On February 12, seventy anniversary of the Union Day, State Counselor Aung Suu Kyi’s message to the non-signatory Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) that haven’t yet signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) was clearly to have “self-confidence” and being “courageous” in themselves and bravely sign the agreement for the sake of the people and the country.
She expressively said: “I would like to request those groups that still haven’t sign the peace agreement to bravely and self-confidently sign the document, enter the 21st Century Panglong Conference (21CPC), and imagine about how much we, all the citizens, could be filled with happiness by your participation (in the peace process).”
She said that she and her party have done everything for the EAOs to participate in the peace process and have been meeting with NCA signatories and non-signatories alike, and was convinced that peaceful negotiation would be the only way to resolve the problems and establishment of a federal democratic union.
She openly challenged the non-signatories by saying: “Therefore, I wanted to ask why you can’t enter the convention? (Please) bravely enter and participate in the discussion. To be frank, do enter and participate in the convention and if not satisfied you could just get out.”
Although generally this seems to be a very appropriate and logical soliciting, a closer look at the advocacy reveals that there are other crucial aspects that have to be taken into account, which literally questions as to why those who still haven’t signed the NCA refused to do so.
A simple answer to this is because the NCA’s game plan, procedure and particularly the rules still cannot be agreed and adjusted, in order to become a level playing-field, where all could participate in a fair and equitable manner.
Suu Kyi often pointed out that she had also taken the calculated risk to reach where she is today by entering the election under the military-drafted constitution and that the non-signatory EAOs also need to do the same by entering the peace process fray, through signing the NCA. In other words, she is advocating the non-signatories to enter the game, under unfair and lop-sided game plan and rules and fight from within.
While she was able to beat the military bloc at it’s own game plan in the nationwide election last year, the NCA is a completely different game category, which involves game plan and rules that doesn’t cater to level playing-field as earlier mentioned. To put it differently, the non-signatory EAOs would tend to lose out from the beginning as a lot of factors would put them in handicapped position.
For example, just like General Gun Maw just recently told The Irrawaddy: “I want to demand that political negotiations should be done correctly on equal basis. Because after we all signed the NCA (semifinal draft) – subject to discussion and endorsement from individual EAO leadership point of view for further final ratification – , we asked for a leading joint committee to be established but not successful. Later, all-inclusiveness participation was demanded but was also denied.”
He further stressed: “The Military or Tatmadaw said that some could sign and the other not necessary to sign and some EAOs are attacked as they don’t sign the NCA. In reality the government and Tatmadaw is telling the media and public that the attacks are because of the refusal to sign the NCA. I would say this is a wrong line of approach”.
In a nutshell and to make it short, the semifinal NCA draft that the EAOs had signed needed to be endorsed by the individual EAOs, after making necessary adjustment and finally sign it, in good faith and secure feeling of all parties involved.
But the Thein Sein regime hijacked the NCA, took the semifinal draft as a final one and started to send out invitation to selected 15 EAOs, out of the total 21. Thus, making the NCA government’s owned, starting from that time onward, and not a co-owned NCA of all participants which was originally been the case, although the government and Military keep on insisting to be otherwise.
The Suu Kyi headed NLD government inherited the NCA and goes about to implement it by asking the non-signatory EAOs to sign it, or else would not let them participate in the peace process as a fully fledged negotiating members, but at the most as observers if they are going to be allowed at all to take part in the peace process.
But as the game rule of NCA is not fair seen from the point of the non-signatory EAOs, especially the seven ethnic military alliance, United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) has been trying to negotiate with the government to in corporate its nine point proposal, which to date still haven’t been able to iron out, while military and political pressures are being applied continuously up to this very day.
The UNFC nine point proposal that should be added to the NCA are:
As such, Suu Kyi’s urging could be seen as a political pressure because she never bothers to weigh in on the NCA game plan and rules alteration, including preparation of a conducive peaceful atmosphere, that would help transform it into a level playing-field, but insists only upon signing the NCA that is seen as being unfair and imbalance form the non-signatories point if view.
The point here is the need to incorporate some points of the proposal into the NCA from the UNFC, so that a more equitable and balanced game plan and rules could be established, which they could easily sign. But as the Tatmadaw is determined not to alter the NCA in anyway, the only way out would be to treat the UNFC proposal as an additional or supplementary agreement to the main NCA.
This approach would be easily achievable, as the 8 signatory EAOs would readily agree on the proposal and the Tatmadaw and government only need to endorse it, provided both have the political will to compromise and pull it through, so that NCA could be signed by all, as anticipated.
Finally, it should be noted that it is not at all about “self-confidence” and being “courageous” but the crucial question of equitable and fair game plan and rules that need to be applied to the NCA. After all, who would want to enter the game, which one knows that he or she would be handicapped and would definitely lose without fail from the outset.
Thus, the name of the game should be first and foremost to create a fair game plan and rules, together with appropriate procedure and planning, if the country would like to see genuine peace and reconciliation and not just partial-ceasefire and peace conference that could not cater to all-inclusiveness participation.
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