The opinion piece of January 1, 2020 The Global New Light of Myanmar wrote that “Our new year resolution should be “total peace” in 2020” is an appropriate and welcome aspiration and everything should be done to realize this noble intention.
While it is correct that the people should be involved in achieving the desired peace, harmony and reconciliation that would come with it, ground work has to be laid out so that the public could participate in a matured manner.
This means that the people should be appropriately informed, given freedom of expression and freedom of choice in a variety of issues confronting the country. In other words, the powers that be must not mislead and politically exploit the mass for its political gains. The case in point is the NLD regime’s mobilization of the mass on the eve of ICJ lawsuit just very recently, where the regime and its media outlets told the people that they were also been sued. Actually it is only the government or political decision-making apparatus that the lawsuit is directed at and in no way the people.
In practical terms, it is only the Tatmadaw that could change the civil war-like situation immediately if it really wanted to. For example, it could start to announce and implement the unilateral ceasefire nationwide and actually cease military offensives countrywide. It is of no use, if it is not nationwide and if the unilateral ceasefire is conditioned to a lot of “dos and don’ts” restrictions, such as no taxation, no recruitment, and many others for the ethnic armed organizations.
We should not forget that the Tatmadaw is a member of the negotiation partners in nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA)-based peace process and not jury and enforcer vis a vis the ethnic armed organizations. Otherwise, without equal basis with the other negotiation partners, the negotiation process will be lopsided and unfair, which will only lead to be doomed from the outset.
It could announce unilateral ceasefire, followed by nationwide peace talks without precondition, as this will create a clean slate upstart for reconciliation talks. And whether in the aftermath of the talks, the NCA will be accepted as it is or amended is totally another matter or unimportant.
The plan to restart the NCA-based peace process through Joint Implementation Coordination Meeting (JICM) will at best the involvement of the 10 NCA-signatory ethnic armed organizations, which is the result of the partial ceasefire arrangement. As such, the non-signatory northern alliance or seven-member Federal Political Negotiation Consultative Committee (FPNCC) will remain outside the fold, which means comprehensive, all-embracing, and all-inclusiveness of all ethnic armed groups will not be realized.
Because of this, the government, the Tatmadaw and all ethnic armed organizations, including all ethnic political parties would have to be earnestly involved, if the aspirations of “total peace” in 2020 is to be realized. And if the stakeholders could hold peace talks without precondition attached, they might also be ready to accept a neutral international mediation team to help with the further reconciliation and political settlement.