(11-12 January 2018)
Every man is my superior in some way
In that I learn from him.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
In December, I was planning to travel to Taunggyi in order to observe the planned public consultations, regarded as the first and indispensable step for what is known as the national dialogue (ND), that will finalize the proposals to the Union Peace Conference (UPC), popularized now by the NLD government as the 21st Century Panglong (21CP). Reports then came that the government, particularly the military, had blocked the public consultations, thereby putting the convening of the next UPC, scheduled for the last week of January, limbo.
An emergency meeting of the Peace Process Steering Team (PPST), the leading organ of the 8 signatory EAOs, was therefore held to assess and decide how to handle the situation.
The following journal tries to present what took place during those two days.
PPST Emergency Meeting 11-12, January 2018. (Photo:NMG)
Day One. Thursday, 11 January 2018
Anger doesn’t solve anything.
It builds nothing, but it can destroy everything.
“A peace process cannot operate under a command system,” Gen Mutu Saypoe, who chairs the meeting stresses in his opening speech. “It is based on the principles of mutual recognition and trust building.
“It can be concluded from the ongoing frictions that each side’s interpretation of the NCA (Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement) is still different from the other,” he adds. “The answer to them can be sought only by embracing the new culture of political dialogue instead of force of arms, as agreed in the NCA.”
Padoh Ta Do Moo, leader of the EAO UPDJC, then reports why the meeting has been called:
On 30 December, the 19th UPDJC meeting was held. Our findings were, although the JICM had resolved to convene the 21CP#3 (UPC#4) during the last week of January, we were not given sufficient time:
The RCSS and ALP are also facing problems in holding public consultations. All the while CSO forums are being allowed to hold all over the country.
Our recommendations therefore are:
Progress reports are then presented by each representative, which I will try to summarize. (Of the 8 EAOs, only PNLO, which is holding a congress, held every 3 years to elect a new leadership, is absent.)
On the same day, the Eastern Region Command, based in Taunggyi, wrote to RCSS chief liaison officer to suspend the public consultations
According to a UNFC member, who had recently met Dr Tin Myo Win, the government has already decided now that the plan to hold the UPC in the last week of January is out of question, it is retargeting the date to one week after the Union Day.
We had planned to hold public consultations in 12 locations. We faced some difficulties in 8 of them which we were able to overcome. Now they are preventing us from holding the remaining 4. Why are they doing this? Public consultations are an agreed point in the bilateral agreement.
It has planned 5 locations including Yangon to hold public consultations. However the government/Tatmadaw is giving “delicate situation” in the Rakhine State as an excuse to discourage us from holding them. But we know and they know Rakhine State has 17 townships and the majority of them are not under a “delicate situation.”
Our plan was to hold public consultations in Yangon, Mandalay, Magwe, Monywa, Bassein/Pathein, Pegu and Tavoy/Dawei. So far not much trouble. We have also found out that the Bamar/Myanmar/Burmans who are the majority in the lowlands also want a federal system.
KNDCC (Karen National Dialogue Convening Committee)
It is made of KNU, DKBA and KNU-KNLA PC. It plans to hold public consultations in at least 5 regions/states: Karen, Irrawaddy, Pegu/Bago, Yangon and Taninthayi/Tenasserim, 12-20 January.
There is need to review the NCA Chapter 3 (Ceasefire Related Matters). Words like “ceasefire areas” and “controlled areas” need mutually agreed definitions. For example, at JMC#3, the Tatmadaw accused the RCSS of area transgression. The RCSS countered by saying thus far there had been no demarcation.
Speaking of demarcation, it cannot be done by JMC. It can be done only through military to military negotiations. The JMC’s job starts only after demarcation is completed. However, the Tatmadaw appears to be more interested in “disengagement”—how to avoid confrontations—than demarcation.
Civilian protection is also an important subject that is yet to be discussed thoroughly.
The way out
“It’s okay to work (for peace),” quipped one, “But don’t forget to pack your bags and ready to go too.”
No final decision today at 16:40, when the meeting adjourns. But the postponement of the UPC is already a foregone conclusion by then.
General Yawd Serk and Mutu Saypoe who preside over the meeting. (Photo:VoA)
Day Two. Friday, 12 January 2018
The military is betraying its own Three National Causes.
An EAO representative, upon hearing the military’s disruption of public consultations in Shan State, 18 December 2017
Today the meeting discusses the relationship between the NLD government and the Tatmadaw:
The meeting, based on the above information, then discusses how to overcome the impasse:
The result is the resolution for the KNU chairman to make an “icebreaking” trip to meet both the State Counselor and the Commander in Chief. If the trip goes well as expected, the stalled peace process can hopefully restart.
The next item is on the meeting between the PPST and the UNFC, scheduled for tomorrow. So far the two sides have met 8 times at the PPWT-DPN level. This will be the first time they will be meeting at the top level:
“The change that we want will come only when all of us are on board,” says a leader.
It is already 17:30 when I leave the hotel.
Nai Hong Sa, UNFC chair, delivers opening speech. (Photo: mizzima)
Day Three. Saturday, 13 January 2018
He who angers you conquers you.
The PPTT Emergency was over yesterday. But today we are meeting the UNFC, of which only the essentials will be reported here.
UNFC – The three groupings: PPST, UNFC and FPNCC must have cooperation, because we are all working for the same cause
PPST – An agreed mechanism must be established to do that, for example, an agreement to hold regular meetings
UNFC – We have held 8 formal meetings with the Peace Commission (PC). At the 7th meeting, every point was as good as agreed. But then at the 8th meeting, the Tatmadaw went back to the second point that had previously been agreed, and said the word “Federal Democracy” was unacceptable. (The military is for “a union based on democracy and federal system” in accordance with the NCA text). As a result the 9th meeting scheduled in December was cancelled.
(There are also other matters still undecided between the two sides, which are better left unsaid for the time being)
As a result, we are trying to resolve it through a parallel process.
PPST – The PPST would like you to sign the NCA. More of you means more leverage for all of us.
UNFC – Due to the current deadlock between you and the government, we don’t know it will make any difference even if we sign the NCA.
The two sides also discusses the possibility of holding an EAO summit before the next UPC, and the matter of the DDR which the military is insisting should be negotiated.
UNFC – We heard that the DDR topic was touched upon by Senior Gen Min Aung Hlaing during his meeting with Gen Mutu Saypoe (following the ceremony marking the 2nd anniversary of the NCA signing).
PPST – He didn’t put it quite that way. What he actually said was:
However, at the JMC-U meeting, the Tatmadaw generals had interpreted what he said as DDR.
Here I remember that the first time the military broached the DDR subject was not just recently. In 2016 when the UPC#2 (aka 21 CP#1) was held, it was already spelled out in the paper read out by military representatives.
The two sides are expected to meet again next month, though no definite decision is taken.
We wind up the meeting with lunch served at the hotel.
Nai Hong Sa asks me who’s older, him or me. We both were born in 1948. I inform him he is, since he’s born in January and I in May
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