Monday, May 20, 2024

To Hopeland and Back (Part XII) Day 5

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Day Five. Thursday, 19 March 20115


Today the first thing I hear before entering the meeting hall is Yup Zau Hkawng giving a slick answer to a hard question: Who are you going to support for President: U Thein Sein, U Shwe Mann, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, or Senior Gen Min Aung Hlaing?


He is anything but hesitant about it. “We don’t know who’s going to be President, do we?” he asks rhetorically, “But I urge everyone to support any candidate that promises continuation of the peace process. Because without peace, this won’t be a country worth living”.


I give him a thumbs up before going into the meeting hall.


The three topics to be discussed today are:

  • Taw Hlan Ye, which may mean “revolution” , “rebellion” or “resistance” depending on the context, that the NCCT has insisted all along to be accepted
  • The structure of the joint top level supervisory body which the two sides have yet to find a mutually acceptable one
  • The “security related reintegration” interpreted as either/both the SSR (Security Sector Reform) or/and DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration”


On the first issue, it should be understood that successive Burmese government, have refused to recognize the armed groups fighting against them as “revolutionaries”, “rebels” or “resistance fighters”. The official term for them in English is “insurgents” but the official rendering in Burmese of the word is “Thaung Gyan Thu,” meaning “One who goes on a rampage” or more simply “troublemaker” instead of Tha Bone the usual euphemism for “rebel”.


After more than a year of wrangling over it, the UPWC offers the following phrase to be inserted in Article 2d, Chapter 2, “Aims and Objectives”.


“Understanding the political aspirations based on Taw Hlan Ye of the ethnic armed organizations…”


The NCCT, after consultation among themselves, finally decides it is probably the best they can expect at present and gives its nod. The first clapping hands of the day follows.


With the second topic, the two sides are still unable to find a suitable solution.


The NCCT’s interesting argument on the subject is as follows:

“What our founding fathers should have done before the drafting of the Union Constitution in 1947 was to form a joint supervisory committee between the ruling Burmese party Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL) and the non-Burman’s Supreme Council of the United Hill Peoples (SCOUHP) formed in Panglong to produce the first draft of the union constitution. It could have served as an effective deterrent against the war from breaking out.


“We therefore are in need of a joint committee to oversee the JMC and JUPDC”.


To which one UPWC member commented during a break:

“Nothing’s going to be finished, if they keep returning to Panglong (to bolster their arguments)”.


The gentleman obviously doesn’t notice me. Or maybe he just doesn’t care.


Not surprisingly, the two sides does not reach consensus on the question.


One good thing about the meeting is that the two sides have learned not to waste too much time arguing over what can’t be agreed but to reconsider it and meet again after both sides have cooled down. In the meanwhile they skip it to discuss another topic.


The next one is the security-related reintegration, translated as DDR by the UPWC.


During the 6th meeting in September, the DDR had been placed at Step 3 of the peace roadmap, between Step 2: Negotiations/adoption on the Framework for Political Dialogue and the next step: Launch of Political Dialogue. Understandably it had worried the NCCT. “Does it mean that the PD will not start if we do not surrender?” asked one of its members.


But this time, the approach is different.


“There are countries that conduct the PD and DDR at the same time,” one of the generals elaborates. “It doesn’t mean you have to surrender first. We know that PD after surrender is impossible.”


He is obviously pushing for the inclusion of DDR negotiations in the Political Dialogue stage. Which, according to one NCCT member, is needless. “Because it is going to be one of the dialogue topics anyway. But maybe the military wants to make sure and have it written in the Single Text,” he tells me.


The NCCT’s response is that to its understanding, the Security Sector Reform (SSR) must be negotiated before that DDR. “It is clear that we have different concepts of the Security-related Reintegration, which needs to be discussed further,” he says.

Chao Tzang Yawnghwe

The day ends with a closing remark by a UPWC representative on the urgent necessity of the NCA. “On the first day, I had reported that from 2011-2013, we had 1,400 clashes and that in 2014 the number went down to 68,” he says. “But I would like to remind all of us today that the year has only just begun but we have already fought 32 times.”


During the evening we have dinner with some of the pros. The topic is inevitably the DDR.


One remarks, “Political considerations comes first: Civilian supremacy   which means the President is the Commander-in Chief and the Defense Minister is a civilian:”


The other, while not objecting the first, has his own opinion.


  • First, there must be no glass ceiling (meaning barrier that stops certain groups from getting the best jobs)
  • States must be allowed to form their own defense
  • Joint command


“Then, we can have DDR”, he concludes. I don’t know if one can take them as gospel, since all the comments come from a drinking party. But they certainly are food for thought, or as the late Shan leader Chao Tzang Yawnghwe (1939-2011) used to say, think pieces.

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