Greetings to Mr. President and guests, individuals and organizations who have assisted the peace process and ethnic brothers and sisters who have come from afar.
Fourth anniversary of NCA
Today’s event is the fourth anniversary of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). First, I would like to express my appreciation to all NCA signatories who are striving to strengthen the implementation of the NCA at this time.
Peace agreements are risky political and military decisions. I honor all leaders, former President U Thein Sein and officials of the former government, Tatmadaw leaders and ethnic leaders who have signed the agreement after making courageous decisions for the country’s stability and for a peaceful and bright future for the next generation of youths. I also wish to recognize the fact that the march towards peace has continued with firm belief in unity during these past four years.
The NCA is not only for ceasefire alone. It is not only an agreement indicating clearly on how to implement the peace process. It is a political accord on what path to take towards establishing a democracy federal union. Throughout our country’s history this is the only agreement that was aimed toward the establishment of a federal union. It is an important agreement for national reconciliation, equality and establishment of a federal union. The difficulties we are facing today are not because of the NCA but due to the weakness in implementing the NCA, requirements to abide by it and misunderstandings. I am sure everyone will understand that those leaders who have signed the NCA need to keep their promises in implementing the NCA.
Looking at the past four years after signing the NCA, this year, 2019, saw the least number armed conflicts between the Tatmadaw and EAOs (Ethnic Armed Organizations). This was because of the unilateral ceasefire announced by the military on one hand and the continuous dialogues between the government and the EAOs on the other hand. We must say this is a good development.
It is obvious that those who suffer the most from the armed conflicts are our ethnic national races. Billions of dollars of properties, livelihoods, businesses as well as invaluable lives and limbs were lost. Displaced youths were unable to obtain an education and were left behind in progress and development. The biggest loss was the threat posed by these conflicts to the future of the union. The feelings, hurts and pains of the ethnic minorities were to be understood from our heart. From this understanding, we can establish a peace that leads towards conflict resolution.
Dream of the Union
Looking at the history of the world, there were a lot of peace processes and political dialogues which can be taken as examples. Everyone knows the longest running internal armed conflict in our country with its numerous and complex background history. The problems and issues were not simple and clear. Each issue could not be isolated and resolved one by one. Only when we understand the complexity of the long drawn out conflict can we have the patience and understanding.
The dream of establishing a union started with the 1947 20th Century Panglong Conference have not become a reality to this date and time. The dreams and expectations of our forefathers have become the dreams and expectations of the new generation. To date, we have been striving towards making this dream a reality. It is the historic duty of all who are in attendance today to establish a union cherished and valued by our people.
Our 21st Century Panglong Conference is a historic political conference to resolve the internal armed conflicts rooted in our country’s history. It is important for all to strive together firmly towards establishing a democratic federal union with assurance for democracy, equality and self-determination by resolving political problems through political means by peaceful discussion and coordination.
This voyage is long with highs and lows, ups and downs. Sometimes we will be keen and enthusiastic. Sometimes we will be disheartened and disappointed. The road to a democratic federal union will pass through dark or bright or murky times. Sometimes we may see our distant goal as a faint image. We all know the challenges and obstacles that we may face. Strength is the determining factor in the short run but in the long run, persistence and determination are important. As the journey gets long, our moral strength, determinations, understandings etc. can wane.
As travelers going on the same boat on the same journey towards with the same determination, we need to understand and help one another to reach our destination. The people and history will decide who wants peace and who doesn’t. At the moment, problems are not the issue. The issue is how to resolve these problems. For our union and for our future generations, we must use the present valuably to resolve the problems of today.
Government’s determination toward federal
Ever since we assumed the responsibility of the country our government has pledged to strive towards establishing a democratic federal union. This was even before we became a government. We said this even during the time when the word “federal” couldn’t be spoken openly. We consistently spoke of achieving agreement by political discussion and coordination based on the peace process. Our policy was to establish unity and resolve issues through discussion and dialogue so that the people were not hurt.
We said repeatedly that achieving sustainable peace would be possible only if a true federal union could be established. Division of power must be in accordance with a federal system. All federal units are equal. States will have a constitution that assures self-determination. Our government accepted as a basic principle that the division of power in States was to be based on the people. It is important for all to participate at a discussion table to establish detailed basic principles.
There’ll be some who hold firmly to their own stands without making give and take or concessions. Flexibility and give and take are required if a true peace and a true federal union is to be established. We laid down this principle in the political dialogues but we didn’t aim our discussion toward this. We approach it by listening to the points raised by ethnic nationals. We didn’t force our wishes just because we were the government. Looking back, the Part I and II of Union Accords were all based on discussion based on the desires and proposals of the ethnic people. Standing on our own stands and discussing is not a true discussion and negotiation. We work towards finding a solution.
Three future processes
In today’s 4th anniversary of the NCA, we would like to inform the government’s three future peace processes.
The first peace process is the common process of how to proceed with 21st Century Union Peace Conference. This was proposed by the leaders of EAOs that had signed the NCA. We seriously contemplated this proposal. We all accepted the requirement for a process that all agreed on in going forward based on the NCA. From numerous unofficial meetings we reached to these three points. The first was to obtain a framework agreement on implementing NCA. This framework agreement will be the first part of the Union Accord that will be signed at the 21st Century Union Peace Conference fourth session.
The second was to discuss and negotiate towards getting additional basic principle points in addition to the 51 basic principle points achieved. These basic principle points will be the second part of the Union Accord that will be signed at the 21st Century Union Peace Conference fourth session.
The third was to have a common agreement on stage wise work processes in post 2020 election period and priority programs. If agreements were reached this will be the third part of the Union Accord that will be signed at the 21st Century Union Peace Conference fourth session.
I wish to thank the government, Hluttaw, Tatmadaw, NCA signatory EAOs, political parties and all related persons their assistance towards setting as a milestone the Union Accord Part III consisting of these three parts and all are urged to strive toward achieving success.
The government’s future peace process second part is participation of all that ought to participate in the peace process. Our government have been increasing the momentum of meeting and discussing with EAOs that hadn’t signed the NCA yet to reach a point where the number of armed conflicts and engagements were reduced. We will strive towards participation of all that ought to participate to come under the umbrella of NCA. Those who didn’t sign the NCA for various reasons were now participating in the discussion. At the moment leaders of the groups that have not signed the NCA are urged to take another step towards participating in the historical political discussion.
We still have gaps to fill because all that ought to participate hadn’t participated in our political dialogue. We will strive towards a situation that is all-inclusive.
The third part of the government’s peace process is for the people to taste the fruits of peace. The grassroots people at the bottom are mainly feeling the injuries caused by the conflicts. They don’t have any further injury worse than this. The world today is going toward technology revolution 4.0. While youths in other countries are developing Artificial Intelligence, virtual communities, industrial revolution, digital movements, we need to provide future assurances to our ethnic youths in the ethnic regions.
Those who had started the armed conflicts are no longer around this time in today’s 21st century. But the historic duty and responsibility of stopping this internal conflict and implementing the dream of a federal union lies on the shoulders of all who are in this hall. How will our world be in the next ten years? How will our ethnic nationals be? All leaders must think deeply about this. Are we going to pass on the same conflict?
Think how far our pride, ego, distrust, etc. will affect our future generation and how far they will lag behind due to it. Our government wanted to establish a federal union that our ethnic nationals had dreamt for years. It is not time, but well past time for our country to achieve peace.
In conclusion everyone in the union needs to believe and value the unity that the union provides. This unity is not established or achieved through force but through foresight and mindset. Without establishing a federal union based on equality of ethnic people, we wouldn’t see peace in our country. Without establishing an ethnic national unity based on Panglong spirit, our country wouldn’t develop. This was proven by the past 70 years. It is possible to change this situation if we all put in the same efforts.
Our government will put all our efforts towards this three part peace process. All are urged in conclusion to cooperate and work hand in hand with us towards laying the basic foundations of peace, equality and establishment of a federal system.