Following is the full text of the speech delivered by State Counsellor and Union Minister for Foreign Affairs Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at the signing ceremony of New Mon State Party and Lahu Democratic Union in Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement-NCA.
Today’s ceremony is the signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement – NCA between the Union Government and the Ethnic Armed Organizations.
Although the number of Ethnic Armed Organizations is not that many, the journey to make this happen successfully is not that easy. This is the decision to make the first step to jointly lay the foundation stone of the Democratic Federal Republic that will emerge in the future for national reconciliation and union peace.
I therefore solemnly wish to honor and warmly welcome the New Mon State Party and the Lahu Democratic Union who have bravely taken this step.
NCA – the beginning of the Peace Process
NCA is not the end of the Peace Process. NCA is the beginning of the Peace Process, the beginning of the political dialogues, the beginning of reduction of armed conflicts; it is the beginning of the political process that will result from the resolution of political problems through negotiations, discussions and the joint search for solutions. Our internal armed conflicts were born together with our independence. Today it is now over 70 years. Those countries which gained independence the same time as us and those countries which have become independent after us have now gone far ahead. As for our ethnic nationals, and our people, we are still living in fear and instability amidst the internal armed conflicts. They had to flee their hearths and homes because of the conflicts. The sounds of reciting lessons have ceased and the farms have become overgrown with weeds. The most important thing is the fact that the children of our ethnic nationals had to flee for their lives.
Because of mistrusts, hatred and the evil effects of armed conflicts, these regions could not develop, could not progress and to this day have still lagged behind. Our people have to confront and live in fear on a daily basis. Up to this day in the 21st century, darkness still envelops the future of our ethnic nationals’ children. This situation has lasted for so many years. We have not been able to achieve peace. This is sorrowful as well as pathetic. Our future, and the future of our new generations have not seen the rays of light up to this day. It is said in the world at large. Those countries which achieved great progress after suffering the effects of war have said that after suffering the effects of war, the spirit and desire to work hard and struggle with unity becomes stronger. As for our country, this has not happened. It has not happened up to this day.
As the news of the signature ceremony came out today, the people in those regions were feeling joyous and happy. We heard the good news. The first significant change for the people is the disappearance of the fears that have resulted from the armed conflicts. The knowledge that they are no longer unlawful associations and no longer terrorist organizations, there is less fear in talking to them and relating with them. The knowledge that conflicts will end make them see a happy future. By looking at the other states which have seen peace and development, hopes have arisen for socioeconomic progress and change. We have seen the emergence of areas which are free from fear.
It is true that there have been bilateral agreements between the two organizations. However, there were no provisions as to how negotiations would be made, and no mechanisms for negotiations. I wish to call the NCA a new beginning. It has been initiated to reduce armed conflicts; if there are disagreements, instead of resorting to fighting, to solve the problems at the negotiating table through discussions and negotiations.
At the same time, in the NCA there are agreements for formulating policies and frameworks for political dialogues and for initiating various steps of political dialogues for the emergence of political dialogues that will result in the establishment of the Democratic Federal Republic. In our country, throughout the ages, there have been various efforts to organize round tables for political dialogues, but without success. All of us accept that the root cause of internal armed conflicts is the failure to solve political problems through political means. During the administration of President U Thein Sein, he made arduous efforts to initiate the peace process which resulted in the NCA. For these efforts I wish to express again my thanks on behalf of the country and the people from this podium. During the term of our Government, we have not only initiated the political dialogues but also as part of the Union Accord, we have been able to sign (37) political agreements at the Second Session of the Union Peace Conference – 21st Century Panglong.
If we look back at our history, this is not only the first political dialogue but a new political paradigm which has been achieved through our efforts. Political agreements were reached only after establishing policy frameworks and procedures systematically. Although this is our first experience, I have been greatly encouraged by the way our Government, the Hluttaw, the Tatmadaw component, the EAO’s component, the political parties component and component for those that should be included have participated in the UPDJC – Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee, sector-wise meetings, working group meetings and at the conference meetings. They participated with heart and soul immersing themselves in the issues. They deliberated, assessed and negotiated with eagerness and passion on the basic principles for the establishment of the Democratic Federal Republic. It may be regarded as the first step in our history.
However, there are those organizations which have not joined the peace process and some organizations still remain to join. They are those who have participated all along in the negotiations but have not joined the peace process due to various reasons. In the north, there are still armed conflicts in some areas. Although the light of peace is shining brightly in southern Myanmar, this light has been unable to cover the whole country. All of us need to continue working individually.
Firm resolve to establish the Federal Republic
Since the time we gained independence, we have lost much energy due to armed conflicts. Because there was no peace, there was no stability and we lagged behind in many areas of development. As a result, our country became one of the Least Developed Countries. Our country suffered, our people suffered and the future of our Union suffered. Today at this time, our coutnry is facing many challenges and difficulties. As all of you know, in the community of nations, our country is facing many pressures and criticisms; inside the country differences of opinions and arguments are still going on. These are the bad effects of our inability to unify diversity and transform it into strength. The universe which is changing every second and today’s world will not wait for our country. Are we going to leave behind the same country with armed conflicts for our new generations or are we going to leave behind a unified and strong country worthy of respect by others. I want to urge you all, today, from this podium, that you should think about this seriously.
For how much longer do our people have to wait? For how much longer will our country’s armed conflicts continue to dominate? For how much longer will we have to exist as a disunited country? Those who started these armed conflicts are now no more. We have to endure their evil legacies. In our time, do we have to live amidst war, the smell of gunpowder and the absence of green pastures? We need to ask ourselves.
The time has come for all of us make concerted efforts for a federal system for establishment of a Union which our founding fathers yearned for; a Union with Justice, freedoms and equal rights, and untainted by political ideologies. Our country has borne the brunt for long; and the hopes of our people have dimmed and diminished for more than 70 years. That is why I wish to solemnly state hear that we should bring forth the NCA which is the prelude to National Unity.
The mistrusts and hatreds of the past can cast a showdow on the present. This is human nature. However, I wish to say that we should take the lessons of the past and for the future of our country an the future of our people, let us take one bold step forward. Leaving aside our weapons, let us meet at the negotiation round table and try and discuss candidly like family members. I wish to urge you to make a new initiative for the establishment of the Federal Republic. Our National League for Democracy has made a solemn resolution to walk on the path of the 21st Century Panglong Conference with resolute spirit for the emergence of the Democratic Federal Republic which will be acceptable to all. I wish to solemnly state here that no matter what difficulties and no matter what challenges we may have to encounter, we will not lose sight of the Federal goal and we will take firm and measured steps forward.
Future plan for national reconciliation
I said this at the NCA Anniversary celebration event. In the coming (s) sessions of the conference, we will be striving to establish fundamental principles and to lay a firm Federal foundation. That is why I wish to say again to join hands with us and work with us with trust.
However, our national reconciliation and journey to Federalism is not going to be smooth and peaceful. Since the journey to peace is a long distance journey, it is based on resolute spirit and faith. Up till now there have been ups and downs, fits and starts and there have been many twists and turns. But we are not disheartened. We will never give up. We will walk on and strive on. For our next generations, for our ethnic national, for our country which has lagged behind, we will continue our march on the path of national reconciliation with indomitable spirit.
We knew from the beginning that it was not easy. It was going to be difficult, and that there were going to be many challenges. If it were easy, our country would have achieved peace a long time ago. Our history has said it. Ethnic nationals have said it. Everyone has said it. Observing professionals have said it. We can achieve peace only when we have established a Federal system which is acceptable to all our people and the whole country. As you all know, today, at this time, history calls for Federalism. This is the path of liberation for our Union.
IF so, people will ask what kind of federalism. It is none other than a federalism which can build and sustain a united Union that will last long and endure for our country and our peoples. In this world, there is no such thing as a federal system which fits all countries. We have to build according to the country, its history and, its society, as needed. We have to design the federal system of the future Union collectively and through discussions and consultations. Our country and our peoples need to be united. Only Unions which are united are capable of practicing and maintaining a federal system firmly for the long run. To establish unity, we need to firstly build trust and understanding. That is why we have been inviting and negotiating with the remaining organizations to come to our political negotiation round tables.
Even after new organizations have signed the NCA, our future programme is clear. We will continue to work with organizations which have already signed the NCA to consolidate the ceasefire processes. We will continue with the political dialogues. If differences of opinion crop up among us, we will sit down and meet face to face to discuss and seek solutions with Panglong spirit. With the organizations which have not signed the NCA, we will work to reduce armed conflicts by meeting them and seeking solutions. We will strive to bring all these organizations under the NCA umbrella and urge them to participate in the political dialogues. We are going to carry out all these operations at the same time in tandem.
In conclusion, I wish to say with great seriousness that we need to bring forth National Unity which has been lost in our country for many years. It we can achieve National Unity, there is nothing we cannot accomplish together. In the same way, if we cannot achieve National Unity, we will meet many difficulties when we have to overcome huge challenges. Resilience is not weakness. Negotiation does not mean giving in. It is important not to be afraid of meeting for negotiations. As we march towards National Unity, we need to reduce issues that could cause disunity and discord among us. We need to seek out common points of agreement that could bring us together and make us more united.
Today, there are many things we need to fulfill and work for people and our country. The time has come for us to be united to solve the problems of the people, to remove instabilities that arise from anxieties due to unrest, and to give them a safe and secure future. Our joint action will surely go a long way to eliminate the mistrusts and hatred that originated in the past.
At the moment, our people are watching the 21st Century Panglong with high hopes. Our people will be judging our competitive maneuvers, our egos and our revengeful attitudes, and how they have increased over time. If we carry with us our successes and failures, it will harm our unity even further. The opportunity to dispel the darkness caused by our inability to achieve peace due to lack of unity is right now before our very eyes. This is the opportunity given by history. This is the opportunity given by our people.
I wish to remind all of you not to waste this opportunity. Do not be timid to take a step forward. That we have to fear is the fear that lingers in our minds. No one can know for sure what will happen in the future. We wake up every morning not know what will happen. All of us do not know what we will have to face on our path to national reconciliation. However, behind us, there are people who have yearned and longed for peace for so many years. Although there dreams for peace have become dim for many years, their desires and hopes are still as brilliant as ever. Let us step forward bravely together with them, with our people. We will face whatever comes. Solve any problem we encounter.
For the emergence for a Democratic Federal Republic that can stand tall and strong amidst the countries of the world, for a bright future for our next generations, as we work hard together with our people, we will need “cetana” (goodwill), wisdom, and bravery. With the kind of “cetana” that we should have for the country, the kind of wisdom that can bring forth the fruits of “cetana”, with the brave heart that dares to accomplish as directed by wisdom, let us work for peace and national development tasks dutifully. This is what I wish to urge and request you.
Thank you all.