How to re­vive Myan­mar’s peace process

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - World - NOVEM­BER 30, 2018 NAW EH HTOO HAE AND SAW THA WAH

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

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