Saturday, June 22, 2024

INTERIM SOLUTION: From Comprehensive Single Text Negotiation to Peace Pledge Agreement?

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Recently, two “interim solution” proposals, which is also known as interim arrangement, compromise solution, intermediate solution and temporary solution, but coined in German as “Zwischenloesung”, have been making the rounds. One is the much publicized United Nationalities Federal Council’s (UNFC) “Agreement Relating to the Establishment of a Federal Union” and the other, the “Peace Pledge Agreement” (PPA) proposal, which the Euro-Burma Office (EBO) is canvassing, with likely endorsement of Karen National Union (KNU) and Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA). It is not clear, however, if this is originated from Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), Union Peace-making Working Committee (UPWC) or even from EBO itself. But a reliable source indicates that it is the handiwork of EBO, RCSS and KNU combined.

The excerpt of the six points proposal draft are :

  1. Building of a federal union, in line with Panglong spirit, according to the outcomes from political dialogue
  2. To sign Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) within three months
  3. Not to arrest or persecute those involved in the peace process, using association with illegal organizations act; and free all those arrested under such act
  4. To form Union Peace Consultation Joint Committee (UPCJC) and necessary joint committees in one month; and within three months to formulate Framework for Political Dialogue (FPD), together with political parties and appropriate individuals
  5. To hold political dialogue within six months, according to the Framework for Political Dialogue (FPD) achieved, in all-inclusive manner
  6. To strive for the betterment of all the people residing within the country

According to SHAN, the United Wa State Party/Army (UWSP/UWSA) and National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) warmly received the EBO, Pyidaungsu Institute (PI), KNU and RCSS delegation in Mong La, last week, by Sao Sai Luen, head of the NDAA, also known as Mong La group, but politely refused to endorse the six points PPA proposal.

The reluctance of UWSP/UWSA and NDAA to endorse the PPA could be seen by the SHAN report of 29 January. The report writes:
Just before we (the delegation) are leaving, it is informed by our hosts:

  • We (the UWSP/UWSA and NDAA) stand between the UNFC (United Nationalities Federal Council) and you (KNU and RCSS). Furthermore, governments on both sides are all ears to what’s happening here. So we may need time to make correct decisions
  • The friendly relations between the RCSS and the UWSP is very important if peace is to be achieved
  • Gen N Banla , the leader of the Kachin Independence Organization/ Army (KIO/KIA) and the UNFC, has called us this morning from the Sino-Burmese border. He wants us to mediate among the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs)

While the UNFC proposal, aimed to be signed on the Union Day, has been widely publicized, the EBO initiated proposal is not widely known, due to its little or no media visibility of the specific issue for the reasons unknown.

The UNFC proposal has also been politely pushed aside, if not roundly rejected, by U Aung Min, the President’s top peace negotiator.

The Irrawaddy Burmese Section, on 6 February, reported that “ Their proposal, if not exceeding the framework of NCA discussion, could be agreed. But if new facts would be asked to be included, which are not in the NCA, we’ll have to discuss before making the decision. I told them today that if all their proposals are within the framework of the NCA, it is possible. If exceeding the framework, it could not happen.”

Similar rejection was also reported. According to DVB report of 5 February, when asked whether the signing of UNFC’s Union Day proposal would happen, U Aung Min replies: “ You could imagine, this side has 16 organizations and when I asked (their opinions) all their 16 organizations are not of the same opinion. On our side, we have 3 organizations (government, military and parliament) and could adjust to each other easily. Because so many organizations are involved, even if one agrees, the other could disagree and so on, having lots of difficulties. Please try to understand this.”

Meanwhile, RCSS led by Sao Yawd Serk have met UPWC headed by U Aung Min to discuss about Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) as an interim solution agreement,to be signed on the Union Day. It is said that U Aung Min has given a list of points which he deemed necessary for the MoU, including continued discussions on the forming of a federal union, according to the DVB report on 5 February. But the RCSS said that it needs to consult with the Central Committee, before it could decide whether to go along with the government statement or not.

According to DVB, Sai La, a spokesperson for the RCSS/SSA, said the objective of the meeting was to work out and sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Shan armed group and the government – a form of preliminary agreement – as the proposed nationwide ceasefire agreement is unlikely to be signed by 12 February, Burma’s Union Day, as previously projected.

“We have not yet decided a title for the MoU but it is aimed at ensuring steady progress in the ceasefire talks and the peace process, and to prevent the use of military means to resolve matters prior to the signing of a nationwide ceasefire agreement,” he said.

And so the whole situation has moved back from single text negotiation level, that should pave way for comprehensive solution, to a lower level of interim compromise solution agreement, so that a semblance of interaction with each other could be maintained, given the frosty atmosphere after the stalled peace process talks in September, last year.

And to make the matter worse, Burma Army’s increased offensives in Kachin and northern Shan States have damaged the trust even more. The November 19, 2014, attack on the KIA cadet academy and escalated human rights violations, due to the heightened armed clashes, are also in no way conducive to the peace process as a whole.

Ethnic Nationalities Affairs Center (ENAC), a think-tank close to the UNFC, Briefing Paper for February reasoned, why the NCA is out of question as follows:

There are five main reasons why the NCA will not be signed on Union Day 2015:

  1. The negotiations over the text have not moved forward. The September round of talks led to greater disagreement between the parties due to the Burma Army representatives revisiting previously agreed upon points. The NCCT brought proposals on most of the remaining issues to the Union Peace-making Work Committee (UPWC) representatives at the December Coordination Meeting, but the UPWC has still not communicated any decisions on these proposals to the NCCT.
  2. Remaining points in the text are important and will take time to get right. For instance, there is still no agreement on the code of conduct or the monitoring mechanism, two pieces of the NCA that will be necessary for it to be a meaningful agreement. Disagreements remain over the roadmap for political dialogue and the wording of the basic political principles, such as federalism.
  3. The negotiation process does not encourage expedited decision making. There is a limited amount of time prior toFebruary 12. The NCCT and UPWC are the negotiating organizations for the two sides, but they are not the final decision makers. The EAO leaders and UPCC will need to review and decide whether to sign any final NCA text.
  4. The increased Burma Army offensives in Kachin and northern Shan States have damaged trust. The parties have still not come together to discuss the cause of the November 19, 2014, attack on the KIA cadet academy or figure out how to prevent such incidents in the future. The fighting has since escalated and involved human rights violations, weakening confidence in the army’s commitment to the NCA process.
  5. The government insists on limiting international observers and witnesses. To improve trust in the process, the NCCT has proposed that regional and western countries serve as witnesses to the NCA and that some members of the Peace Donor Support Group join China and the UN as observers to the negotiations. (Source: ENAC Briefing No. 4 – February 2015

It is, of course, not clear if this remedy of interim solution will lead the peace process back to the August 2014, single text agreement stage, where substantial progress were made in most sticky areas like “ federal union, federal army, usage of the word resistance”, among others, were being agreed for further consultation at political dialogue phase.

As Union Day draws nearer, we are left with the choice of either to endorse the PPA initiated by the EBO, signing MoU initiated by UPWC and RCSS, according to each and every individual group’s decision, or just wait for the seventh round of single text negotiation after the celebration of Union Day, on the 12th of February.

The contributor is ex-General Secretary of the dormant Shan Democratic Union (SDU) — Editor

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