THE Union Government, Tatmadaw and leaders from Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) will hold a high-level meeting in Nay Pyi Taw. Following is an interview with leaders from the EAOs who arrived on October 12 and October 13:
U Khun Myint Tun, Vice Chairman, Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO)
The main thing we are going to discuss is that there are some obstructive issues in the peace process and we have made a commitment on how to overcome these hindrances according to the pledge we have made at the third Panglong Conference. That’s why we have proposed to convene three meetings, including a meeting in 2018 and another two meetings in 2019 respectively. We have pledged to strive for formulating more firm fundamental principles for establishing a democratic and federal union.
In order to carry out the fundamental rights of democratic federal system, we are going to discuss the matters regarding the implementation of the proposals and to make a decision that can solve the obstructive issues. I am sure that this discussion can bring about fruitful results for the country. Although the results have not come out yet, it will be beneficial to join the discussions among the Union Government, Tatmadaw and leaders from the ethnic groups.
Daw Saw Mya Yazar Lin, Member, Central Executive Committee of Arakan Liberation Party (ALP)
The main thing we hope is that there would be solution to many obstructive issues and prospects in the future. After the obstructive issues such as disintegration of the country and getting rights for self-administration for all ethnic races, we have a desire how to build the nation. Also I wonder to what extent the government and our ethnic organization can compromise in the peace process. For our part, we want to find a solution through negotiation, and hope to get a win-win solution as well. In this regard, EAOs plays a vital role to foster the discussion, and the government warmly welcomes the proposals made by EAOs. That’s why we have managed to come here to attend the meeting. Why I have come here is to attend to the needs of the people and the interest of the country. We do not give priority to our ego and intend to share the welfare of the people.
Naing Aung Ma Ngay, Member, Central Executive Committee of New Mon State Party (NMSP)
Such kind of EAOs meeting had never been held before. And we are going to hold a round-table discussion aiming to produce some good results, regarding how to shape the future union. I am sure we can transform it through the building of mutual trust among the leaders. Definite results will come out after the leaders had gone through the discussions. It has been three years since the NCA was signed in our country. We have gained unprecedented opportunities during the period of three years, and hoping that the leaders will apply to it as expected. All ethnic organizations should be included in the discussion, and arrangements have been made to contact them through possible ways and means. All the ethnic leaders will hold talks with one another regarding their desires for all-inclusiveness and other affairs. Moreover, negotiation is being carried out to arrange the detailed plans of the meeting.
Khun Okkar, Patron, Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO)
I have full belief in the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. All 10 signatories to the NCA have no misconceptions or misguided belief towards the Agreement. The issue is we need to amend weaknesses in the implementation of NCA’s provisions. There is no distrust towards the NCA or any difficulties from it. The stance on the NCA is solid.
We will firmly stand by the NCA and follow its roadmap; however, there is a necessity for changes in the way it is implemented. I’m not putting a lot of expectations in the meeting. We have been requesting this sort of meeting for a long time so the fact that it is going to be held is the first good result. Another accomplishment is the fact that some of our leaders finally agreed to a face-to-face meeting and the leaders of the Peace Process Steering Team (PPST) are of one mind. Looking at these two accomplishments we can hope that even if we don’t have a great number of results, the results we have will be good.
Dr. Salai Lian Mhone Sar Gaung, Vice-Chairman, Chin National Front (CNF)
There were factors that hindered us in the last two meetings. Another meeting was held after the meeting held in May 2017 to remove all hindrances. The top leaders are invited mainly to convene to resolve these issues. If we continue as we are now, then our political dialogue policy framework will not fare very well.
The meeting held at the NRPC today is a preliminary one. The meeting preparatory team prepared the agenda, list of topics for discussion and the necessary arrangements. The top leaders are the ones who will make the real decisions.
It’s not good to tell about the details of the arrangements for the meeting for the topmost important individuals of the nation. However, to remove the barriers to peace, which is sorely required in the country, it is not enough with just the UPDJC, working committee or secretary ranks to overcome them. The people who can definitely overcome these obstacles are the real policy-decision makers of this country. The top leaders including the State Counsellor, the Commander-in-Chief of the Tatmadaw, and the Chairmen of the EAO-s NCA are the real decision-making leaders and they need to convene. That’s why we have high hopes. But we don’t want the public to think that all the problems will be solved at once because we require finesse in handling an issue that has been ongoing for 70 years. We need to accomplish one thing at a time.
We need to employ different strategies to overcome the impediments. We also need to be patient when we’re actually carrying them out. We cannot pressure the top leaders and tell them do a specific action or resolve something immediately. We will do things at a gradual pace. We signed the NCA because there is no alternative path. If we choose a path other than the NCA then we may be causing more problems to the nation. It would be choosing a path that prolongs the country’s internal struggles.
The NCA is to solve political issues using political methods. Military methods have been used to solve political issues for the past 70 years. No solution has appeared. After Bogyoke Aung San and the ethnic leaders held the meeting in Panglong when we founded the country, there has never been a meeting such as this one where we meet face to face to resolve the issues and problems of the country. This is an important event. That’s why the whole public needs to encourage it. We will be happy with what we can accomplish. The top leaders will be respected. I want to say that if the top leaders work with the hope to try to resolve the issues once, twice or thrice, then this endeavor will be successful.
U Myo Win, Vice Chairman, All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF)
This meeting was brought about by the Third Panglong conference where 10 EAOs and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi met, and then with the Commander-in-Chief. The meeting is held since there is a need for the top leaders to meet to ensure political agreements are set and the peace process is carried out more smoothly.
The action plans, policy framework and political dialogue need to be negotiated. Basically, the action plans are talking about proposals. The proposal aims for democracy and federal basic principles to be set before 2020. Policies and considerations need to be laid down for practical implementation and to come up with policies for that. The UPDJC will then need to implement them in detail. If we look at the proposals, then they are a requirement too.
The political dialogue policy framework has some complications as well. The different models of political dialogue are determined, and we need to put in steps to make the entire process more straightforward. The leaders need to give guidance on solving the weaknesses of the policy framework garnered from the three-year implementation of the peace process. The most important points that need to be discussed are the matter of not separating with self-determination and the idea of a single army. There are preparations to discuss these matters and accept certain policies. If we can achieve this, then the path to democracy and basic federal principles we all envision will become much clearer.
The summit is prepared for both sides to discuss on their agreed points. This meeting came about after the ABSDF submitted it. It will discuss items based on the five topics that were presented in the presence of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Nay Pyi Taw.
I want it to be a bit different because this summit is not like the peace conference where we decide on basic principles. This meeting will come up with guidelines to set policies. After the guidelines have been set, the UPDJC will have to clearly implement them, such as how many detailed basic principles, federal principles or democratic principles. The President will also be discussing the various levels of the policy framework. The summit will not be negotiating the policies in detail but will be giving clear guidelines to negotiate them.
If we look at the three years of the NCA, there have been continuous political dialogues. The results from that 37 points were signed as Part I of the Pyidaungsu Accord and 14 points were later signed as Part II of the Pyidaungsu Accord; a total of 51 points so far. Personally, I am not satisfied with myself with just these results. There is still much to be done. However, we have created a situation where political issues can be resolved through politics. Armed conflicts between the NCA signatories have been reduced by 90 per cent. This has reduced conflicts from fighting, too. This is dependent on the signing of the NCA. We have opened the door to political dialogue through the NCA so that all and everyone who should be included can participate. This means that before, in the past, there were topics that couldn’t be discussed or you could face punishment if you discussed them, but now if we look at the entire country, it is federal, it is a situation with federalism.
Another thing is security. Discussions are being held concerning the entire nation’s security, matters relating to federalism, and political dialogues are being arranged. It is not easy to bring about a political landscape like this. You can say this is the result of the NCA.
Han Hmway Thant/ Photos: Htan Phone