INTERVIEW WITH KHU OO REH, GENERAL SECRETARY OF UNFC

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NCA On Union Day Unlikely
KNU USDP-Military Regime Relationship Not Benifitting UNFC

Interview conducted at United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) office, Chiangmai, Thailand, on 15 January 2015, from 09:30 to 11:00, with General Secretary of UNFC, Khu Oo Reh, on behalf of SHAN. Interviewed by Sai Wansai, regular contributor to the SHAN, Opinion Section.
Khun Oo Reh

Do you think Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) could be signed on the upcoming Union Day, according to the wish of President Thein Sein?
It won’t happen. But our members could change mindset and participate individually, due to differences of political views. “Bo Shu Khan” – grand military parade – invitation on Independence Day, by the President and the attendence of some Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs), including UNFC members, is an example.
What is the position of UNFC regarding 2008 Constitution?
We don’t accept it, as Khun Okker, a leading Nationwide Ceasefire Coordinating Team (NCCT) member and as well UNFC member, has repeatedly said. In retrospect, we also have not formed opinion on the 2015 election’s outcome.
Has KNU officially resigned from the UNFC?
No. Officially it has not resigned. Medias might report differently, but the official stand of the KNU is “temporary deactivation of the UNFC membership”.
What is the position of the organization, regarding the extraction of natural resources?
Thein Sein government has no legitimacy to claim sole ownership on that. Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) also are representatives and the owners of their respective homelands or states and have every right to the usage and extraction for the benefit of their people, including the protection of their peoples and territories from Burmese military occupation.
What would you say of a government minister recent posturing an accusation of sovereignty infringement, regarding timber extraction in Kachin State?
The government has no such legitimacy to claim total sovereignty as have mentioned earlier. And thus have no right to posture as sole ownership of the natural resources and sole resources extraction rights over all union territories.
Taxation of EAOs have been tarnished by the government by calling it as protection money or “Set-je” in Burmese, what is your response to the accusation?
It’s not “Set je” or protection money but revolutionary tax to fight for the rights of our ethnic peoples.
Shared-sovereignty has been mentioned several times by Gen Gun Maw of Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/KIA) and top UNFC leader, what do the organization mean by that?
Sovereignty belongs to the people and the present regime can’t be taken as coming from the people for the people. We are still in the process of a struggle to get back our fair share of sovereignty and the rights that come with it, as individual and collective ethnic groups residing within Burma.
Please clarify the UNFC position on 8 States-based and 14 States-Regions-based federal union?
We are generally for the 8 State-based union, even though we are open for more new states creation according to the needs of the people.
Will UNFC accept if EAOs are given state police administration, when DDR is implemented?
Security Sector Reform (SSR) should be worked out first, after which Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) would follow. For now, it’s still early to say anything about accepting the state police administration offer.
Do you have grand strategy to cope with if the peace talks break down, altogether?
So far, we have still not worked on the long and short terms strategies, but this will definitely come at the appropriate time.
Is there a State-based restructuring plan for the UNFC?
We have fixed our eyes on the proposition for quite sometimes, but we have to treat cautiously, due to having members in UNFC from various sub-ethnic or minorities armed resistance groups, within each state. Shan state is a good example at that; for we have Palaung (Ta’ang), Pa-O and Kokang groups as members in the organization. Perhaps individual state should take time to work out a kind of united front to represent the state as one party for the state in question.
Is President really above Commander-in-Chief or it is just the opposite?
I don’t think the President has such an authority on Commander-in-Chief. It looks more like the other way round. At the recently held “Bo Shu Khan” or Independence Day military grand parade, on 4 January, Commander-in-Chief MinAung Hlaing and other top ranking, military top brass didn’t even salute the President, according to Eleven Media Groups’ report. Unlike the days of President Sao Shwe Thaike, President U Ba Oo and President Mahn Win Maung, when the Commander-in- Chief saluted the President with pomp and ceremony on such occasions.
Is KNU closeness to Burmese army and Thein Sein government useful for UNFC?
I wonder, if this relation between KNU and Commander-in-Chief /President Thein Sein relationship is benifiting us in anyway. We were not shared any information, whatsoever, or have achieved any positive understanding with the quasi-civilian regime of Thein Sein, for the UNFC as a whole.

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