Ethnic people will not tolerate being cheated again, and they must see the signs of a true federal union before the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) is signed.
That’s according to Gen. Sao Hso Ten, the patron of the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA), speaking during a meeting of the Committee for Shan State Unity (CSSU) held in Yangon on Sunday.
“The ethnic people [of Burma] have faced so many issues in the past,” he said. “We have learned bitter lessons, both in politics and in war.
“We [SSPP/SSA] signed a ceasefire in 1989 and were offered special [self-administered] zone. We also joined the national conference in 1993. But these were all fake. We have been cheated for a long time. In order for us not to be cheated again, we have to protect ourselves. We have to work on the peace process first. We have to have an ownership in this peace process and decide by ourselves whether to sign the agreement or not. If we cannot decide this by ourselves, we should not sign the agreement.”
“If we do not have ownership of the peace process, we will be bullied again,” he added. “If we do not want to be bullied, we have to own it.”
On October 28, Burma’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi said at the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC), a bloc which includes representatives from the government, military and ethnic armed groups, that she wanted all ethnic armed groups to sign the NCA before the next Panglong Conference which is slated for February 2017.
Shan leader Gen. Sao Hso Ten also said that after the signing the NCA, two further conferences were held, but which contained no political talks, just a revision of notes.
He said that the SSPP/SSA and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) are members of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an organization comprising 12 armed groups that refused to sign the NCA with the Thein Sein government in October 2015. He noted the bloc had joined the national conference as well as participating in peace dialogue during the era of the military junta. He insisted that, in order to avoid repeating past mistakes, they had drafted a ‘Federal Union Constitution.’
“At the Mai Ja Yang meeting [conference including both NCA and non-NCA signatory groups], we have drafted an 8-point plan of principles in a draft of a Federal Union Constitution,” he said. “If they [the government] agreed with these eight points, the UNFC members would sign the NCA.”
The eight points were related to: sovereignty; equality; rights of self-determination; genuine federalism; protecting the rights of minorities; democratic rights; universal human rights and gender equality, and establishing a multi-party system-based secular form of governance.
Sao Hso Ten concluded on Sunday that in order to solve the civil war and build peace in the country, the 2008 constitution must be amended and steps must be taken to establish a federal union.
The CSSU comprises the Shan State Joint Action Committee (SSJAC), which represents the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP), the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP), the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), the the Seng Kiao’s People Militia, the New Generation Group (Shan State), Shan Youth Association, Shan Nationality Organization-Thailand, the Shan community-based organizations, and a team of legal consultants.
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