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To Hopeland and Back (Part XII) Day 8

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Day Eight. Sunday, 22 March 2015

I hope the officials are not fooling us when they tell us there are 913 “national races”, according to the last head count which was conducted last year. Which is even more than what I had heard from the population minister U Khin Yee last February: 750.

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The information comes about while we are waiting for the NCCT and the UPWC to formulate a solution to the 4 points of disagreements that will be discussed today. One of which is about having a separate “ethnic representatives” category to participate in the planned political dialogue.

 

“How come?” I ask. “Last year’s census was supposed to have chop down the number from 135 to something like half of it, wasn’t it?”

 

A UPWC member who didn’t join his fellow members into their private brainstorming session explains:

 

“This is how it goes. If your father is, say, a Shan and your mother, a Kachin, it means you have acquired a new identity: a Shan-Kachin. You then marry, say, a Mon and have children. They no longer bear your ethnic identity but a new one, that is Shan-Kachin-Mon. The latest figure, 913, was achieved in this way.”

 

If it’s true, then, somebody is obviously trying to further muddy the already murky waters, not to clear them.

 

Understandably, the two sides, try as they may, are not able to come up with an acceptable solution on any of the remaining major 4 points, including the following new one which is being discussed today: Interim Arrangement.

 

The UPWC proposes a new clause: local development programs in accordance with the requirements of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives (EITI). The NCCT point out while it is not against the EITI, which the country has applied for membership, what has already been agreed between the two sides in December is a different clause.

 

I ask what they are, while the two sides return to their private brainstorming rooms and this is the answer:

  • Recognition of each EAO
  • Security of each EAO
  • Rule of law
  • Recognition of land policy practiced in each EAO’s area of operations

 

“Without these, there is no guarantee for the EAO during the interim period,” says a grizzled NCCT leading member.

 

The day however is not without agreements. One of them is: Submission of the NCA to the Union Assembly in accordance with the procedures for ratification.

 

If there is a fly in the ointment today, then it is a report that comes toward the end of the day’s session after the two sides agree to meet again on 30-31 March: Burmese fighter planes attacking KIA outposts at 15:15.

 

According to a government report, the military was pursuing a convoy of contraband timber that was taking a passage through the KIA territory in Mansi township, Bhamo district, near the Sino-Burmese border. The KIA retorted the accusation by saying as the consignment was coming from government-controlled areas, it was just a lame excuse and just another violation of the agreement to deescalate the fighting.

 

Which puts many of those concerned panic-stricken. Will there be a 7th NCA meeting, part two at all?

 

Which includes myself, for I have learned to respect and admire negotiators on both sides for their patience, tolerance and reason.

But as things prove later, all of us who hanker for peace are not going to be disappointed. At least on that score.

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