EBO and PI members at the 20th anniversary reception, 11 December 2017. (Photo:PI)
Every man is my superior in some way
In that I learn from him.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
On the surface, it was going to be just another birthday party. What drew (and did not draw) people to attend the event was Harn Yawnghwe, the EBO’s executive director, who early this year had been, in effect, served with a persona non grata status by the Aung San Suu Kyi government.
However, thanks to the presence of and impromptu speeches made by two invited guests, the somewhat somber mood of the party had miraculously transformed into a pleasant one.
And this is a story I would like to remember and share with you.
Guests at the reception, 11 December 2017. (Photo:PI)
To settle an argument
Think of what is right
Not who is right
It takes me 40 minutes to get to Holiday Garden Hotel where the reception is due to begin at 18:30. The road is thick with automobiles coming from all over Thailand.
About 60 people are gathering at the hotel’s 12th floor. Among them are:
-United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC)
Paul Keenan introducing his new book, “Realizing Peace in Myanmar,” 11 December 2017. (Photo:PI)
-Peace Process Steering Team (PPST)
-Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC)
Paul Keenan opens the party with the launch of his new book, “Realizing Peace in Myanmar,” which covers the country’s struggle for peace during the past two years.
PowerPoint presentation by Harn Yawnghwe. (Photo:PI)
Harn Yawnghwe, who is known by Shans as Sao Harn (Lord Harn), then takes the floor to deliver his power point presentation:
1963 Went into exile in Thailand
1969 Moved to Canada
1986 With Bangkok Bank
1988 Co-organized the 1988 demonstrations in Canada “It was winter and the temperature was below zero degree. So we could scarely open our mouth to speak.”)
1990 -Associates to Develop Democratic Burma (ADDB) founded. “To become a member, you only need to pay a $100 registration fee.”
1990-2003 -Working with the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) in exile, led by Dr Sein Win
1996-2002 -Director, helped Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), based in Norway to become a professional media organization
1997 -Founded Euro Burma Office (EBO) in Brussels
“We need an armed struggle for defense, but armed struggle is not the solution. Political dialogue is. But how do we initiate it? Through pressure, persuasion and capacity building”
1998-2008 -National Reconciliation Program (NRP) launched
2000 -Reached out to Rohingyas (regarding them as a humanitarian issue)
-Support for Civil Society
-State Constitution drafting process
2011 -Invited by U Aung Min to assist in the peace process launched by President Thein Sein on 18 August 2011
2015 -Helped draft the Deed of Commitment (DoC) which promised a federal union, broke the deadlock and opened the way to the
Operations director Victor Biaklian reporting on EBO programs. (Photo:PI)
completion of the NCA draft
“Many still misunderstand the NCA. That if you sign it, it means you have agreed to surrender. And that you have accepted the 2008 constitution. Neither is true.”
Victor Biak Lian, the EBO’s operations director, then takes up from Harn:
EBO works for coordination and unity, not for division
Guest speaker Nai Hong Sa. (Photo:PI)
Invited guests are then called upon to offer short remarks. It is then the atmosphere of the party changes.
Nai Hong Sa
Following the 1988 uprisings, students and politicians began to take refuge along the Thai border. The ABSDF and the NCGUB that were formed there received support from the international community. But the ethnic resistance movements were passed over.
Only after the NRP was formed with the initiative from EBO, we were able to hold seminars, workshops and conferences on a wide scale. State Constitutions were drafted. Two drafts of the federal union constitution were produced. The EBO had also assisted the ethnic and democratic parties contesting the 2010 elections. It also had a hand in producing the first draft of the NCA (known then as Comprehensive Union Peace and Ceasefire Agreement, or CUPCA). The EBO’s contribution have been incalculable. So I urge you not to give up until peace is achieved.
Guest speaker Hkun Okker. (Photo:PI)
When we were negotiating for the NCA, we had demanded that the Framework for Political Dialogue (FPD) be drafted and approved within 60 days after the NCA signing to be ready for political dialogues that must take place within 30 days afterward.
The EBO knew, as we did, that the FPD could not be finished within 60 days, so soon after the completion of the NCA draft in March, it began to organize FPD workshops which involved stakeholders from the government, military, parliament, political parties and EAOs to produce the first draft of the FPD. Which had enabled us to finish and approve the draft within the deadline.
Without the EBO’s contribution, we wouldn’t have made it.
It is a great evening. I’m also invited to share with them some of my thoughts. But my head is so full of thoughts that I decide it will be better not to say anything.
The least I can say will be how Sao Harn, with the patience of Job, has been able to withstand all the attacks, both ill-intentioned and well-intentioned, staged by his foes and friends alike. The greatest miracle is that he is still alive, kicking and keeping his cool despite the relentless onslaughts.
I manage to hold out until 22:00. Then I take my leave. As I have to attend another meeting in Chiang Saen at the Golden Triangle tomorrow.
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