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Friday, August 12, 2016

Learning to share A bout low hanging fruits

Day Four. Friday, 5 August 2016

A person with sweet mouth but sour bottom

One ought not live with such in the same house

(Shan proverb)

Has the peace process proceeded in strikes since the new NLD government took over? That’s the question the workshop tries to answer today.
First, the positive developments:
  • It has promised a federal democracy plus amendment of the military drawn charter
  • It is trying its best to include the 13 non-signatories armed movements in the upcoming Union Peace Conference, renamed Union Peace Conference (21st Century Panglong).
Through the new government’s efforts, the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of 9 EAOs (some say only 7) appears to have accepted the government’s invitation to attend the Framework Review meeting, due 12-13 August, in Rangoon. The 3 excluded movements (Arakan Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, and Ta-ang National Liberation Army) are negotiating with government representatives a public statement acceptable to both sides, after which they would be invited to join the UPC-21 PL. (There were reports that negotiations broke down while this report was being filed) The National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), a non UNFC group, has already accepted Naypyitaw’s bid to attend the Framework Review meeting. The United Wa State Army (UWSA), regarded as the strongest non-state rebel group, is also expected to join the UPC-21 PL on 31 August , if not the framework meet.
 At the same time, the workshop also points out that all these developments have come out at the expense of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) that was signed in October and ratified by the Union Parliament in December. “There was no need to bypass the NCA,” one comments. “The government could have achieved the same result by simply implementing the guidelines laid out by it.”

According to the NCA the Joint Implementation Coordination Meeting (JICM), composed of representatives of the signatories, is the highest decision making body.
The Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee (JMC), that deals with military matters, and the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) that deals with political matters, which include drafting/amending the Framework for Political Dialogue, managing political dialogues and holding the UPC, are formed by it.
The following are some, if not all, of the workshop’s observations:
  • The formation of the UPC-21 PL Preparatory Committee, ostensibly to convince the non-signatories to join the process in April. “The UPDJC could have done it just as well,” says one participant.
  • The dissolution of the UPDJC made up of 16 members each from the government, political parties and signatory EAOs, formed under (not by) the previous government, to appoint a new one headed by the State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, by the President.
“The UPDJC, as well as its chair, should be appointed by the JICM, if we play by the rules,” says another participant.
  • The 16 members from the political parties, also under the previous government, were chosen by the parties themselves, following the principle of inclusivity, as enshrined in the NCA:
National League for Democracy                                                 2 members

Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP)                         2 members

Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD)                        1 members

Arakan National Party (ANP)                                                     1 members

United Nationalities Alliance (UNA)                                            1 members

Nationalities Brotherhood Federation (NBR)                                1 members

Federal Democratic Alliance (FDA)                                             1 members

Other Burma Proper parties                                                      3 members

Other States parties                                                                 4 members

“The government now says only elected parties are eligible, despite Article 22 pointing out clearly that they must be Tayawin (legal registered) parties,” an unhappy politician had told SHAN.
  • “The form adopted under the previous government wasn’t perfect,” he continued. “Because there was little time to hold a prolonged debate. But it closely followed the principle of inclusivity.”
Another politician explained how the political parties bloc attending the UPC had chosen its 150 representatives quota:

92           representatives from 92 registered parties

22           representatives, one each from elected parties

16           representatives chosen to the UPDJC

8              representatives, chosen as advisors to the UPDJC

12           representatives, one from each of the 13 parties elected to the Union Parliament (the USDP decided to forgo its right)

The government now says unelected parties should join the CSO Forum due to be formed in the unspecified near future. “This really is an outrage,” the first politician had exploded. “The government promised it would adhere to the NCA. It’s time to prove the deed goes with the words.”
  • Last but not least, the JICM has not been called since the new government took over. “Without the JICM, everything being done is illegal,” comments an EAO leader.
It seems, they say, negotiating with the elected government is tougher than negotiating with the USDP government set up by the military.
“The Thein Sein government had questions of legitimacy,” explains an academic. “So it was forced to make allowances, such as slackening the rules on the media and the political parties and initiating negotiations with the EAOs, in order to boost up its legitimacy. But the NLD doesn’t have such problems, if you overlook the fact that in most constituencies in states like Chin it had won by securing only about 20% votes (there were 12 Chin parties entering the fray).”

In addition, technical problems like lack of experience, inclination for formal  negotiations, and slow communication lines, both within and without, have been dogging the government’s negotiations, unlike under U Thein Sein.

No doubt, the government side has a lot of complaints against the EAOs too, like no longer having practically a single communication line as it did before they split into signatories and non-signatories last September.

The participants’ conclusion is that, first and foremost, both sides must return to the NCA, the only bond between the two sides, without which the peace process will become dangerously anchorless.

“You can look the other way once and it’s no big deal, except it makes it easier to compromise next time, and soon all you’ll be doing is compromising because that’s how you think things are done, “Jack Bauer, the character played by Kiefer Sutherland, tells his colleague in the popular TV series, 24, on corruption. “You knew these guys I blew the whistle on. You think they were bad guys? They weren’t. They were just like you and me, except they compromised once.”

Naturally, the next conclusion is to decide how it should be made known to the government side, ASAP. But that is another day, and another story.


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