Following is an opening address delivered by National Reconciliation and Peace Centre (NRPC) Chair State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at a special meeting between the Government and Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement Signatory Ethnic Armed Organizations at the third anniversary of signing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) at Shwe San Ein Hotel in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday:
I cordially greet all the distinguished guests who are attending the special private meeting.
Everyone at today’s meeting will know the importance of this meeting to our peace process. Today is also the third anniversary of the day on which the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement was signed. Anniversaries were held in the past years, too, but this year we are meeting to discuss how to overcome the difficulties faced in implementing the NCA signed between the government and ethnic armed organisations (EAOs) and thus we are on the verge of setting up an important milestone.
Leaders in this meeting hall had played an important role in the peace process and today’s meeting is a proof that we are striving towards moving forward instead of turning around in our journey towards national reconciliation and peace. Because of this, I would like to thank all who are attending this meeting as well as all who had strived towards organising this meeting successfully.
Giving priority to peace process
If we look at the challenges our people are facing today, we will find different difficulties, such as transition to democracy, building a democratic federal Union, national economy, Rakhine State issue and geopolitical matters, in addition to the peace process. Our government is giving priority to the peace process to establish the Union that our people had cherished and valued. Strengthening the cessation of conflicts and achieving success in the political dialogue by going forward is very important for the entire peace process. It is natural to have differing views and understandings in the political dialogues. Especially in a country like ours where there were historically no political dialogues ever, we will have to take time to resolve the political problems. However, it is important that we gradually go forward step by step in a timely manner.
If good results decline in the dialogues, more hindrances and obstacles will appear in our path towards peace. We’ll face more instigation between the dialogue partners. There’ll be hindrances, like the whole process needs to be changed. This is well known by all who are participating in the peace process as well as those who are watching the peace process with interest.
We all know that the political dialogue path that we are walking on is effective, practical and successful. Where are the weaknesses? We have to collectively search, discuss, amend and control them always. Because of the decline in reaching political agreements, there shouldn’t be tensions and decline in trust. No one should blame or criticize another. I solemnly want to say to all to stay united. If we face and overcome the difficulties and challenges together, I’m fully confident we’ll be successful.
Present situation not unusual
In order not to affect the political dialogue and not to increase tension by arguing back and forth, we are temporarily avoiding with full understanding the matters that we were unable to resolve. There’ll be a time when the 70-year long political problems and other directly related matters had to be resolved, and it is not unusual that we are in the present situation. We must not be dejected or faltering. All need to be careful that such matters do not delay and holdup the political dialogues.
If we study the political dialogues held internationally, when these political dialogues are stalled, there’ll be impatience and there’ll be those who are within or without the groups participating in the dialogues who want to disturb the dialogues through theories and ideologies. The result of the decline in trust causes more tension and carries a fifty percent possibility of degenerating back to armed conflicts. As the time taken for political dialogue lengthens tensions and conflicts between ethnic nationals rises. Therefore, we have to recognize that there is a problem. We have to strive towards resolving the problem. It is important for us to have the political will and wish that this problem mustn’t be avoided and must be resolved. Today’s meeting came about because we have the firm political will and wish to resolve this matter through face to face dialogue.
It is the nature of peace process and political dialogues to have a situation where we come across difficulties and are not going either forward or backward and become stalled. It is not easy and smooth sailing to resolve problems that had existed for long. I think we all understand this. Based on the political agreement reached at the 20th Century Panglong Conference held by my father 70 years ago, we were establishing a Union together. Today, we are focusing on the 21st Century Panglong Conference, and based on the political agreement from that conference, we are striving toward constructing a democratic federal Union. Our goal is to reach political agreements and to establish a democratic federal Union. By collecting these political agreements, a firm Union agreement is to be signed and based on this Union agreement, future governments are to continue the implementation.
Watched with keen interest and expectation
During the past few days, our Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) political party groups had made an announcement hoping for success in this meeting. EAOs in northern Myanmar that hadn’t signed the NCA had also made an announcement welcoming and supporting this meeting. Similarly, today’s meeting is watched with keen interest and expectation by ethnic nationals all over the country. These hopes and expectations are not only on the table in front of us but also in our hearts, too.
We need to look back and review our peace process truthfully and courageously. In the political dialogues that were held, people brought the policies and views of the leaders in this room and were arguing with one another on each other’s policies and views. If a decision is required, political dialogue attendees had to return to these leaders. All were trying to force their leader’s policies and views on others to accept it. Today, all those leaders are at this table. While all leaders are at this place, I want to say three important points.
First is the unresolved matter of self-determination and non-secession. If we accept the situation as its stands, non-secession is not a problem. We also have repeatedly said that we’ll firmly establish the democratic federal Union consistently demanded by our ethnic nationals. During the second session of the 21st Century Panglong Conference, agreement was reached on the self-determination portion that was linked directly to the non-secession. But it was left aside.
Here non-secession is important. But also the will not to secede and to establish together a Union that need not be seceded from is also important. We need to recognize the historical facts on the causes of the worries. However, it is also important to get out of the grasp of the past and walk towards a future that is good for all. In balancing the past worries of everyone, we need to truthfully view the situation of the 21st Century. We must face towards the future. We need to think about international geopolitics as well as the state-wise geopolitics. According to the democratic ideals, the original owners of the state power are we, the people. As such, all need to note that actually implementing the democracy and federal rights lays in we, the people, too.
Second point is how we will establish the Union that we all want by how we achieve political agreements. All will have their own standard Union format.
All the groups will have thoughts and dreams of a federal Union format that is all conclusive with good systems and policies. We need to think practically on how we will implement our federal dream. The excellent and outstanding federal dream is on one side and today’s 2008 Constitution is in existence as a fact on the other side. Between these two sides, it is possible for the causes of armed conflicts to be resolved step by step. We can reach a stage where it is possible, practical and convenient to implement and establish it. We will be able to setup progressive milestones in our democratic federal Union journey. This is what I meant to say on possibility, practicality and progressing step by step.
Deciding politically important issues courageously
The third point is the ethnic nationals we represent, the people we face, and the grassroots level people we are responsible for. We all need to be responsible. In other words, we all need to be courageous. We all should have confidence in ourselves to establish democracy and federal related basic principles, pledges and agreements, while leaders capable of making decisions are in attendance in this meeting. We all need to have faith and trust in the peace process path we are going through. It is especially important for all to have the faith and trust that the outcomes of the political dialogues can be practically implemented. If decisions could not be made courageously in a meeting where leaders who can make the decision are present, it is to be noted that we are not doing our job and are letting down our peoples. We need to have the courage to fight in the battlefield and sacrifice our lives. But we also need the equally important courage in deciding politically important decisions for our country with goodwill.
Portions of the agreements that came out of 21st Century Panglong Conference are a proof that the path we took is correct. We must not deviate from our path. We will go forward without turning back is also being shown by attendance of all leaders at this meeting. We all need to work hand in hand together and accept the existence of difficulties and unresolved matters where agreements are yet to be reached. We need to discuss and negotiate how to overcome these difficulties. In conducting the discussions, it is important that we must not only open our hearts but we must also open our minds. I would like to urge all that we must be courageous in our responsibility toward our people and the people we are facing.
In conclusion, I thank the Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief, deputy Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief and leaders of EAOs. The leaders of EAOs that are not present in this meeting are also in our mind. I, as well as the people, will think how good if they could be present here.
Actually if the source of the armed conflicts are discussed and resolved in the political roundtable, it is not difficult to stop and eradicate armed conflicts. Meetings create familiarity, understanding and trust and strengthen common causes and expectations. Our peace commission and Tatmadaw leaders are striving for groups not present today to participate.
Leave the past behind by taking lesson from it. Try to quickly join us on our table. From here, I want to urge all the groups who are not able to participate yet to strive toward reaching the discussion that includes all that our people want to see.
We are not standing still. To prove that we are going forward, good results must emerge from this meeting and all leaders are to strive towards this with courage and determination. Please expose and share your worries. I’ll conclude by saying that we will work and think together on removing and resolving those worries.