The problem with the Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) is that they don’t insist on “equal-footing” in ceasefire negotiation process. If one goes into the game, accepting, thinking and even feeling, inferior to your adversary politically, he or she could only cut a deal of “mercy” and not equitable and fair political settlement. This is what is happening exactly in the recent nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).
The Sections 17/1 and 17/2 – Unlawful Association Act – are used by the government to cow, accept government-insurgent, top-dog dealing with under-dog relationship, and instill “inferiority complex” in negotiation process for the EAOs, while all the while it is projecting its superior master position and making the EAOs to, consciously and unconsciously, accept their “under-dog” stance.
If the regime wants to be fair, like the example of negotiation process between the then head of South African government, Frederik Willem de Klerk and Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC), all such discriminating laws and acts would be lifted well ahead of the peace talks, to create a “level-playing field” politically. The sad thing about it is that the EAOs don’t see through this and insist that this should be lifted or taken care of first by the government, before even starting the negotiation.
So what is left could only be how high the degree of “mercy” could be extracted from the government by the EAOs,that are going to sign the NCA, and not comprehensive political settlement that all ethnic nationalities have been dreaming and striving for.
The United Wa State Army (UWSA) is now threatened with this Unlawful Association Acts again. For if it doesn’t sign the NCA, not only it will be confined to its controlled territories, its dream of upgrading its territories into a “Wa State” would never be able to be addressed, much less achieving it.
And if one reads between the line, this government attitude, or should we say threat, works two ways. One is wooing and threatening the Wa to sign the NCA and the other, to anger the Shan resistance armies and political parties and transform them into adversaries of the UWSA, for cutting out territories from Shan State, which has been an emotional issue for the majority Tai-speaking ethnic group. A divide and rule in a refined way, one could say.
A top Shan resistance official, well-versed in Shan and Burma politics, told this writer, in Bangkok, recently 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 revoked or lifted for the EAOs to create a level playing-field. But it 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’s superior position, which the resistance groups are trying to correct politically through armed struggle.
Hopefully, all EAOs would wake up to correct this imbalance negotiation atmosphere sooner than later.
The contributor is ex-General Secretary of the dormant Shan Democratic Union (SDU)-Editor