Friday, March 1, 2024

Behind the regime’s over-dramatization of nationwide ceasefire agreement draft

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On 31st March, the fifth Single Text, Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) draft supposed to be a “historic break-through” and paved way for the gradual, eventual reconciliation, leading to the signing of the treaty, between the Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) and the Union Solidarity and Development Party- Military (USDP-Military) regime, was signed.

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But instead, the preliminary draft, which still needs to be accepted and agreed by the EAOs and eventual signing or ratifying it together with the regime, was being used to create a political advantage by the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), the government’s think-tank and technical organ which has been negotiating with its counterpart, the Nationwide Ceasefire Negotiation Team (NCCT), EAOs technical team, for a few years.

 

According to Khun Okker, NCCT top negotiator, in his interview with Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) on 8 April, when asked if NCA signing ceremony (31 March, 2015) posting on MPC’s Facebook, on 1 April, with two photos, could be taken as the actual achieved result or if there is inconsistency, replies: “ It is absolutely not the same. The posting is an exaggeration and a per-emptive move. It is meant to corner some of the ethnic leaders that might reject or refuse to go along (with the draft), for example. That’s why we plead with them not to do this yet. I presumed they’re pressuring and cornering, by using half-truth and half-false information. And when I complained, they said it was intentional. Further, when I said, Nai Han Thar – NCCT top leader – might not be able to go home, they replied jokingly that they also don’t want him to go home. This is also misleading the people, as if NCA has been finished and finalized. We try to counter them in the media, but since they’ve more weight, they now have a little edge. But all know the truth.”

 

The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), which has a lot of weight, with the majority of its members within the NCCT, issued a statement on 7 April to clarify the prevailing, perplexed situation. In its 6 points “Position Statement on Signing of Approval on Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement Draft Reached between NCCT and Union Peace-making Work Committee (UPWC)”, 3 of it writes:

 

  • The signing on March 31, 2015 was not the signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), but it was simply the signing of an approval reached on a draft agreement, between the NCCT and the Union Peace-making Work Committee (UPWC).

 

  • The NCCT members shall have to submit the approved draft to their respective top leaders and moreover, they shall have to acquire decision of the summit meeting.

 

 

  • The approval of NCA draft, reached between the NCCT and UPWC is not the final accepted agreement, and the final signing shall be done only after continued discussions on some topics, and if there is the “required implementation”.

 

UNFC General Secretary, Khu Oo Reh, according to Karen Information Center (KIC) report of 8 April, said: “The draft is not a finalized one. But some understood that the draft has already been approved and even some international figures also see it that way. To make it clear, it is not finished, agreed and we go move on to political dialogue stage. It is not like that.”

 

He said other than that facts included in the draft need to be consistent with the prevailing practical situation.

 

” Even if we said we could agree, there are still military offensives on the ground. there is still no peace, battles still are ongoing and human rights violations still exist. If there’s no secure atmosphere, we’ve to think about the finalized signing. That’s why if the agreement is signed, all happenings on the ground must also be finalized and materialized already.”

 

In a recent, latest interview, on 9 April, with DVB, KIA Vice Chief of Staff General Gun Maw said that the signing of the agreement between NCCT and UPWC was the recognition that the parties now have the draft of the NCA. It is a hope, but still not yet a total success and that the draft needs ratification. Many processes still remain, to implement nationwide after signing a binding agreement.

 

When asked, with the fighting continuing in some areas, if it will be possible that all the ethnic armed groups could sign a nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) and if Kokang or Myanmar National Defence Alliance Army (MNDAA) could join the signing, re replies:

 

“We have two requests ahead of the signing of the NCA. The first thing is that all the ethnic armed groups should be included in the signing of the NCA, and join in with the coming political dialogue. Another is that we do not only focus on the 16 members of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT). There are other groups that are not in the NCCT. If we are going to move to a political dialogue, all groups should be united. This is one point. Another point is that the Kokang group is a member of the NCCT. So, we want all the 16 member groups of the NCCT to sign at the same time. We’ve told this to the government. Another thing is that we request not to solve the problem with the Kokang through arms but through dialogue. I believe that the government will consider these issues and find the way to solve the problem. If these problems are solved quickly, we can sign the NCA quickly. If they don’t recognize the Kokang and other NCCT members, we need to discuss back and forth and find a better solution.”

 

But in contrast to UNFC general secretary, Khu Oo Reh and KIA Vice Chief of Staff General Gun Maw’s wishes and statements that peaceful atmosphere is first essential, in order to ratify the NCA, fierce battles continue to rage on in Kachin and northern Shan State, particularly the Kokang area.

 

According to the VOA interview, on 9 April yesterday, with Htun Myat Lin, the MNDAA spokesman, fiercest battles have been going on since the signing of NCA draft on 31 April.

 

He said: “ Yesterday, according to the report I receive, our side endure 10 to 20 lightly wounded and 2 to 3 killed. I couldn’t verify exactly but my estimation is quite near to the reality. I think the other side, according to their pattern of communication – overheard -, should be more than 300 wounded and death.”

 

The military reports of overrunning MNDAA positions were also rejected by Htun Myat Lin, saying it has not lost any position through fighting and that the said overrun positions are, in fact, abandoned positions, due to tactical and strategical reasons.

 

And because of such interviews, the police, instructed by the military, has issued a warrant on Htun Myat Lin for spreading false news, which are disheartening the government’s combatants, to which he retaliated to the media that who is going to sue the, Burmese military’s constant misinformation, coming from its own quarters.

 

Meanwhile, mass rallies, presumably, to pressure the EAOs, were held across Shan State, organized by the government. So far, according to SHAN, on 6 April, mass rallies were held in Taunggyi, Lang Kherh, Loilem, Kun Hing, Lashio, Muse, Kyaukme, Tachilek, Kengtung, Mong Hsat and Mong Ton.

 

On Wednesday, 8 April, 48 personages involving the President, parliament, military, Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic nationalities (Taing Yin Tha) Ministers, and politicians were invited to discuss about internal peace, ceasefire and forth-coming national elections, in Naypyidaw. But participants said constitutional change was the main focus of discussion. It was reported that Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hliang, Hkun Htun Oo, head of Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) and two others were unable to attend.

 

U Aye Tha Aung from Rakhine National Party, who attended the meeting, said that the president mentioned how important the nationwide ceasefire accord was and to support its signing so that political dialogue could start, according to the report of Myanmar Times, on 9 April yesterday.

 

“We suggested that these processes, including the signing of the nationwide ceasefire, political dialogue and building a democratic state, cannot happen without changing 2008 constitution. We urged that constitutional change be discussed at the six-way talks,” he said.

 

The six-party talks, between U Thein Sein, Aung San Suu Kyi, Thura U Shwe Mann and Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Upper House Speaker U Khin Aung Myint and an ethnic representative, U Aye Maung, take place in Naypyidaw, on 10 April today. It has been speculated and aired that constitutional amendment will be the main point of discussion.

 

To sum up the present situation, Thein Sein has been doing everything to secure the signing of NCA by every means, from appearing at the NCA draft signing ceremony to pressure the involved groups, like the military and NCCT; ordering government agencies to stage mass rallies – all in Shan State – and using public pressure on the EAOs to ratify the NCA; conducting meetings of 48 chosen members involving a broad spectrum of political players; and suddenly yielding to the parliamentary decision of six-party meeting, which he has previously rejected, saying that it is not all-inclusive enough.

 

Many think the logic behind such moves is that to collect enough political credit, before the general elections, slated for the November, so that the USDP could be seen as “doer and achiever” in the eyes of the electorate and could present the party platform in a better light.

 

Whatever the case, the core issue now is on how to stop the war on the ground, so that NCA could be signed, ratified and proceed with reconciliation and peace process. It is now time for USDP-Military regime to think hard. It cannot have it both ways, like it has been accustomed to, fighting one and talking peace with another, if it really wants political settlement on a fair and pragmatic basis.

 

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

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