12 March, 2020, Nay Pyi Taw
My warm greetings to all the members of the government, the Hluttaw representatives, the representatives of the Tatmadaw, the representatives of the armed organizations of the national races, and all the representatives of political parties present in this UPDJC meeting. It’s been for some time since we last met our colleagues of UPDJC. It’s been nearly two years since the UPDJC meeting was last held after the seventeenth UPDJC meeting during the third Union Peace Conference-21st Century Pinglong Conference. Today we could officially resume the meeting, and it’s a great pleasure for me to meet all the members of the UPDJC once again.
As you all know, after the 21st Century Pinglong Conference, we formed groups and assigned the groups for reviews concerning the peace building process. Over these two years, we have looked at our tasks, considering our age-old expectations and apprehensions of all those involved, from various points of views so that better and more effective political discussions could proceed. We held free, open discussions and official meetings many times, and open, friendly discussions took place among ourselves. As a result, we could come back to the UPDJC Roundtable Discussions once again. I am grateful to you all, who were present in the previous meetings, especially the leader of temporary PPST and all members of PPST, for kindly conducting negotiations, dedicatedly aiming at our goals through ups and downs and all sorts of challenging circumstances.
The Role of UPDJC
Credit must go to our UPDJC for giving guidelines during the political dialogues held for the first time in our history after the 1947 Pinglong Conference. Since it has assumed the form of a political dialogue launched according to the dictates of history, its burden of responsibility is so heavy. Of course, the UPDJC meetings had made a pause for some time, but resuming this meeting proves the fact that we can achieve success if we are patient enough, and if we negotiate, cooperate and collaborate no matter we are faced with challenges and hardships. So today’s meeting is one that is so important for our peace building process.
It is of crucial importance that from today’s UPDJC meeting onwards, we must collaborate together and strive for achieving outcomes replete with the political essence, which would continue to be lasting till the coming Union Peace Conference-21st Century Conference. In the eighth JICM meeting, a unanimous decision was made that after pooling the agreement for implementing the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA), phase by phase post-2020 implementation, and the democracy and federal fundamental policy agreement, the Union Accord Part 3 shall be signed. These agreements are very important not only for our government but also for all armed national organizations. Our UPDJC is determined to get the Union Accord Part 3 successfully signed since it is the one agreed upon by all members of the UPDJC. We must then continue to strive for laying down the post-2020 Peace Task Programme and post-2020 democratic, federal Union building task programmes.
Reforms of the Framework for Political Dialogue
In today’s UPDJC meeting, reforms shall be made on the Framework for Political Dialogue, as well as on the related ToR and SOP. Since, based on the reforms of the Framework for Political Dialogue, we are going to proceed to the national level political dialogues, we strongly hope there will come more political dialogues.
What I would like to draw your attention is that WHO has declared outbreak of COVID-19 to be regarded as a pandemic. Concerning the political dialogues, the government must lay down rules and regulations on mass gathering. I’d like to inform you that this afternoon session will deal with this item. The Framework before us is flexible enough so amendments have been made again and again. When the next Conference is over, we have to continue negotiating and discussing for the outcome of more practical, more effective political framework.
If you look at the peace building process all over the world, challenges and hardships do exist in some form or other, depending on the impact of the different backgrounds. But despite different challenges, if the common goal is the success of the peace building process, it is undeniable that patience, broadmindedness, innovative approaches, problem solving abilities and sincerity of the political motives of all those organizations involved, all these matter most. One group might disrupt or cause delay to the peace building process, but if the success of this process is the goal for all, then all must cooperate and collaborate. But I would highlight the fact that each and every group may not arrive at a hundred percent fulfilment of its own aspirations. No negotiations could turn out to be a success if you have the mindset that you will collaborate only if you could claim for a hundred percent fulfilment of your objectives. You must have a brave heart for exercising flexibility. Then you are an eligible member for the political dialogue. If you are already in, then you must exercise flexibility. To make our political dialogues a success, it is very much important that our UPDJC must build unity among ourselves, based on fairness and flexibility. So I’d like to urge you all to go forward through positive collaboration, and the kind of collaboration founded on the Union Spirit.
The Peace Building Process and Challenges
Our Peace Building Process has been going to three directions simultaneously. The first direction is building the concrete foundation for the ceasefire. This is undertaken by the armed forces and the JMC. The second direction is the political dialogue. This is undertaken by our UPDJC. And the third direction is bringing the flowers of Peace on earth. This is being undertaken by our NRPC, PC, the region government and the armed national races through collaborations. The path of building Peace never runs smooth. Hardships and challenges will come over and over again. Since negotiations have to be made among the armed forces, it is no wonder that armed conflicts come out once again when things go wrong. But I would like top remind you all that we must not let our goals, and our visions vanish. UPDJC has stood in low profile for nearly two years, and during these years, there broke out a few armed conflicts and land mine explosions.
Both sides must come together and hold talks over these misunderstandings and find solutions. Since NCA has been signed, pledges have been made by both sides that solutions shall be sought for, not through military clashes but through political dialogues. You all are well convinced that NCA has officially declared that no impact shall fall on the political dialogues even if there arise blockages on the way of consolidating the ceasefire agreement. Some issues might turn up, and you pick up your guns and kill each other – if you should lapse back to your old habits, then I must say you still cling onto the 20th century, outdated way of thinking. Issues will stay, of course. But when there break out an issue, go and see each other, personally, ASAP, and find solutions. You know, storms over the roundtable is much, much better than clashes on the battlefield. But, despite the existence of these tensions, I acknowledge the efforts of all those involved for getting every member to this UPDJC meeting for the sake of the future of the whole Union. The challenges and hardships of the peace building process exist in some form or other. Some hardships have existed since long, long time ago, while others turned up only in the present. Of course, not all issues related to national reconciliation and peace building can be sorted out simultaneously. Common agreements among ourselves must be sought for as the priorities, and these agreements must find way to establishing the agreements. How could we smooth out the differences and discrepancies? We must make the right approaches to the problem solving, and be engaged in making negotiations. Holding peace dialogues doesn’t mean holding a debate. What we should do is find a solution that all would agree upon.
If we could turn our similar concepts into agreements, we will be able to build stronger trust among ourselves. Then the prospect for better negotiations over the discrepancies will get stronger. Today, we have agreed that only if we could build a democratic, federal union, the political issues could be solved. We have to continue discussing what kind of federal system or what kind of democracy we want to establish in our union. Are we going to build the democratic, federal union phase by phase or in one stroke? Well, we shall continue conducting detailed discussions in our next political dialogues.
In conclusion, I would like to stress the three main aspects related to our national reconciliation, building peace, and a democratic federal system. The first aspect is to consider peace in relation with other conditions. You may not fail to perceive that the peace building process does receive the repercussion from the democratic transition, development, international relations, 21st Century technological breakthroughs, dangers of climate change, and very recently, transnational global holocausts. Instead of adopting the stereotype way of thinking that I must get this, if you have the broad view, considering the situations from various perspectives, that everything is interrelated, and interdependent, this will contribute towards the successful outcomes through negotiations in good timing with the other circumstances.
Secondly, though it is a fact that the peace building process cannot be isolated from the political trend, the political leaders may choose what kind of political trend it should be related to. You may not get it related to the narrow-minded, egocentric politics only for the sake of your own group or race, or the type of politics that is limited by the span of your power and position. Instead, you may consider the type of politics related to the welfare of the next generations and the type of politics dedicated to the interests of the Union. That is why our government is determined that in the post-2020, the peace building process must continue to thrive, and that we must double up our efforts for the sake of the unity of all the members of the Union.
Thirdly, peace building and making pledges for the federal Union mean having no discrimination among all the citizens living in the Union and states, ensuring equality and organizing the cardinal virtues, namely, the strength of will, strength of morale, strength of diligence, and intellectual strength. This concept is referred to in political science as Nation Building. If we are lacking the common strength called organizing power, we will encounter many difficulties when overcoming the challenges we are now faced with. In this 21st century, the power of threat would loom up in times of crisis, and we cannot put it off for another day, but we must try to solve it immediately. If the causes of how you deal with it are not in agreement, the outcome would be uncertainties, so only if all the members of the Union establish mutual trust and friendship, give a helping hand to each other, and organize our common strengths will we be able to face the challenges, withstand strongly, and achieve success.
Therefore, I would conclude my talk by saying that we should cherish the Pinglong Spirit that our parents and grandparents were determined to build, and march forward together on the Journey of Peace, and the Journey of building the Union. (Translated by Dr Zaw Tun)