Day Three. Tuesday, 17 March 2015
A lot of things happened which may be relevant to the outcome of the UPWC-NCCT meeting that begins at 11:00 today:
On 13 March bombs dropped by the Burmese plans on Kokang rebel positions killed 5 villagers and injured 8 more on the Chinese side prompting protests from both the Chinese foreign ministry and the People’s Liberation Army.
The event had led to the “sacking” of 3 divisional commanders fighting on the Kokang front, according to sources speaking on the sidelines. “It may or may not be enough to appease Beijing,” says an NCCT source. “But what matters is dismissal of them doesn’t affect the military operation. Because commanders who have the overall responsibility have not been touched.”
One of the consequences is witnessing Mr Wang Yingfan, China’s special envoy to Burma’s peace process who is attending the meeting as an observer, using every opportunity outside the meeting to speak to top negotiators on both sides to put the Kokang issue as an “urgent item on the agenda.”
On the other hand, the meeting between the KIO and the President plus Commander in Chief yesterday appeared to have gone well: half an hour with the former and one and a half hours with the military chief. “We only got back this morning at 04:00,” says a worn-out looking Kachin representative.
The upshot of it is that they have good news for us. When the meeting duly begins, the UPWC acknowledges that both sides met for the first time in recent history and were able to build up mutual “trust”. The NCCT agrees saying , “we had touched on military matters and were able to achieve mutual understanding to a certain extent.”
The subject matter today is Reduction of Conflicts. Naturally, the Kokang issue is put forward by the NCCT.
However the UPWC, whose government had granted powers of state of emergency to the military, politely replies the matter is out of the meeting’s scope as the Kokang issue had emerged only after the NCA meetings took place in November 2013. It should therefore be dealt separately. (There was a buzz that the military representatives had threatened to walk out if the issue were pursued further by the NCCT, but I couldn’t find anyone to either confirm or deny the validity this piece of news.)
The outcome of the day is to issue a joint statement on the reduction of conflicts. The meeting adjourns at 15:00 for participants of yesterday’s Napyitaw meetings to rest and cool themselves off before tomorrow’s negotiations.
My impression of the day is that both sides have their own hot heads but are gently handled by those with cooler ones. At the same time, it is certain this will not please everyone. For the world is full of hot heads, even including myself. Maybe, I think afterward, there is hope of finalizing the draft after all, if there were people like this on each side, despite a six-month deadlock.
At least a delicate matter has been delicately handled. Which prompts Yup Zau Hkawng, the leading member of the Kachin Peace-talks Creation Group (PCG), to remark: “Negotiations are like a dog trying to push itself through a roll of mat. It is easy to go in, but it will take a lot of effort to push through the middle part where the mat has been tied with strings.”
He is a happy-go-lucky guy with full of wits. I’ll be learning more from him during the coming days.