“If we want to have amendments, let’s discuss them in the next phases (ie. Framework drafting and Political Dialogue),” he responded in reply to query. “Almost 2 months have already gone since 31 March (when the NCA draft was completed). If we have to negotiate again for the amendments, at least 2 more months will be wasted.”
The government reportedly wants to launch the political dialogue, which is the third phase of the agreed peace roadmap, coming after the signing of the NCA and the drafting of the framework for political dialogue (FPD), before the planned elections in November.
“We would therefore look forward to the decisions of the Law Khee Lar Conference (2-6 June, when ethnic armed movements will meet to consider the NCA draft) to see how we can move ahead,” he added.
Earlier, government sources said amendments if there were any, should be made in the annexure but not in the NCA text. Not a few armed resistance movements, after going through the draft, stated that there were some points they wanted amended.
The victim, forty-eight year-old U San Lwin, was shot by an unknown gunman at around 8 pm on May 24 while he was selling clothes at his shop in Nam Oon village.
“A man wearing a longyi walked into U San Lwin’s shop and shot him in the heart with a gun hidden in his bag before fleeing,” said a local resident of Nam Oon who wished to remain anonymous.
The victim was a village tract headman in Nam Oon village, Kunkai tract, about 20 miles north of Hsipaw township.
U San Lwin was taken to Lashio hospital right away after the shooting, according to the same source. However, he died of his gunshot wounds at the hospital early this morning.
The victim had been a headman of Kunkai village tract for about three years. He has two children, and apart from owning a clothing shop, also sold corn.
His funeral will be held at 11 am tomorrow at Jar Karn Thuk Than cemetery in Lashio towhship.
“What we keep on hearing is its repeated call for the amendment of Article 436 (where any amendment of the 2008 constitution requires a vote of more than 75% of all the representatives of the Union Assembly) and Article 59 (f) (that a Presidential candidate, his/her parent (s), spouse, child(ren) or their spouses not be a citizen of a foreign country),” he says. “I have noticed that it has not put forward the emergence of a federal system as the nation’s first priority issue.”
Sai Nyunt Lwin, known as Sai Nood among Shans, General Secretary of the ‘Tiger Head’ Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) agreed. “Had the NLD adopted genuine federalism, there wouldn’t have any need to set up (non-Burman) ethnic nationalities’ parties,” he said. “We would have thrown in our lot with the NLD.”
|Sai Nyunt Lwin/Sai Nood|
Nan Khin Htwe Myint, the NLD participant, however disagreed. “The NLD manifesto includes the call for a genuine federalism,” She argued. “Daw Aung San Suu Kyi herself openly supported the (1997) Maetharawhta Declaration demanding a genuine federal union together with the Right of Self Determination.”
The participants also discussed the issue of NLD contesting in ethnic states during the planned general elections. Here the two men’s views diverged.
While U Ye Tun maintained that a democracy should allow each party to make its choice and the people to decide on their own which party represents their interests (“Worrying about another party contesting in the same constituencies is un-democratic”), Sai Nyunt Lwin is of the opinion that the two sides, meaning the NLD and the ethnic parties, should sit down together to consider the pros-and-cons.
|Nan Khin Htwe Myint|
The SNLD won the largest seats in Shan State in the 1990 elections. The SNDP did the same in the 2010 elections. The two parties now appear to be set against each other this time.
“If they are going to do that, I’d rather vote for President Thein Sein,” said a young Shan woman coming from Kehsi. “At least he has promised us a federal system by signing the Deed of Commitment (DoC) on 12 February.”
BNI has already published the much acclaimed Deciphering Myanmar Peace Process (2013) and Deciphering Myanmar Peace Process (2014).
“This year, I’m the only one who’s doing the writing,” says Sai Leik, the principal author, in response to inquiry from government and activist circles. “Naturally, it takes more time.”
The BNI’s Myanmar Peace Monitoring Program (MPM) recorded 482 clashes during the year:
Kachin State 73 (68, according to Naypyitaw)
Kayah State _
Karen State 13
Chin State _
Mon State 3
Rakhine State 3
Shan State 148
Pegu/Bago Region 1
Compared to 2013, it was considerably less, according to Lt-Gen Myint Soe, Chief of the Bureau of Special Operations (BSO) #1 for northern Burma, who spoke at the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) meeting in March in Rangoon.
“From 2011-2013, we had more than 1,450 clashes (483 clashes per year), with the KIO/KIA (Kachin Independence Organization/Army) alone,” he said. “But last year we had only 68.”
He however warned that if the NCA wasn’t signed soon, there were signs that the Kachin conflict was in danger of escalation. “We are barely 3 months into 2015,” he said. “And yet we have already fought 32 clashes.”
Meanwhile, communal violence was at low intensity, in part due to inter-faith cooperation as in Mandalay, where they had formed the Peace Maintaining Committee. BNI refers to Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) for the IDP figures last year. According to its July report, there were up to 642,600 IDPs, who were forced to flee their homes by armed conflict and inter-communal violence:
400,000 Shan, Kayah, Karen, Mon, Pegu and Tenasserim
98,000 Kachin, Northern Shan
BNI gives several reasons for the continued fighting, which include:
- Competition for control of strategic and commercial interests
- Government attempt to clamp down on economic activities by the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs)
- Government attempt to wipe out the EAOs
- Failure to adhere to agreements
- Ineffective liaison offices
Sai Leik says he thinks he will be able to finish the report by the end of the month.
“We are not available during this period so we decided not to join this meeting,” said Col. Sai Hla, the spokesperson of RCSS/SSA. “However, we have sent them a letter informing them of our reasons.”
The conference is scheduled to be held from 2 to 6 June to finalize the discussion of the draft nationwide ceasefire agreement, which was signed between the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) and the government.
Five representatives from twenty-two ethnic armed groups have been invited to participate in the coming conference at Law Kee Lar.
The RCSS/SSA is not a member of NCCT, comprised of 16 ethnic armed groups which include the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army North. However, it has a close alliance with the KNU. These two groups are often blamed by other ethnic armed groups that they have a good relationship with the Naypyidaw government and Burma Army.
The first ethnic armed organizations summit was held at the Kachin Independence Army headquarters Laiza in October 2013. The second summit was held at the KNU headquarters Law Kee Lar in January 2014 and the third summit was held at the KIA headquarter Laiza in July 2014.
They include those from the National League for Democracy (NLD), United Nationalities Alliance (UNA), “56 parties”, the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), Karen National Union (KNU) and the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS).
All have agreed that waiting for the signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), that was agreed on the March by the drafters from both the government and the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), would consume a lot of time that they can ill afford.
According to the draft NCA, the Framework for Political Dialogue (FPD) would be negotiated and agreed upon within 60 days after the signing of the NCA, followed by the launching of the Political Dialogue (PD) within the next 30 days.
“We now have only 3 months remain before the election campaigns begin in September,” a participant of the informal brainstorming sessions said. “So if we are going to wait until the NCA is signed to begin the FPD process, it is more than likely we may not be able to finish in 2 months time. What we are trying to do is to combine all the FPD drafts available in order to present them in a single text to the NCA signatories.”
So far there are 4 known FPD drafts prepared by the NLD, UNA, “56” parties and the NCCT.
The ongoing FPD sessions are the result of the Peace and National Reconciliation Forum held at Inya Lake Hotel on 9 May, and participated by 152 representatives from the government, 7 EAOs, 64 political parties and civil society organizations. The co-hosts of the forum were the 4 EAOs and 55 political parties that had signed the Deed of Commitment (DoC) with the President, Union Parliament Speaker and 3 top military officers on the Union Day, 12 February.
“The DoC does not seek either overshadowing or annulment of the NCA,” the forum had declared “On the contrary, it is to strengthen and complement it.”
The DoC has promised to launch the political dialogue before the elections.
“From September to March 2016, after the new government is installed,” said a participant at the forum, “the peace process machine can be kept warmed up by the launch of the political dialogue. Then we won’t have to start it from scratch.”
Concern was expressed during the 15 May Economist Myanmar Summit that if the NCA was not signed before the elections, there would be no military code of conduct (CoC) for both belligerents to observe and no Joint Monitoring Committees (JMCs) to curb the ever-present danger of ceasefire violations by either side.
Recently, two pieces of news that are quite crucial to better
understand the nature of ethnic conflict were published, which need
One is the interview of Khun Okker, Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) member, with DVB on 21 May, and the other Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hliang’s request to Deputy Foreign Affairs of CCP, Central Committee, on 19 May, reported by Mizzima.
Khun Okker said that NCCT preparation of Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) leaders’ summit meeting will be held in Chiangmai, Thailand from 25 to 27; and the ensuing summit meeting will take place at Lawkhila, Karen National Union (KNU) controlled area, from 2 to 6 June.
When asked why Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) and Union Peace-making Work Committee (UPWC) have to be present at the forthcoming Lawkhila meeting, Khun Okker said that they probably taking advantage of all ethnic leaders’ gathering to adjust glitches and discuss with the EAOs’ leaders that they usually do and not to attend the meeting.
No doubt, many might see it in another aspect, given that the KNU is close to the government and also lately held a meeting in Inya Lake hotel, Rangoon, with Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), also a group keen to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) as soon as possible, plus various registered political parties, on 9 May.
Various other questions Khun Okker answered are as follows:
- No altering of NCA, due to the awaited, lengthy procedure of even changing a word of preposition, for it will have to go from MPC to UPWC, then to the military for approval and they cannot decide on their own. Given such circumstance, he doesn’t think they will touch or alter the already accepted 5th NCA draft of 31 March. Otherwise, the process could be very long.
- United Wa State Army (UWSA) is not against NCA, but agrees that it should proceed with those that are already involved and those not in it should go with their own process and formula.
- Regarding Kokang conflict, it is the key issue that will determine if NCA could be signed. The regime would need to stop the military offensives or tone down the attacks on Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), if favorable condition to sign NCA is to be achieved. For without it, it will be impossible for the EAOs to go ahead with ratification. It depends on how much give-and-take could be handled between the two parties.
- On 16 EAOs count of UPWC and NCCT differ. While government count might include UWSA, National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), also known as Mongla, RCSS and groups that have signed ceasefire, either state-level or union-level, NCCT is for all-inclusiveness, which means all those within the NCCT and non-NCCT, EAOs should be involved in the signing of NCA. Besides, he pointed out the fact that Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) haven’t sign ceasefire agreement, but are accepted by the government as negotiation partners.
- Although all-inclusiveness doesn’t mean that all EAOs have to sign the NCA together at the same time, the remaining, excluding or left out groups must be taken in at a later date into the peace process; that is the signing of NCA. Furthermore, excluding groups must not mean permanent left out or subject to military offensives of the military; for this won’t be accepted by the EAOs. The excluding groups would need to have political guarantee to participate in the future.
- If one of the EAOs is attacked in one corner of the country and still NCA is signed, all will become a laughing stock.
Commander-in Chief request to China
On 19 May, the Vice Minister, of the International Department of the Communist Party of China, H.E. Mr. Chen Fengxiang and Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hliang met, where the latter stressed that along the 2000 kilometers border between China and Burma, problems of ethnic armed conflicts couldn’t be resolved until now, and that since it is the violation of Burma’s sovereignty employing armed insurrection, it could not be accepted. Furthermore, as strategic partners, in view of keeping good bilateral relationship, China is requested to help solicit the ethnic armed organizations to give up arms, according to Mizzima report of 20 May.
However, it is not reported on how Mr.Chen has responded to the request.
The Commander-in-Chief’s request was interpreted by some MPs and political parties’ leaders as below.
- U Khin Maung Swe, Chairman of National democratic Front (NDF) said political settlement is essential before asking the EAOs to give up arms and government must show sincerity and give political security first.
- U Hla Swe, the MP from Magwe, said that Min Aung Hliang seems to be telling that China should not help MNDAA militarily, while Daw Dwe Bu, an MP from Kachin State, stressed that speedily implementing federalism will do the job, without having to solicit help from outsiders.
- Sai Nyunt Lwin a top leader of Shan Nationalities league for Democracy (SNLD) is of the opinion that Burma Army wants China’s help to win the war and it is likely asking China not to help MNDAA militarily. He said political solution is the best.
According to DVB report of 22 May, responding to Burmese military chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s call for ethnic groups to abandon armed struggle, the general secretary of NCCT, Saw Kwe Htoo Win, has said that disarmament was never an issue on the table at ceasefire talks between the ethnic bloc and the government. Besides, surrendering arms was never an option nor was the matter included in the 5th NCA draft, signed on 31 March.
“During the era of the military junta, they used such terminologies as ‘abandoning the armed movement’ and ‘entering the legal fold’, but those issues or phrases were not used during the ceasefire talks,” he said.
Points to ponder
Given the prevailing situation, there are quite a few points to speculate or ponder. They are on how China would respond to Min Aung Hliang’s request, particularly the disarming of EAOs along the Burma-China border; both countries taking responsibility of the border areas; and the blaming of MNDAA for the latest bombardment that landed on Chinese soil, on 14-15 May.
With the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei stressing in a daily news briefing that China required the Burma to make a “serious, overall and responsible” investigation into the incident and give a responsible explanation to China, on 20 May, it was made clear on what the Chinese thought of Min Aung Hliang’s accusation that the 14-15 May bombing was the handiwork of the MNDAA. Otherwise, it would have come down hard on MNDAA.
According to 20 May Xinhua news, Hong said China also asked the Myanmar side to take effective measures to prevent similar incidents.
“We urge the relevant parties to cool down the situation and restore peace and stability to the China-Myanmar border area at an early date,” Hong said.
Again, taking responsibility of the border areas interpretation could also be different. While Min Aung Hliang point of view is to disarm and conducting joint-military operation to weed out the elements like MNDAA, UWSA, NDAA and the likes, which are more or less dependent on China and some even outrightly see them as China’s proxies, China’s position is to promote negotiations and resolve the armed conflict peacefully. Besides, it has always made known that it could be involved in a peace-keeping force headed by the United Nations to help return the border areas to normalcy.
Before summing up two paragraphs from The Diplomat issue of 20 May, written by Dr. Xue Li, Director of the Department of International Strategy at the Institute of World Economics and Politics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, might be just what China is having in mind, regarding the ongoing problems along Burma-China border.
“Finally, China should use the advantages of the Kokang area, and make it a model for implementation of the Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road Strategy. A prosperous Kokang can benefit both China and Myanmar. Establishing a Kokang Special Administrative Area (a step forward from the current autonomous area), where the Myanmar government is only responsible for defense and diplomacy, might be a viable solution. This will need Myanmar’s government to genuinely implement the Panglong Agreement, and to go beyond the 2008 constitution, which is not recognized by local ethnic minorities”.
“An autonomous Kokang can provide economic benefits. It can also set an example for Wa and Kachin States. For the Chinese government, a stable Kokang is beneficial to the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic corridor, oil and gas pipelines, and other transportation infrastructure, and allows for the protection of ethnic Chinese in the area”.
The contributor is ex-General Secretary of the dormant Shan Democratic Union (SDU) — Editor
“8 of the 10 Burma Army’s light infantry divisions are in Kokang (the UWSA’s northern neighbor),” he explained. “Naypyitaw doesn’t need such a big force to subdue Peng Jiasheng (Kokang leader of the Myanmar National Democratic Army).”
The MNDAA, the Wa’s ally, is estimated to be 2,000 strong compared to the estimated 30,000 strong UWSA, reported to be equipped with anti-aircraft guns and missiles.
“One weakness of the UWSA is that the Burma Army can use anti-narcotics campaign as a pretext to fight it,” he added. “So without having allies that enjoy solid reputation as politically-motivated EAOs, it may have to fight a lone war against the Burma Army.”
But the Wa, by all accounts, also appear to be brazenly asking for the leading role in the joint struggle. Why?
“They may have ample reasons to be self-confident, “he replied. He refused to elaborate.
Meanwhile, one of the officers from the Shan State Army (SSA) “North” told SHAN, “The conflict in the north, I believe, is developing into another proxy war between China and the US.”
But another SSA officer rejected, saying, “I think this is going too far. We need more facts and data before arriving at such conclusions. But if it is true, the fragile unity of the EAOs may be further fragmented.”
The EAOs are due to meet at Law Khee Lar, the Karen National Union (KNU) stronghold on the Thai-Burmese border, 2-6 June, to consider whether or not to approve the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) draft finalized between their representatives and the government on 31 March.