Burma not yet ready to employ third party for peace

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Academic suggestion to use a neutral third party to conduct the single text procedure has run into deaf ears, according to Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) currently visiting Chiangmai.

U Aung Min - Myanmar

“As far as the government is concerned it has already made substantial concessions,” an official of the MPC set up in 2012 by Naypyitaw, said. “There is therefore little or no need for a third party.”

The Pyidaungsu Institute (PI) for Peace and Dialogue, established August 2013 by independent researchers together with representatives from the armed opposition, had earlier recommended that for the single text procedure, being employed by the government’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC) and the armed organizations’ Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) in their Nationwide Ceasefire Accord (NCA) negotiations, to move forward more smoothly and rapidly, a mediating third party would be desirable.

Getting to Yes

One model that could be looked into is the 1978 Camp David summit, where US President Jimmy Carter had played the role of mediator between Egypt and Israel. According to Getting to Yes, Negotiating Agreement without giving in, it took him 13 days and some 23 drafts before Israel and Egypt agreed to sign it.

The one-text (single text) procedure, its authors say, “is almost essential for large multilateral negotiations. One hundred and fifty nations, for example, cannot constructively discuss a hundred and fifty different proposals.”

U Aung Min, the government’s principal negotiator, upon hearing it, commented, “As you know, successive governments of our country have an allergy to mediation by outsiders.”

PI then suggested there was the South African model where talented members of the country’s business community were chosen as facilitators to use the one-text process. “While the business community was hardly neutral, everyone understood that its overriding interest was to maintain stability and prosperity and avoid a civil war,” explains the book.

“Surely we have talented people from other communities, if not from the business community,” Khuensai Jaiyen, PI’s Managing Director said at the meeting with U Aung Min and the MPC on 1 December. “If we don’t have them, we’ll be facing the same problems in the upcoming Framework and Political Dialogue stages.”

One major problem of the current negotiations, according to academics, is that as the two sides are meeting each other face to face to work out on the single text, it is not easy to separate people from the problem and direct the discussions to interests and options, as required by the technique. Dale Carnegie once said: “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic but creatures of emotion.”

The NCCT is currently holding a meeting in Chiangmai in preparation for the next meeting with the UPWC.

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