How to revive Myanmar’s peace process
MYANMAR’S two largest armed ethnic groups to have signed the government’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) – the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) – have suspended participation in the country’s peace talks.
The two groups say that the parties to the NCA are implementing it without a common understanding of its meaning, generating “repeated contradictions”. Moreover, they say the military has started to insist on new preconditions that are not part of the NCA, such as agreeing to non-secession and a single army before further negotiations.
The peace talks are deadlocked over the issue of inclusion and the different interpretations of the NCA.
The most significant challenge is the exclusion from the talks of armed ethnic groups that have not signed the NCA. The government allows them to attend sessions of the 21st Century Panglong Conference as observers but forbids them from participating in the talks and decision-making.
As a consequence, there is little chance of reaching agreement on important matters, such as amending the constitution, power-sharing, and security reforms. Regarding a political settlement, the Tatmadaw (military) imposed on the signatories a “package deal” (self-determination and non-secession) and a single army. The nonsignatories are reluctant to sign the NCA without guarantees of autonomy.
As long as the peace process is dominated by the military, it will be unattractive to the non-signatories, and as long as they are excluded from, or choose not to participate, the dialogue will not be legitimate.
The second challenge for the peace process is the different interpretations of the NCA. KNU General Secretary P’doh Saw Tah Doh Moo said in a BBC interview: “The political dialogue is deadlocked because of the different visions for Myanmar’s future among the military, National League for Democracy (NLD) and armed ethnic groups.” He said a common vision and shared values are crucial to the peace process.
The ethnic groups and the military have to be on the same page when it comes to the fundamental principles stated in the NCA. Without such agreement, the peace process will not be consistent with the government’s Framework for Political Dialogue.
Military roadblocks Throughout the peace process, the military has stood firm to defend its interests, which are the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of the armed ethnic groups and the formation of a unified armed force without changing the military’s current structure or political role.
To achieve its aims, the military has erected three roadblocks: the 2008 constitution, the package deal, and a divide-and-rule strategy. The military-drafted 2008 constitution grants power to the military to constrain the NLD and shapes its role in the peace process.
The constitution also limits the rights and legitimacy of the armed ethnic groups, which blocks their ability to demand federal and institutional reform. The military will use its constitutional privilege to push for DDR.
The package deal is the main reason the KNU and RCSS suspended their participation in the peace process. It requires all the groups to accept non-secession along with self-determination, which is not mentioned in the NCA.
Finally, the military is using a divide-and-rule strategy against the groups. Divide and rule is defined as “a single actor exploiting coordination problems among a group by making discriminatory offers or discriminatory threats.”
As a result, a split is emerging among the groups between those that have signed the NCA, those that want to amend it, and those that reject it and want a new approach.
NLD stumbles The ruling NLD was expected to act throughout the peace process as a middleman between the military and the ethnic groups. However, its failure to build relations and trust has caused the ethnic groups to doubt whether they could rely on the NLD’S leadership in the peace process.
Although the NLD’S replacement of the Myanmar Peace Centre with the National Reconciliation Peace Centre was well-intentioned, the latter’s performance has been inadequate due to incompetence and inexperience, the centralisation of power, and disorganisation.
The way forward Hence, they should deal directly with the military and move forward with the political dialogue to reach a common interpretation and vision for the country.
Building trust is one of the biggest challenges. Unless all stakeholders conduct a dialogue based on trust, Myanmar will not achieve peace. That being said, the focus should be on building institutions that bind all the actors together in a workable political mechanism that builds trust based on principles.
The most sensitive matters, such as powersharing, DDR and security reform should be dealt with through institutions.
As such, the ethnic groups should be flexible about security reform, understanding that it is a long-term process that involves a series of reforms in different sectors. On the other hand, the military should be flexible on the DDR, understanding that it is impossible for the groups without guarantees against potential threats from the military and of safe reintegration. The way to deal with this issue is to put reintegration first, then concentrate on demobilisation, and finally move on to disarmament.
Flexibility on this issue would serve to reassure the ethnic groups of the military’s true desire for progress in the peace process.
MARC Leishman’s quest for a first professional victory on home soil got off to a strong start Thursday with a 4-under 68 to sit two strokes behind the firstround leaders.
Leishman, starting on the 10th, had two bogeys and two birdies on his first nine before making birdie on four of his final seven holes at Royal Pines.
Leaders Jake Mcleod and fellow Australian Matt Jager shot 66s had a one-stroke lead over South Korean Jae-woong Eom and Dimitrios Papadatos.
Leishman, who was in a group tied for fifth, said his round could have been better.
“I think 7-under would be a great score around here,” Leishman said. “It’s been the goal of mine for the last few years, when I don’t have my best golf, my best stuff, to still shoot under par. I’m getting better at it.”
American Harold Varner III, who won the tournament in 2016 and has finished second in a playoff and sixth in three Australian PGAS at Royal Pines, shot 69.
Defending champion Cameron Smith shot 70, as did England’s Andrew (Beef) Johnston, who recovered from being 3-over after three holes and had to be talked out of quitting his round.
Starting on the 10th, Johnston hooked drives on the 10th and 12th holes into water hazards.
“I nearly walked off the course after 12, to be honest,” Johnston said. “It’s been a frustrating year, and yeah, it’s really annoyed me in the past. But I spoke to my girlfriend and she just said keep going, so I did and I just tried to stay calm. Luckily I turned it around.”
Australian veteran John Senden had an air swing on the par-5 ninth hole after the shaft on his driver flexed and snapped in his grip during his downswing. – AP