign­ing

On 28 Septem­ber, the first day of the sum­mit, VOA Burmese sec­tion re­ported Chair­man Hkun Myint Htun of the Pa-O Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion (PNLO) as say­ing, “Some or­ga­ni­za­tions clearly said that they would sign the agree­ment. But some, even though not re­ject­ing to sign, said they are not ready and need more time. For ex­am­ple, the Kachin In­de­pen­dence Or­ga­ni­za­tion (KIO) re­port­edly needs more time to brief and se­cure agree­ment from their peo­ple. They agree with the Pres­i­dent’s ini­tia­tive, but need more time to work it out be­tween them­selves. That is the ba­sic ar­gu­ment.”

To add more con­fu­sion to the al­ready frag­ile is­sue of all-in­clu­sive par­tic­i­pa­tion of EAOs, in sign­ing the NCA, The Ir­rawaddy quoted Gen­eral Mutu Say Poe say­ing: “I’ve al­ready de­cided. I won’t take re­spon­si­bil­ity of chair­ing the meet­ing any­more, in any up­com­ing meet­ing. That’s why I’m tabling this (con­cern of mine). So how will the EAOs de­cide on my pe­ti­tion? Can you ac­cept or re­ject it? My de­ci­sion is, I ab­so­lutely won’t take re­spon­si­bil­ity as a Chair­per­son for the third day of the meet­ing. That’s why I’m tabling this pa­per (pe­ti­tion).”

At the start of the gath­er­ing, prior to Mutu Say Poe’s per­sonal in­ter­ven­tion in the sum­mit meet­ing, Saw Roger Khin had al­ready tabled a Karen Na­tional Union (KNU) pe­ti­tion con­cern­ing its leader’s rejection of tak­ing the chair­per­son re­spon­si­bil­ity.

High­light­ing the im­por­tance of the sum­mit’s re­sults, SHAN re­ported on 25 Septem­ber, quot­ing U Aung Min, that for the gov­ern­ment, the sign­ing of the Na­tion­wide Ceasefire Agree­ment (NCA) be­fore the Novem­ber elec­tions is a mis­sion that must be com­pleted re­gard­less of the num­ber of eth­nic armed or­ga­ni­za­tions (EAOs) in­volved.

Dr Min Zaw Oo, from the Myan­mar Peace Cen­ter (MPC), sup­ported him by say­ing, “Ta-tetsa-le-kyet­thun, Hna-tet-sa-le-kyet­thun (Eat one sec­tion, it’s gar­lic; eat two sec­tions, it’s still gar­lic — old Myan­mar say­ing). It doesn’t mat­ter how many EAOs are sign­ing. It is an NCA. There’ll be an open book for those who are yet to sign.”

Thus, it could be said that the stage is set for a non-na­tion­wide ceasefire agree­ment (NNCA), rather than a na­tion­wide ceasefire agree­ment (NCA), as had been planned from the out­set. In other words, only a par­tial ceasefire agree­ment and not an all-in­clu­sive na­tion­wide ceasefire would be signed.

U Aung Min’s lob­by­ing of EAOs

Over the last few weeks, U Aung Min, the regime’s top peace ne­go­tia­tor, and his team have been on a height­ened lob­by­ing tour, in their last-ditch ef­fort to woo as many EAOs as pos­si­ble to ink the NCA by the mid­dle of Oc­to­ber.

To date, his team have met the United Wa State Army (UWSA), NDAA-ESS, Na­tional So­cial­ist

Coun­cil of Na­ga­land-Ka­plan (NSCN-K), Palaung State Lib­er­a­tion Front/Ta’ang Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army (PSLF/TNLA) and the New Mon State Party (NMSP) in an at­tempt to per­suade them to fol­low oth­ers in sign­ing the NCA.

All the ap­proached EAOs seem to be stick­ing to their not sign­ing stance, re­gard­less of the gov­ern­ment’s threats that they will lose the chance to par­tic­i­pate in the up­com­ing po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue and will con­tinue to be listed as illegal or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Mon (NMSP)

When U Aung Min re­cently met NMSP leader, Nai Htaw Mon, in Than­phuza­yat, he told him that the Mon could sign the NCA any time be­fore the po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue phase, and even par­tic­i­pate in the di­a­logue with­out sign­ing the NCA.

How­ever, Aung Min also re­port­edly urged the NMSP to sign the NCA say­ing that it would not be able to par­tic­i­pate in a lead­ing role, if it re­fused to sign.

The Mon leader’s re­sponse was said to be non-com­mit­tal, say­ing that his or­ga­ni­za­tion de­sired peace and would strive to at­tain it by work­ing hand-in-hand with the other EAOs.

Palaung (PSLF/TNLA)

The TNLA was of­fered a bi­lat­eral ceasefire agree­ment, fol­lowed by the sign­ing of the NCA. But the TNLA in­sisted that their two al­lies, the Myan­mar Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance Army (MNDAA) and the Arakan Army (AA) must also be in­cluded. It also said that it is hard to be­lieve the regime’s over­tures of a bi­lat­eral ceasefire, when there are on-go­ing of­fen­sives against them.

Shan (RCSS)

In the same vein, Colonel Sai Hla of RCSS/SSA said that re­cent bat­tles oc­cur­ring with the Tat­madaw could de­rail the peace process. He said that he be­lieved it is time that the bat­tles be stopped. No mat­ter who is to be blamed, bat­tles should be ter­mi­nated by ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Naga (NSCN-K)

In an in­ter­view with the In­de­pen­dent Mon News Agency (IMNA), U Kyaw Wan Sein said “We al­ready dis­cussed the topic with our chair­man. The chair­man said we aren’t ready to sign the NCA yet. And, there are some po­lit­i­cal is­sues in our group. We can­not find a so­lu­tion for this by just sign­ing the NCA.

Karenni (KNPP)

Abel Tweed, head of the KNPP, said his or­ga­ni­za­tion could only sign the NCA, if there is an all-in­clu­sive par­tic­i­pa­tion of the EAOs or if the USDP-Mil­i­tary gov­ern­ment could sat­is­fac­to­rily show that it is work­ing for all-in­clu­sive­ness.

Three pos­si­ble sce­nar­ios

In a nut­shell, the 7 EAOs geared to sign the NCA are KNU, Demo­cratic Karen Benev­o­lent Army (DKBA), Karen Peace Coun­cil (KPC), Arakan Lib­er­a­tion Party (ALP), All Burma Stu­dent Demo­cratic Front (ABSDF), PNLO and Chin Na­tional Front (CNF), while those 10 groups ab­stain­ing are KNPP, NMSP, KIO, SSPP, Lahu Demo­cratic Union (LDU), Wa na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WNO), Arakan Na­tional Coun­cil (ANC), PSLF, AA and MNDAA.

Nei­ther the NDAA-ESS nor the RCSS made any com­mit­ment one way or the other.

The sum­mit meet­ing closed with the dis­so­lu­tion of the EAOs-Se­nior Del­e­ga­tion and the ex­pi­ra­tion of its man­date.

The gov­ern­ment po­si­tion has not changed from its stated in­ten­tion of al­low­ing 15 cho­sen EAOs to sign the NCA, with the MNDAA, TNLA, AA, WNO, LDU and ANC ex­cluded from the process.

This be­ing the case, one of three pos­si­ble sce­nar­ios would likely emerge and pave the way for Myan­mar’s po­lit­i­cal fu­ture.

One is the sus­pen­sion of the par­tial-ceasefire agree­ment, due to the regime’s loss of face for fail­ing to pull through a true na­tion­wide ceasefire. The other is to mud­dle through with the open book strat­egy, start­ing with those who are ready to sign, hop­ing that it will gain mo­men­tum, and per­haps give sat­is­fac­tion to the for­eign donors and in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. And the fi­nal one is to put the is­sue on the back burner and hope for a bet- ter op­por­tu­nity, af­ter the elec­tion.

What­ever the case, the fail­ure to im­ple­ment the NCA is solely the short­com­ings of the Union Sol­i­dar­ity and De­vel­op­ment Party-Mil­i­tary (USDP-Mil­i­tary) regime.

First and fore­most, the so-called sin­gle text NCA draft is sup­posed to be jointly owned by the EAOs and the regime, de­vel­op­ing it and seek­ing to re­solve the con­flict as ne­go­ti­a­tion part­ners to­gether. And when the gov­ern­ment, all of a sud­den, hi­jacked the draft, made it its own and even gave out in­vi­ta­tions to its cho­sen 15 EAOs, the whole process de­vi­ated from its orig­i­nal in­ten­tion and be­came a “de­cep­tive dé­tourne­ment” with new mean­ings and a new con­text.

Thus nat­u­rally, most EAOs were taken aback and irked by the au­to­matic de­mo­tion of their sta­tus from equal part­ner of the process to those of the un­der­lings of the regime, hav­ing to fol­low the gov­ern­ment’s lead in the peace de­lib­er­a­tions and no longer on the same level as ne­go­ti­a­tion part­ners.

Se­condly, the regime lacked a com­mon and sin­cere vi­sion with its ne­go­ti­at­ing part­ner.

The on­go­ing of­fen­sives on KIA, TNLA and RCSS, while peace talks were un­der­way, is a stark re­minder of such ill in­ten­tion and is seen as in­sin­cere by the eth­nic na­tion­al­i­ties.

And fi­nally, in Myan­mar’s his­tor­i­cal con­text, to fa­cil­i­tate rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, it in­volves the re­pen­tance, ac­cep­tance and ac­knowl­edg­ment by all Ba­mar-dom­i­nated regimes, in­clud­ing the present USDP-Mil­i­tary gov­ern­ment, of the breach­ing of the Pan­g­long Agree­ment be­tween Min­is­te­rial Burma and the eth­nic na­tion­al­i­ties and the sub­se­quent fail­ure to im­ple­ment its prom­ises of con­struct­ing a fed­eral union.

As such, if an NCA is to be achieved, in the real sense of the word, the above men­tioned fac­tors or core is­sues would have to be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion. Oth­er­wise, the present regime as well as the one that fol­lows would only be mud­dling through the po­lit­i­cal wa­ters with­out ever hav­ing a chance to re­solve the decades-old eth­nic con­flict and achiev­ing a fu­ture based on har­mony and equal­ity.

Talks in Chi­ang Mai. Photo: Phanida/Mizzima

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