Peace process marred by Tat­madaw’s mil­i­tary of­fen­sives

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Sai Wan­sai

As the na­tion­wide elec­tions draw nearer with each pass­ing day, prob­lems sur­round­ing the coun­try’s fu­ture seems to be ac­cu­mu­lat­ing rather than less­en­ing, caus­ing peo­ple to won­der if th­ese de­vel­op­ments will make the coun­try a bet­ter place to live in.

Re­cent is­sues, the peace process de­ba­cle and the Myan­mar Army’s mil­i­tary of­fen­sives, which are linked and cur­rently mak­ing head­lines need to be ad­dressed.

As all know, on 15 Oc­to­ber, the na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment (NCA) sign­ing ini­ti­ated by the gov­ern­ment, was held, with pomp and cer­e­mony, even though it was only a par­tial-cease­fire agree­ment, in con­trast with a na­tion­wide one.

But to ward off the in­com­pre­hen­si­ble stigma of the treaty, Pres­i­dent Thein Sein in his open­ing speech said: “Al­though some or­ga­ni­za­tions are cur­rently not ready to sign, the gov­ern­ment de­cided to con­clude the NCA with the van­guard group of or­ga­ni­za­tions that are ready to pro­ceed with the sign­ing.”

He fur­ther stressed: “How­ever, we will con­tinue with our ef­forts to bring the re­main­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions into the process. The door is open for them. Since the NCA is based on the terms that th­ese or­ga­ni­za­tions have ne­go­ti­ated and agreed to, the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the NCA is in ac­cor­dance with their in­tent. If re­quested by the re­main­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions, the gov­ern­ment will co­or­di­nate and fa­cil­i­tate their par­tic­i­pa­tion in the var­i­ous stages of the peace process.”

In an at­tempt to ad­dress a num­ber of con­tin­u­ing prob­lems and fol­low­ing the es­ca­la­tion of armed en­gage­ments, caused by the Myan­mar Army, against the Shan, Kachin and Palaung re­sis­tance forces, the United Na­tion­al­i­ties Fed­eral Coun­cil (UNFC) had is­sued a state­ment on 10 Oc­to­ber.

It ac­cused the regime of not be­ing sin­cerely com­mit­ted to the peace process and play­ing “good­cop-bad-cop” by claim­ing “from a na­tion­wide cease­fire to [the] res­o­lu­tion of po­lit­i­cal prob­lem through ne­go­ti­a­tion peace­fully”, But, ac­tu­ally, it is at­tack­ing some of the EAOs and at the same time so­lic­it­ing the rest to sign the NCA.

The state­ment pointed out the fact that the Tat­madaw has es­ca­lated armed con­flict with the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA), Kachin In­de­pen­dence Or­ga­ni­za­tion/Army (KIO/KIA), Palaung State Lib­er­a­tion Front/Ta’ang Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army (PSLF/TNLA) and made prob­ing at­tacks into Karen Na­tional Union (KNU) ter­ri­tory. Th­ese armed at­tacks are made to pres­sure the non-sign­ing EAOs of the NCA to yield to the gov­ern­ment’s de­mands.

It also al­leged that the regime is re­vert­ing back to its “to­tal an­ni­hi­la­tion” pol­icy by wag­ing war on the EAOs that have re­fused to sign and se­lec­tively invit­ing those who are keen to sign to de­stroy eth­nic unity and im­pose its will.

On 8 Oc­to­ber, the SSPP/SSA re­leased a state­ment stat­ing that the Tat­madaw at­tacked its po­si­tions around its head­quar­ters Wan Hai, on the 5 Oc­to­ber, and had de­ployed hun­dreds of troops.

The state­ment ac­cused the regime of mil­i­tar­ily pres­sur­ing the SSPP for its re­fusal to sign the NCA and pointed out that it is counter-pro­duc­tive to be en­gaged in such acts, on the eve of the NCA sign­ing.

On 12 Oc­to­ber, a sec­ond state­ment was re­leased, em­pha­siz­ing that it is not re­fus­ing to sign but

only wait­ing for all-in­clu­sive par­tic­i­pa­tion, when it will take part in the fram­ing of po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue and dis­cus­sion, in­clud­ing the sign­ing of NCA.

Also, on 8 Oc­to­ber, the RCSS re­leased a state­ment which said that the RCSS has fol­lowed the NCA de­lib­er­a­tions be­tween the EAOs and the regime, which pro­duced a draft that it is also in agree­ment with, and has de­cided to sign and co­op­er­ate to solve po­lit­i­cal prob­lems by po­lit­i­cal means, through po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue, to achieve equal rights, self-de­ter­mi­na­tion and the build­ing of a gen­uine demo­cratic fed­eral union.

Lt-Gen­eral Yawd Serk of RCSS told news me­dia that al­though he had reser­va­tions on whether armed con­flict will to­tally stop af­ter the sign­ing of the NCA, he hoped that the regime would not take ad­van­tage of it just to win some votes in the elec­tions and for­get the build­ing of gen­uine fed­er­al­ism.

In re­gards to the NCA sign­ing, a num­ber of well-known and in­flu­en­tial pub­lic fig­ures, in­clud­ing Aung San Suu Kyi, Hkun Htun Oo, U Aye Tha Aung and Min Ko Naing, who were in­vited by the Myan­mar Peace Cen­ter (MPC) didn’t at­tend the NCA sign­ing cer­e­mony be­cause it wasn’t all-in­clu­sive

Hkun Htun Oo, Chair­man of the Shan Na­tion­al­i­ties League for Democ­racy (SNLD) said that he wouldn’t get in­volved in the sign­ing, say­ing that that since not all eth­nic groups are par­tic­i­pat­ing, it could not be seen as a na­tion­wide cease­fire and be­sides, he didn’t want to tar­nish his po­lit­i­cal dig­nity.

In Septem­ber, Tat­madaw troops con­tin­ued to clash with the Kachin In­de­pen­dence Army (KIA), the Ta’ang Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army (TNLA), the Arakan Army (AA) the Restoratio­n Coun­cil Shan State/ Shan State Army-South (RCSS/ SSA-S), the Myan­mar Na­tional De­fense Al­liance Army (MNDAA), and Kachin In­de­pen­dence Or­ga­ni­za­tion (KIO). Sixty-seven clashes marked a nearly 650% in­crease in con­flict from Au­gust.

In­for­ma­tion Min­is­ter, U Ye Htut, told RFA, on 12 Oc­to­ber, that the bat­tles with the SSPP/SSA have noth­ing to do with the ac­cu­sa­tion of the regime pres­sur­ing the EAOs to sign the NCA, but rather for other rea­sons, like in­tru­sion into gov­ern­ment-con­trolled ar­eas to ex­tort the pop­u­la­tion, il­le­gal log­ging or drug traf­fick­ing. It was th­ese that pushed the mil­i­tary com­man­der of the area to deal with them. He fur­ther said it is non­sense that the gov­ern­ment has to re­sort to mil­i­tary pres­sure for it al­ways has the mil­i­tary edge and that it is out of good will that the regime has started the peace process, in the first place.

Ul­ti­mately, the whole peace process de­ba­cle started when the Union Sol­i­dar­ity and De­vel­op­ment Party-Mil­i­tary (USDP-Mil­i­tary) regime en­tered the peace process arena with a fixed idea of “ne­go­ti­ated sur­ren­der of the eth­nic armed forces” to main­tain its own eth­no­cen­trism and power mo­nop­oly, while EAOs were hop­ing for “mu­tual ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties” lead­ing to equal power and resources shar­ing. This led to the main ob­sta­cle of es­tab­lish­ing a com­mon set of val­ues nec­es­sary to build a na­tional state-based fed­eral union. And this is the core prob­lem that has ob­structed the peace-build­ing process all along.

In re­al­ity, the two par­ties, the gov­ern­ment and the EAOs, are not func­tion­ing on the same wave­length, with each in­ter­pret­ing the as­pi­ra­tions and val­ues of each group in op­po­site and dif­fer­ing ways.

When the regime said build­ing “a union based on democ­racy and fed­eral sys­tem from the out­come of po­lit­i­cal dis­cus­sions,” it could mean any­thing, from main­tain­ing the present pres­i­den­tial uni­tary sys­tem, min­i­mum de­vo­lu­tion of power, max­i­mum de­vo­lu­tion of power, or fully-fledged fed­er­al­ism. But the mil­i­tary-dom­i­nated regime, if its past ac­tions are any in­di­ca­tion, will at the most be only ready to com­mit to a min­i­mum de­vo­lu­tion of power, within the present uni­tary sys­tem, per­haps with a fed­eral ve­neer. A world far apart from the EAOs pre­ferred na­tional state­based fed­er­al­ism.

Thus, the ma­jor pit­fall of the much touted NCA draft is its fail­ure to es­tab­lish na­tional state-based fed­er­al­ism.

Gen­eral Gun Maw, vice chief of staff of KIA, out­lined the ma­jor­ity of the EAOs’ as­pi­ra­tions when he said some weeks ago that they were re­ally ready to go into a se­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal ne­go­ti­a­tion col­lec­tively and in­clu­sively by ton­ing down their core de­mand, so as to give po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue a bet­ter chance, lead­ing to con­flict res­o­lu­tion and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, even if the fi­nal NCA draft is not per­fect and sat­is­fac­tory to their lik­ing. But the regime has stymied this by re­ject­ing all-in­clu­siv­ity, the one sin­gle de­mand that the EAOs could not con­cede.

The ton­ing down of the core de­mand, al­though not spo­ken, is none other than the for­sak­ing of “Pan­g­long prom­ises” and “na­tional state-based fed­er­al­ism” in the NCA and go­ing along with the gov­ern­ment’s vague in­ter­pre­ta­tion of “build­ing a union based on democ­racy and a fed­eral sys­tem through the out­come of po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue”.

It should be noted that “Pan­g­long prom­ises” and es­tab­lish­ing a gen­uine fed­eral union have been a cor­ner­stone and non-ne­go­tiable po­si­tion for the eth­nic na­tion­al­i­ties all along and they have even toned this down for the sake of find­ing a so­lu­tion with the mil­i­tary rul­ing clique.

Such be­ing the case, the ma­jor­ity of the EAOs were re­luc­tant to ink the NCA from the out­set and this dis­trust es­ca­lated when the regime re­jected all-in­clu­sive­ness.

Added to this, mil­i­tary pres­sure ap­plied on the KIO/KIA, SSPP/ SSA and PSLF/TNLA only leads to more an­i­mos­ity and height­en­ing of armed en­gage­ment in­stead of bring­ing them into the NCA fold. The regime can­not ex­pect this regime ini­ti­ated, half-baked, NCA which is just a par­tial-cease­fire agree­ment to morph into a real com­pre­hen­sive, na­tion­wide agree­ment.

Per­haps, the best way to come out of this dead­lock for the regime is to re­assess its un­spo­ken doc­trine of eth­no­cen­trism and mil­i­tary supremacy and re­place it with po­lit­i­cal good will based on na­tional equal­ity, democ­racy and rights of self-de­ter­mi­na­tion as called for by most stake­hold­ers and the peo­ple at large.

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