DEADLOCK – All-inclusivity and accommodation keys to national reconciliation
All-inclusivity and accommodation keys to national unity and reconciliation
Two important meetings likely to help move forward the stalled peace process were held between the government’s Peace Council (PC) and the United Nationalities Federal Council’s (UNFC) Delegation for Political Negotiation (DPN) on October 23 to 24 and the PC and the 8 Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) signatory Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) on October 25 to 26.
The seventh round of peace talks—which took place in Yangon between the DPN and the PC was said to be very thorough with only military-related affairs left to discuss, according to spokespersons from both parties. According to Zaw Htay, the president’s office spokesman, the reason the military matters remain for further discussion was due to the absence of military officials from both sides who will have to set detailed talks next time about deploying troops. Reportedly, the most argued point is UNFC’s NCA amendment proposal number 5. This calls for prior agreement on the military Code of Conduct (CoC) and terms of reference (ToR), the government wants the UNFC members to sign the NCA first and work on CoC and ToR later, something they are reluctant to do. Also, the UNFC’s number 6 amendment proposal, on the formation of an independent monitoring committee to include international representatives acceptable to both sides, is still not resolved as the government side is hesitant on such an undertaking. The DPN’s vice leader Nai Ong Ma Nga pointed out other obstacles rather than just the mentioned points. In an interview on October 25 he said, “For example if we look at the original nine-point UNFC proposal, we stated that nationwide ceasefire has to be declared. It means covering the whole country, but what comes out, in the end, is not nationwide but a ceasefire which would only be effective within UNFC organisation’s territories, which is quite a loss (seen from our bargaining position).”
Government – 8 EAOs meeting
Since the second Union Peace Conference-21st Century Panglong (UPC-21CP) was held from May 24 until 29, relations between the eight signatories EAOs and the government have cooled. But it seems the first-ever joint meeting organised by the government with the signatories might have motivated them to move further with the stalled peace process. During the meeting, the signatory EAOs tabled a 21point proposal to review the implementation of the NCA. “We mainly discussed weaknesses in implementing the NCA. We exchanged views on moving forward for peace while working on the political dialogue and the ceasefire. Out of the 21 points we discussed, the majority are agreed upon by both sides,” said Zaw Htay, a representative of the Peace Commission, who is also the President’s office spokesman. “We believe that both sides are satisfied with the two-day meeting. Both sides reached consensus on over half of the 21 points proposed by the ethnic armed groups and exchanged views on the remaining points,” Htun Htun Oo, the Union Attorney-General said.
Following the government and the 8 signatory EAOs meeting, on October 30-31, the State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi headed Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) 12th meeting composed of the government, Tatmadaw, parliament, signatory EAOs and political parties, in order to map out on how to go about the upcoming UPC-21CP in December. But reportedly, the meeting ended without being able to reach agreement on a lot of issues.
After looking at the two meetings, including the meeting of the recent UPDJC, we can see there remains an inability to finish proper guidelines in the implementation of the NCA and a failure to accommodate all-inclusive participation of remaining non-signatory EAOs. This continues to hinder the peace process. Also, disagreement on the first Union Accord stemming from the May UPC-21CP that was supposed to be tabled and endorsed by parliament was not acceptable to many EAOs and political parties because they were not done according to NCA procedure. Again, the prohibition of State-level political discussion on the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), both signatories of the NCA, by the government and the Tatmadaw could be also seen as a lack of proper guidelines which actually should come from Framework for Political Dialogue (FPD), which still hasn’t been finalized. Regarding all-inclusiveness, the government is still unable to recognise the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC) also known as Northern Alliance and negotiate with it. Meanwhile, the wooing of the remaining four UNFC members to come into the peace process would need some accommodation, on the part of the government.
Apart from the mentioned shortcomings, the government is now faced with the same old dilemma of the last two years, to either go forward with just the eight signatories EAOs, out of the 21 EAOs, and achieve little or nothing politically, or try to accommodate in any way possible the remaining EAOs. The government now has to make an informed, and reasonable choice to get out of this deadlock or face continued deterioration in all aspects of governance and international reputation.