When not wanting to embarrass causes embarrassment

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Naypyitaw, especially officials concerned, should not have given false hopes to the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), the 12 ethnic armed organization (EAO) alliance in the first place, according to UNFC sources.

UPWC-NCCT meeting in Chiangmai, on 5 February 2015 (Photo: Nyo Ohn Myint)
UPWC-NCCT meeting in Chiangmai, on 5 February 2015 (Photo: Nyo Ohn Myint)

The problem began when the government started to issue invitations to a ceremony to be held in Naypyitaw on Thursday, 12 February, marking the signing of the Panglong Agreement in 1947 between Federated Shan States, Chin Hills and Kachin Hills, resulting in the creation of the Union of Burma.

“Yesterday (9 February) we had asked by a scanned written letter whether the UNFC could be invited separately,” a UNFC official told SHAN. “The MPC (Myanmar Peace Center, set up by Naypyitaw in Rangoon) official we contacted said he would find out. A few hours later, in the afternoon, we were informed that it was okay and we could go. However, while we were still pleasantly busy with all the preparations for departure, the same MPC official called up and said, ‘Sorry, there will be no invitation to the UNFC. Only for individual EAOs.’”

The source said he had been bitterly upset since. “It was like a kick in the teeth,” he said. “I wonder if I’ll ever recover from it.”

The result: a number of UNFC members decided not to go.

This wasn’t the first time it happened according to UNFC sources.

On 18 January 2015, the alliance held a meeting to review the President’s 2 December monthly address to the nation saying that ‘A firm political agreement on forming a federal union, which is vital to the peace process, has been reached.’ The meeting decided to write a proposal to the President that the alliance was ready to sign an agreement based on his speech on the Union Day if he was.

“We made contact on 25 January with U Aung Min who told us he would be happy to present it to the President on the next day,” another UNFC official took up. “On 27 January, we were told the President had welcomed our proposal and U Aung Min would discuss with us during his planned visit on 5-6 February.”

However, when he arrived on 5 February, what actually took place was a meeting with the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), made up of 12 UNFC member organizations and 4 other associate organizations.

“During the meeting, he presented a draft interim agreement, named Deed of Commitment for Peace and National Reconciliation, on forming a federal union to be signed on the Union Day,” the first UNFC official continued. “After we had listened to him, we also presented him with our own draft, written based on the resolution made on 18 January. We discussed on the two drafts but were unable to reach agreement. We later heard through the media that our draft could not be accepted by the government, because the wordings were different from what has already been agreed during the NCA negotiations.”

On 6 February, the UNFC delegation led by Khu Oo Reh, Dr Laja and U Twan Zaw, met again with U Aung Min to discuss further on the draft. U Aung Min, by the end of the meeting, invited them to Naypyitaw for more discussion on the proposals. “Please discuss among yourselves first then come to Naypyitaw for further talks on the proposals. If all agree, we shall sign it on Union Day. If no agreement is reached, everything remains the same,” U Aung Min was quoted as saying.

Then came the “blow” as reported above.

One UNFC official commented, “We should not have been given false hopes in the first place. If they don’t recognize the UNFC, they should have said so earlier.”

At the time of this writing, it is still unclear how many UNFC member organizations will be represented at the Union Day festival.

On the MPC side, the response was that the list of names of representatives presented by the UNFC contained those from groups that the government has yet to recognize. Which was the reason for denying them the invitation to participate in the grand dinner party to be hosted by the President and the First Lady. “But as NCCT members, they are still welcomed at the peace talks,” said an MPC official.

Latest information received by SHAN says representatives from the invited armed organizations will meet at 14:00 today to consider the government-proposed Deed of Commitment for Peace and National Reconciliation. If there is agreement by sufficient number of representatives, a signing ceremony will be on tomorrow’s agenda.

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