It is becoming more clearer that the all-inclusive signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) would be quite hard to materialize, if not impossible, according the development happening in political arena.
To date, the United Wa State Army (UWSA) has rejected the regime’s proposal, the three ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Aarakan Army (AA) have condemned the ongoing military offensives and also said, it won’t go along with the government scheme, and the latest BBC report said that the powers that be is trying to woo the Wa to change their minds and opt for the signing of NCA.
Meanwhile, all the President’s men like, the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) and Euro Burma Offive (EBO) functionaries are in full swing to materialize the government’s “ Plan B ” or “open book” signing of some EAOs first, probably followed by those, who would like to join, at a later stage, as all-inclusiveness signatory of all groups proved increasingly impossible to implement.
On 4 September, prior to the 9 September meeting between the five, top ethnic leaders, involving Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), Shan State Progress Party (SSPP), Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), Karen National Union (KNU) and New Mon State Party (NMSP), together with the three Senior Delegation (SD) members of EAOs and a KNU representative, with the President, the UWSA issued a three page statement, spelling out why it rejected the signing of NCA.
The eleven point statement said that it is going to be a drawback, if the UWSA will sign the NCA, for it has already made a peace treaty with the government for years and it only needs to sign the peace agreement with the parliament. It pointed out that with the ongoing armed conflict with the three northern coalition parties of MNDAA, TNLA and AA, it cannot be taken as a nationwide ceasefire. It also said in order to implement NCA, some parts of the 2008 Constitution needs to be amended, and with the military clinging to it vigorously, it is hard to implement the facts in the truce agreement. The participation of the West at the forefront, in contrast to back row position previously, in the NCA is not acceptable for it has given the promise to the China’s Yunan government that it won’t go along with any such arrangement. The statement stressed the point that the Tatmadaw, also known as Burma Army, hasn’t stop the offensives on the northern EAOs’ alliance and has been killing innocent people. It also produced photos of the said gross human rights abuses, to back up its accusations. Other than that, it said, it will abide by the Pang Hsang declaration and pushed for political dialogue accordingly, among others.
But to be fair, part of the answer to the UWSA misgiving on constitutional amendment could be found in paragraph 22(d) of the 7 August NCA draft, which writes: “ It is agreed that the constitutional laws will be amended, inserted and deleted, according to the procedure, which resulted from the Union Convention.”
The three left out EAOs – MNDAA, TNLA and AA – also issued a statement, on 10 September, after the Naypyitaw meeting, which took place from 9 to 10 September, urging the government to conduct the November election to be free and fair, adding that they would like to negotiate with the forth-coming government formed after the election, politically and militarily based on Panglong promises. The statement further said that they are united politically and militarily in their struggle and condemned the government for the military aggression against them. The statement said that since NCA is important, it should include all EAOs signing the document together, at the same time, according to the principles of Law Khi Lar and Laiza summit meetings.
The fifth and final paragraph said that the MNDAA has initiated a unilateral ceasefire agreement, TNLA has offered a deescalation of military engagement, and the suggestion of the three military alliance for bilateral ceasefires were met with fierce offensives from the Tatmadaw. It stressed that this has destroyed the peace process and the alliance condemned such acts, according to the statement.
Simultaneously, the MPC and EBO are pushing the agenda forward to discuss and work out a common framework for political dialogue (FPD), which it said should be straightened out and find a common platform, to be used in the political dialogue (PD) phase. The MPC recently said that Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) that will be form after the signing of NCA, will be responsible for drafting the framework for political dialogue and begin to hold dialogues within the first 30 days, according to Eleven Myanmar report of 13 September.
An invitation letter addressed to NCCT was sent out by Harn Yawnghwe, signed as Hso Harn Pha, a Shan name and his alias, said to be the representative of the groups, comprising 56 parties peace and political framework formulation committee, Baydar Institute, Ethnic Affair Ministers, EBO Myanmar, Karen National Union, Myanmar Peace Center, Pyidaungsu Institute, Restoration Council of Shan State, and United Nationalities Alliance.
According to the letter, dated 3 September, the above mentioned groups, including the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), are to meet and discuss on common understanding and common principles extracted from 56 parties peace and political framework formulation committee, National League for Democracy (NLD), United Nationalities Alliance (UNA), NCCT and Union Peace-making Work Committee/ MPC (UPWC/MPC).
However, it is unclear if the UNA and a larger part of the NCCT, who are also United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) members would endorse such a draft framework as a basis to be innovated and worked out.
Whatever the case, the NCA now seems to be heading for a selective, open book signing, with groups eager to sign going ahead first and probably followed by some more groups, at a later date.
As it now stands, the six excluded parties of MNDAA, TNLA, AA, Lahu Democratic Union (LDU), Arakan National Congress (ANC), Wa National Organization (WNO) won’t be on the signatory list. Apart from that, the National Socialist Council Nagaland-Kaplan (NSCN-K), UWSA, National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), KIO, SSPP, NMSP and KNPP are unlikely to sign or participate, if recent statements coming out could be taken as an indication. Thus, the regime’s Plan B of “open book” signing scheme could garner some eight to nine EAOs, from the total of twenty-one, nationwide.
On 12 September, Mizzima reported that Lt-General N’Ban La Vice Chairman of the KIO, when meeting the Kachin public, recently in Rangoon, regarding the meeting with President said: “ KIO will only sign if it is all-inclusive. Till now this pledge has not change. When meeting the President (I) have also told him the same. (We) need to discuss with the groups that are excluded by the government, on how to achieve better answer and good outcome. That’s why we cannot abide by the President’s aimed of signing ceasefire within the first week of October. It is not that we don’t accept it. It has to be signed ”
He further elaborated its disappointment as follows: “ This time the top ethnic leadership come to Rangoon with the hope that out of courtesy (the President) might agree to all-inclusive signing. But the government didn’t say anything. That’s why (I am) dissapointed.”
Similarly, the KNU leadership, Naw Zippora Sein and Padoh Kwe Htoo Win, also met the public recently in Rangoon, after meeting with the President in Naypyitaw. Naw May Oo, part of the supporting team to the SD, said that the public really wanted peace but have reservation, if nationwide ceasefire could materialize, with government excluding some groups to participate in signing of NCA.
On 12 September, the BBC reported that U Aung Min led UPWC team met UWSA and NDAA, on the same day, to brief the meeting between the President and the five EAOs’ leadership, according to U Aung Myint spokesperson of the Wa group.
The UWSA reiterated the point that since it has already made peace with the government, it would only participate in the political dialogue phase.
U Aung Myint said that UWSA and NDAA have adhered to peace since signing the peace treaty and have done development in the regions. He said, for this achievement, the government wanted the two to participate as (good) examples for the rest of EAOs.
The government delegation was said to tell the two groups that the President, who has close relationship with them, is willing to meet, if they couldn’t decide on the signing of NCA immediately.
But coaxing has not been the only tactics that was employed by the government delegation. SHAN report of 13 September also said, General Ya Byae reminded the Wa that they could lose the right to participate in political dialogue phase, if they refuse to sign the NCA.
If it is so, then the nationwide ceasefire might not live up to its name and would have to be satisfied with partial signing instead.
The regime did hand out “carrots”, promising to revoke the Unlawful Association Act, Sections 17/1 and 17/2, for those who would sign, ahead of truce treaty. But at the same time, also employs “sticks” by engaging the northern EAOs militarily and even delivering firefights with the RCSS, which is keen to sign the NCA, as soon as possible.
A top Shan resistance official told this writer that using the Unlawful Association Act, is neither appropriate nor reasonable as a means to pressure the EAOs. According to him, a peace process, and in particular a truce agreement deliberation, would need to be on equal-footing, which means such discrimination law has to be revoke or lifted for the EAOs to create a level playing-field. But has been made use of it by the government to gain upper hand and especially, when conducting peace talks within the government controlled territories. He added that it also served to belittle the adversaries into accepting the government superior position, which the resistance groups are trying to correct political imbalance through armed struggle.
Nobody quite understand, why the regime likes to keep the flames of war burning, when it could extinguish it once and for all. The notable absence of Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing from the 9 September meeting in Naypyitaw, which originally was aimed to include him and the President, is a stark reminder that the military is still not yet ready to sign an all-inclusive truce.
One school of thought is of the opinion that by keeping the civil war alive, the military might be able to project its influence over political arena and prolong its power monopoly for as long as possible.
As the opinion-making and election campaign heated up, the ceasefire agreement debacle doesn’t seem to be coming to a decisive end. The possible scenarios might be the pending of the ceasefire process until after the election; the open book signing of the nationwide ceasefire truce selectively; and the breakdown of the peace process altogether, due to the heightened military offensives, to uphold and continue its political edge within the country, in the wake of NLD political onslaught.
It goes without saying, if one is forced to choose, all the rest might be not as bad, except for the last scenario.