Following the landslide victory of the National League for Democracy, the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), both signatories and non-signatories, had hailed it as a big step forward in the peace process. All have also offered their cooperation with the party leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, expressing their hope that a new peace invitation that will render a more level playing field for them is just round the corner.
However, two meetings that had taken place between her and the signatory EAOs on 17 December, and the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) on 23 December, may prove as a disappointment for them, especially for the non-signatories who have placed high hopes on getting on board with her.
Of course, no one can blame her for changing her position, after circumstances have changed. Running for the president and being a (defacto, if not de jure) president are different things. Just ask presidents Obama and Hollande, or even U Thein Sein.
According to sources, she is not going to open up political dialogues with the non- signatories until they have signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). Accordingly, she had urged both the signatory EAOs and the MPC to try to reach out to the non-signatories in an effort to convince them to sign it.
“Her immediate concern is with the handover of power to her by the present government,” one EAO member who met her said. “She wants nothing to be in the way of a smooth transfer.”
One thing in the way, sources say, is that the non-signatories will continue to be unlawful organizations until they become signatories. She wants nothing to do with them until they are delisted.
More important is her former position that the amendment of the constitution should be affected both within and without the parliament has changed, according the sources. “Now she says it must be done only inside the parliament,” said one.
Of course, circumstances may still change, and with them her position. But until they do, the non-signatories’ strategy should be not to wait for her to make the first move, but for them to move first.
What more better opportunity for them to do it, if they decide to attend the Union Peace Conference (UPC), scheduled for 12 January and is expected to last at least 5-7 days, to present their case. Whatever decision they may take, they should not forget that the ball is in their court now, not hers.
As for the signatories, the nons need not worry themselves about them, because right now they are getting all the leverage that they can get from the present government, whose main concern is to convince the nons and the rest of the world that it is faithfully implementing the NCA. Needless to say, its position is also sure to change with the change of government.
May 2016 bring peace to the people of the Union.