To Hopeland and Back (Part XII) Day 17

Day Seventeen. Tuesday, 31 March 2015
The highlight of the day is the visit by the President himself “to pull a propaganda coup”, according to his opponents.
“I was watching the TV reportage last evening and was so happy that I couldn’t go to sleep,” he tells us.

All right, I say to myself. This may a publicity stunt. But you have to concede that it is also the culmination of his offer given 3 years and 7 months ago. What would have happened to him if there weren’t this day for him to make the most of?

A signing ceremony to mark the completion of the NCA drafting is presided over by him. Which is later criticized by some. “You hadn’t finished reviewing your draft, and you signed it?” asks an incredulous scholar who is considered an authority on peace processes around the world. “That is a very risky way of doing things.”
Later in the day, U Aung Min has time to chat with me. “Are you happy with the draft?” is my question.

His answer:
“The draft has 18 pages, 7 chapters, 33 articles and 86 clauses. But three guarantees stand out among them: That this country will be federal, that there will be exemption from Unlawful Association Act, and that there will be political dialogue. What more could I ask for?”
He ends his reply with his favorite passage from one of Sai Kham Leik’s greatest hits:
Making what is easy difficult
That is the way of the world

I know what he means. He had wanted a shorter NCA, a one-page document, to be able to start the Political Dialogue as soon as possible. But the peace process that the President and himself had spawned also happens to have a life of its own which either has little control.

So what comes nect?

According to the draft NCA, the roadmap to peace has 7 steps:
  • Signing of the NCA
  • Negotiations/Adoption of the Framework
  • Launch of Political Dialogue
  • Holding of Union Peace Conference
  • Signing of Union Peace Accord (UPA)
  • Ratification by the Union Assembly
  • Implementation of the NCA

There is also the time factor. The President has promised with his Deed of Commitment (DOC) on 12 February the political dialogue will be inaugurated before the elections in November. Which means there are only 5 months to complete the first 3 steps:

April-May                                –                 Signing of NCA
June-July                                 –                 Agreement of Framework
August                                    –                 Political dialogue launched
September-October                –                 Election Campaign
November                               –                 General Elections
If all goes according to plan, work committees will be formed to work on the dialogue topics before a new legislature and a new government are installed by March 2016.

But all things have a way to go awry, as already proven by the NCA drafting. The hope is that they will go right this time onward.

Even so, the completion of the NCA draft has only managed to chop one of the Hydra’s heads. Already two more has emerged: Getting the Yes from each and every one of the EAOs concerned and getting it signed. And it will only be the end of the first step.

Unless we have a firebrand and someone like Iolaus to hold it and use it, our Herculeses are going to have a hard time beating our 7 headed Hydra. At least that is how it looks to me.

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To Hopeland and Back (Part XII) Day 16

Day Sixteen. Monday, 30 March 2015
So after an 8-day suspense, we are all back. My worries, fortunately, have not taken shape. The 7th NCA meeting, Party two, is on. The magic is still there.

It begins with a wish-well message from the Union Assembly Speaker Thura Shwe Mann. Then the two sides are off to tackle their 4 remaining contentious points.
  • On the recruitment issue, the NCCT proposes that it will be dealt with “in accordance with the progress in the implementation of the NCA and the security related reintegration,” which is accepted by the UPWC
  • On the “Three National Causes” issue, the UPWC proposes that “matters that are detrimental to (them) will be avoided,” which in turn is accepted by the NCCT.
  • On the “ethnic representatives” issue, the two sides are unable to find common ground, but the NCCT is comforted (if not satisfied) by the guarantee from the UPWC that none from the government-controlled Border Guard Forces/People’s Militia Forces will be selected as ethnic representatives
  • On the Interim Arrangement issue, the UPWC, reportedly with the green light from Naypyitaw, cut short the debate by accepting clauses proposed by the NCCT

One surprising thing about it is on the narcotics issue. The government’s initial 8 point guideline had called for cooperation against drugs, among others. But when it was brought up by the NCCT, the UPWC had rejected.

I ask U Aung Min, during the break what happened? “The UPWC was worried the EAOs would use it as an excuse to gain recruits, “he explains. “But we later decided we might have been overly suspicious.”

The day ends with the agreement to straighten out the wordings in the text tomorrow.

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To Hopeland and Back (Part XII) Day 8

Day Eight. Sunday, 22 March 2015
I hope the officials are not fooling us when they tell us there are 913 “national races”, according to the last head count which was conducted last year. Which is even more than what I had heard from the population minister U Khin Yee last February: 750.

The information comes about while we are waiting for the NCCT and the UPWC to formulate a solution to the 4 points of disagreements that will be discussed today. One of which is about having a separate “ethnic representatives” category to participate in the planned political dialogue.

“How come?” I ask. “Last year’s census was supposed to have chop down the number from 135 to something like half of it, wasn’t it?”

A UPWC member who didn’t join his fellow members into their private brainstorming session explains:

“This is how it goes. If your father is, say, a Shan and your mother, a Kachin, it means you have acquired a new identity: a Shan-Kachin. You then marry, say, a Mon and have children. They no longer bear your ethnic identity but a new one, that is Shan-Kachin-Mon. The latest figure, 913, was achieved in this way.”

If it’s true, then, somebody is obviously trying to further muddy the already murky waters, not to clear them.

Understandably, the two sides, try as they may, are not able to come up with an acceptable solution on any of the remaining major 4 points, including the following new one which is being discussed today: Interim Arrangement.

The UPWC proposes a new clause: local development programs in accordance with the requirements of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives (EITI). The NCCT point out while it is not against the EITI, which the country has applied for membership, what has already been agreed between the two sides in December is a different clause.

I ask what they are, while the two sides return to their private brainstorming rooms and this is the answer:
  • Recognition of each EAO
  • Security of each EAO
  • Rule of law
  • Recognition of land policy practiced in each EAO’s area of operations

“Without these, there is no guarantee for the EAO during the interim period,” says a grizzled NCCT leading member.

The day however is not without agreements. One of them is: Submission of the NCA to the Union Assembly in accordance with the procedures for ratification.

If there is a fly in the ointment today, then it is a report that comes toward the end of the day’s session after the two sides agree to meet again on 30-31 March: Burmese fighter planes attacking KIA outposts at 15:15.

According to a government report, the military was pursuing a convoy of contraband timber that was taking a passage through the KIA territory in Mansi township, Bhamo district, near the Sino-Burmese border. The KIA retorted the accusation by saying as the consignment was coming from government-controlled areas, it was just a lame excuse and just another violation of the agreement to deescalate the fighting.

Which puts many of those concerned panic-stricken. Will there be a 7th NCA meeting, part two at all?

Which includes myself, for I have learned to respect and admire negotiators on both sides for their patience, tolerance and reason.
But as things prove later, all of us who hanker for peace are not going to be disappointed. At least on that score.

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To Hopeland and Back (Part XII) Day 7

Day seven. Saturday, 21 March 2015

The 5th session of the meeting today begins with encouraging opening remarks from Nai Hong Sa, the NCCT leader:

All in all, this 7th meeting should be considered a very pleasant one. Because both sides are participating in the discussions with good intent. I’m sure that is how we are going to reach the results that we all want.

The first item of the day is how best to word the SSR/DDR in the third step of the roadmap, in a way that satisfies both the Commander-in-Chief’s directive and the needs of both sides.
The two negotiation teams then retreat each into its den to do its wordplay. The one that finishes first (I won’t tell here which one) then knocks on the other side’s door and asks whether he can make some suggestions that may help save a lot of time for both. The other side says yes, and allows him to go in and he reads out his team’s draft choice of words and bows out. The other side deliberates and then in a few minutes, they are back in the meeting hall to reach agreement on the third step of the 7-step political roadmap (the first being NCA signing and the second, drafting and adoption on the Framework for Political Dialogue):

Based on the adopted framework, national level political dialogues will be held; matters and procedures related to security related reintegration will be discussed and those that should be carried out will be carried out by mutual consent (unofficial translation)
The suspense which has been hanging for two days is now lifted. Which again calls for a clapping of hands. It seems to me it is unusually louder this time.
Personally, I think the only problem with it is the Burmese word for ‘carry out’ which can be translated either as ‘sawng-ywet’ or ‘lok-sawng’.

In English, you may say ‘those that should be carried out will be carried out by mutual consent’. However, in Burmese, it is somewhat of a jolt to read ‘those that should be sawng-ywet will be lok-sawng by mutual consent.’
I naturally ask what happened? And this is the answer I get: the military representatives have their order that the word ‘lok-sawng’ is not interchangeable.
Other discussion points of the day are:
  • Reduction and banning of recruitment by the EAOs
  • The phrase ‘with the exception’ (Hma Apa, in Burmese) under the heading Political Dialogue, which the NCCT is against using
  • ‘Ethnic representatives’ category of the participants in the political dialogue

The NCCT’s counter-proposal is:
  • Recruitment will no longer be a problem when there is no fighting i.e. ceasefire
  • When we say ‘with the exception’ to the Three National Causes (i.e. Non-Disintegration of the Union, Non-Disintegration of National Solidarity and Perpetuation of National Sovereignty) everything is negotiable, the question is who decides which matters are detrimental to them. We already have had that kind of bad experience during the National Convention (1993-2007) period when our proposals were turned down by conveners without even debate and consultation. We therefore propose that it be changed to ‘All matters aimed at promoting the Three National Causes are negotiable.’

  • With regards to the ‘Ethnic Nationalities Representatives’ as a separate category in the political dialogue, we are confused, since there are (should be) already ethnic representatives in the government, legislature, military, political parties and EAOs. We therefore question the inclusion of this category. If we agree to this who’s going to choose them?
Among each non-Burman ethnic nationality, we have several different clans that are being officially termed as separate ethnic nationalities. If each of the ethnic nationalities is not allowed to be united, how can we forget the unity of the Union?

By the end of the day, what was achieved is mutual and greater understanding of the problems surrounding the points of discussion. At least that can be considered positive.
But tomorrow will be the last day of the meeting and we hope agreement is reached on them. There is also one key question that is yet to be touched.
All participants who are Christians then decide the morning will be spent asking for divine guidance at their places of worships and request that the meeting resumes in the afternoon. Needless to say, they receive a unanimous Yes.

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To Hopeland and Back (Part XII) Day 6

Day Six Friday, 20 March 2015

The one thing the NCCT and its government counterpart, the UPWC, do each time they run into a hitch during the negotiations is for each to retreat into separate rooms to brainstorm how to go about it. After each has found a likely solution, they emerge from the rooms to resume their parley.

That is exactly what they are doing when I arrive at the main meeting hall at 10:00. So all of us observers including the UN special envoy Vijay Nambiar and his assistant Ms Marianne Hager drift to the corridor where you can have coffee, tea and snack. I ask Ms Hager what she thinks about the process undergoing in Burma and she says, “From international perspective, both sides are doing a good job.”

Mr Nambiar who arrives later also voices the same opinion.

The first issue they are dealing with today is the supervisory structure for the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) and the Joint Union Political Dialogue Committee (JUPDC) after their return from their dens.

The NCCT proposes that since both sides hold joint responsibility for the success of the peace process (and the UPWC refuses to form a joint supervisory committee) there is only one way to deal with problems in the aftermath of the signing of the NCA: To hold regular meeting of the signatories.

The UPWC replies it is also having the same line of thinking. It therefore accepts the NCCT proposition. That brings the first hand clapping of the day.

This new mechanism is named Joint NCA Implementation Meeting (JNIM).

The next one –DDR negotiations that the UPWC’s military representatives insist must go together with the Political Dialogue (PD) ̶ is tougher. They were trying hard yesterday. And today they are giving a going-over it again.

The NCCT’s concern is that the government may follow the footsteps of its predecessors:
“In 2005, the Palaung State Liberation Army (PSLA) and the Shan State National Army (SSNA) were forcibly disarmed,” says its speaker of the day. “It was followed by the disarmament of the Shan State Nationalities People’s Liberation Organization (SNPLO) in 2008. A year later, the Border Guard Force (BGF) program was implemented. The Kokang (official name: Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army) that refused to transform was attacked. What’s taking place today in Kokang area (since 9 February, when the MNDAA returned in force) is the outcome of 2009.”

“We accept that in one country, there must be only one military,” he continues. “But at the same time, we need a period (and a procedure) for transformation.”

During the break, one NCCT member remarks that since SSR/DDR is going to be one of the dialogue topics in the PD, he doesn’t understand why the military wants to include it as a separate matter in the text. But toward the end of the day’s session, it becomes clear: The military representatives are under irrevocable order by the Commander-in-Chief to have the SSR/DDR negotiation in it, or else. Guess how I know.

It is also during the break, I overhear one UPWC member telling a foreign observer, “The DDR is a very sensitive matter to the EAOs.” When I ask an NCCT member what he thinks about it, he says, “Well, the SSR appears to be a sensitive matter to the military too, doesn’t it?”

The day ends with the UPWC saying it perfectly understands what the NCCT’s concern is. The problem now is not about the principle, but how to word it.

Hopefully, they are able to work it out tomorrow.

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To Hopeland and Back (Part XII) Day 5

Day Five. Thursday, 19 March 20115

Today the first thing I hear before entering the meeting hall is Yup Zau Hkawng giving a slick answer to a hard question: Who are you going to support for President: U Thein Sein, U Shwe Mann, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, or Senior Gen Min Aung Hlaing?

He is anything but hesitant about it. “We don’t know who’s going to be President, do we?” he asks rhetorically, “But I urge everyone to support any candidate that promises continuation of the peace process. Because without peace, this won’t be a country worth living”.

I give him a thumbs up before going into the meeting hall.

The three topics to be discussed today are:
  • Taw Hlan Ye, which may mean “revolution” , “rebellion” or “resistance” depending on the context, that the NCCT has insisted all along to be accepted
  • The structure of the joint top level supervisory body which the two sides have yet to find a mutually acceptable one
  • The “security related reintegration” interpreted as either/both the SSR (Security Sector Reform) or/and DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration”

On the first issue, it should be understood that successive Burmese government, have refused to recognize the armed groups fighting against them as “revolutionaries”, “rebels” or “resistance fighters”. The official term for them in English is “insurgents” but the official rendering in Burmese of the word is “Thaung Gyan Thu,” meaning “One who goes on a rampage” or more simply “troublemaker” instead of Tha Bone the usual euphemism for “rebel”.

After more than a year of wrangling over it, the UPWC offers the following phrase to be inserted in Article 2d, Chapter 2, “Aims and Objectives”.

“Understanding the political aspirations based on Taw Hlan Ye of the ethnic armed organizations…”

The NCCT, after consultation among themselves, finally decides it is probably the best they can expect at present and gives its nod. The first clapping hands of the day follows.

With the second topic, the two sides are still unable to find a suitable solution.

The NCCT’s interesting argument on the subject is as follows:
“What our founding fathers should have done before the drafting of the Union Constitution in 1947 was to form a joint supervisory committee between the ruling Burmese party Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL) and the non-Burman’s Supreme Council of the United Hill Peoples (SCOUHP) formed in Panglong to produce the first draft of the union constitution. It could have served as an effective deterrent against the war from breaking out.

“We therefore are in need of a joint committee to oversee the JMC and JUPDC”.

To which one UPWC member commented during a break:
“Nothing’s going to be finished, if they keep returning to Panglong (to bolster their arguments)”.

The gentleman obviously doesn’t notice me. Or maybe he just doesn’t care.

Not surprisingly, the two sides does not reach consensus on the question.

One good thing about the meeting is that the two sides have learned not to waste too much time arguing over what can’t be agreed but to reconsider it and meet again after both sides have cooled down. In the meanwhile they skip it to discuss another topic.

The next one is the security-related reintegration, translated as DDR by the UPWC.

During the 6th meeting in September, the DDR had been placed at Step 3 of the peace roadmap, between Step 2: Negotiations/adoption on the Framework for Political Dialogue and the next step: Launch of Political Dialogue. Understandably it had worried the NCCT. “Does it mean that the PD will not start if we do not surrender?” asked one of its members.

But this time, the approach is different.

“There are countries that conduct the PD and DDR at the same time,” one of the generals elaborates. “It doesn’t mean you have to surrender first. We know that PD after surrender is impossible.”

He is obviously pushing for the inclusion of DDR negotiations in the Political Dialogue stage. Which, according to one NCCT member, is needless. “Because it is going to be one of the dialogue topics anyway. But maybe the military wants to make sure and have it written in the Single Text,” he tells me.

The NCCT’s response is that to its understanding, the Security Sector Reform (SSR) must be negotiated before that DDR. “It is clear that we have different concepts of the Security-related Reintegration, which needs to be discussed further,” he says.
Chao Tzang Yawnghwe
The day ends with a closing remark by a UPWC representative on the urgent necessity of the NCA. “On the first day, I had reported that from 2011-2013, we had 1,400 clashes and that in 2014 the number went down to 68,” he says. “But I would like to remind all of us today that the year has only just begun but we have already fought 32 times.”

During the evening we have dinner with some of the pros. The topic is inevitably the DDR.

One remarks, “Political considerations comes first: Civilian supremacy   which means the President is the Commander-in Chief and the Defense Minister is a civilian:”

The other, while not objecting the first, has his own opinion.

  • First, there must be no glass ceiling (meaning barrier that stops certain groups from getting the best jobs)
  • States must be allowed to form their own defense
  • Joint command

“Then, we can have DDR”, he concludes. I don’t know if one can take them as gospel, since all the comments come from a drinking party. But they certainly are food for thought, or as the late Shan leader Chao Tzang Yawnghwe (1939-2011) used to say, think pieces.

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War in Kokang must stop, if ongoing peace process is to be preserved and nurtured

Quite a lot has happen, in the aftermath of the fifth Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) draft completion or accomplishment, ready for signing or ratification, if the Union Peace-making Central Committee (UPCC) and Ethnic Armed Organizations' (EOAs) leadership could agree on the draft text as it is now formulated. To put it differently, if the EAOs would accept this tentative draft, without any alteration and agree to sign it, the deal will be done. As for the government's highest negotiation organ UPCC, the draft is fully acceptable and is ready to ink, anytime the EAOs' leaders opt for it. The fifth NCA draft was finalized on 31st March 2015.

President Thein Sein had called for a meeting among 48 invited personages, covering a wide-range of political spectrum, to which 44 attended, at Naypyidaw, a few weeks back, prior to the six-party talks, which the parliament has endorsed, but refused by the President until recently, indicating that it was not inclusive enough.

The 44 personages meet was said to be nothing new, without any substance, just like the last meeting a few months ago. It was viewed as a public relation undertaking to prop up Thein Sein's reform posture and just a talk shop, according to those attending the meeting.

The following six-party talks, between U Thein Sein, Aung San Suu Kyi, Thura U Shwe Mann and Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Upper House Speaker U Khin Aung Myint and an ethnic representative, U Aye Maung, took place in Naypyidaw, on 10 April, touched on the issues of constitutional amendment, ongoing peace negotiation with the EAOs and the forth-coming national election.

According to The Wall Street Journal, on the same day, Minister of Information Ye Htut, in a news conference after the roughly two hours of talks, described the conversation as “friendly, as though it was between brothers and sisters.” He labeled the talks a success and said steps toward guaranteeing a free and fair election and a change to the constitution were discussed, without giving specifics.

But Aye Maung, the ethnic representative at the talks, said no specifics on a timeline for amending the constitution were raised, nor was there any agreement on what should be changed. The specific clause that prevents Ms. Suu Kyi from becoming president—clause 59f—was also not discussed, the ethnic representative said.

Meanwhile, in an interview conducted by VOA, on 13 April, with a Kokang citizen Mr. Ye Lauk E said, the Burma Army (BA) offensive or better, military onslaught in Kokang area, against Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), goes on, employing some 15,000 troopers, with heavy artillery.

According to various medias like VOA, RFA and DVB, it was said to be very heavy, with causalities from the government side as high as 700 deaths and wounded, and MNDAA enduring some 60 to 70, within the few days of fighting, starting the 8th of April, coinciding with the approval of  fifth NCA draft, President's sponsored and headed 44 personages - from broad political spectrum  - meeting, and the parliament endorsed six-party talks.

Tun Myat Linn, MNDAA general secretary and spokesman, when asked why the causality figures could be so different replied to the medias, on several occasions, that as the nature of war, the defending party always have an edge over the attacking group. And this explains the high causality figure from the side of BA.

Tun Myat Linn told DVB, on 14 April,  that violence has spiked since 8 April in the Tong San area of Shan State, southeast of the regional capital Laogai.

“I think that there were about 700 dead and injured from the Tatmadaw [Burmese army] over the five days from 8 to 12 April. On our side, there were about 60 casualties,” Tun Myat Linn said.
On 16 April DVB report, Tun Myat Linn again said he believes his force has inflicted 1,800 Burmese army casualties since the conflict started on 9 February, despite just 70 casualties among MNDAA troops.

Surprisingly, the State-owned media, after quite a few weeks of break, again publicized causality figures, that 16 Burma army soldiers were killed and 110 injured in an ultimately successful assault on Hill Post 1584 on 15 April. The report cited the government use of airstrikes against the  MNDAA, as well as tanks and heavy weaponary in the action.

However MNDAA spokesperson Tun Myat Linn rejected the reports, telling DVB that no fighting took place on Wednesday.

“We haven’t lost any posts in the fighting. We retreated from some small posts in the Kho Thang area, in accordance with our strategy, but there was no post lost in the fighting” , according to DVB report of 16 April.

Earlier he also refuted the BA's territorial gains, by saying: “ They always report in their media that they have seized our mountain posts. If they could seize our posts, there wouldn’t be any more battles. They have been reporting this since we began fighting with them,” according to the report of The Irrawaddy, on 10 April.

As the BA military onslaught goes on unabated, the Ethnic Leaders’ Summit preparation scheduled to be held, on 1-3 May 2015, at the Pangsang headquarters of the United Wa State Army, is underway. According to SHAN report, the summit will be co-hosted by the Kachin Independence Army, the National Democratic Alliance Army and the United Wa State Army.

NCCT members such as the Wa National Organization (WNO), Lahu Democratic Union (LDU), Arakan National Council (ANC), Chin National Front (CNF), Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), and Karen Peace Council (KPC) were excluded from the invitation list.

According to a source close to NCCT, there are only 12 ethnic armed organizations on the invitation list, namely the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), Karen National Union (KNU), Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), New Mon State Party (NMSP), Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP), National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), United Wa State Army (UWSA), Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO), Ta'ang National  Liberation Front (TNLF), Arakan Army (AA), and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).

Adding cacophony to this perplexed situation, RFA, Burmese Section, on 14 April, reported that in spite of government's urging to drop the invitation, the UWSA has invited MNDAA, TNLF and AA to the ethnic leaders meeting, due to be held in first week of May, in Pangsang. U Aung Min headed party was also said to be in Pangsang, the Wa capital, during this period.

U Aung Myint, UWSA spokesman reportedly said that the invitation were already sent out even before the arrival of the government delegation. He said that the ethnic leaders were reviewing the government's dissatisfaction and as well, how all-inclusive participation of various ethnic groups could be entertained.

Likewise, DVB on 16 April reported that Military Security Officer Headquarters Office, stationed in Lashio, cannot accept that Kokang attending the Ethnic Leaders' Summit, according to U Aung Myint.

He said: “It is not forbidding, but not happy – with UWSA - inviting the Kokang for the government doesn't accept the group.”

The dilemma for the government is that it badly wants the EAOs to endorsed the tentative NCA draft so that it could be ratified as soon as possible, but cannot swallow the fact that MNDAA will sit as negotiation partner and will also sign the document, without having teach a due lesson or cow the group to Tatmadaw's satisfaction.

In the face of such perplex development, Lt-Gen N' Ban La, head of the UNFC released an open letter addressed to President Thein Sein to intervene and stop the BA offensive against MNDAA, in Kokang area. The letter, dated 13 April said that he is concerned of the armed conflict taking place in Kokang region and worried that it would become a hindrance to the signing of NCA. He further pointed out that Kokang people are one of the ethnic nationalities and MNDAA is a member of NCCT and as well, the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC). He urged the President to use his power and capacity, as leader of the peace process, to achieve speedy ceasefire through dialogue and negotiation, with all organizations concerned, including the Kokang force.

Recently, RFA, Burmese Section, reported, on 13 April, that BA's bombardment with heavy artillery fell on Chinese side again. The artillery is said to hit part of the road within China, which is about 7 to 8 miles distance from Nansan, opposite Laogai.

Tun Myat Linn said almost twenty percent of the whole BA light infantry divisions (LID), with the exception of LID 22 are involved, in the offensive, in a tiny enclave of Kokang, according to DVB 14 April report.

He said that the BA heavy offensive, which has intensified starting 8 April and is still ongoing, using more heavy weaponry and mortars, supported by armed cars and tanks.

Given such circumstances, it seems, the BA is not going to withdraw anytime soon, which in turn means that the “total annihilation” policy will still be implemented, even if NCA is ratified or not. This would again means the UPCC or government will employ two track-policy approach of “offensive on one front, while employing peace-making with the others”.

No one knows for sure, why the BA is wasting so much materials and human lives just to dislodge the MNDAA, when it has repeatedly made known that it is ready to negotiate peacefully, within the mould of NCA, with the government, together with the other EAOs. If the BA is doing all these  just to safe face for its heavy causalities on the war front, seeking revenge for its wounded dignity, or just sheer knee-jerk reaction out of hatred and anger, this undertaking is going to ruin all the hard work, hard-won trust-building and understanding on NCA draft achieved so far. And given that the UNFC and EAOs are for all-inclusive signing of the NCA and cessation of armed conflict on the ground prior to the ratification of ceasefire, the BA's all-out “total annihilation” military onslaught, employed in Kokang region is only going to have a tremendous negative impact, even derailing and ending the ongoing peace process altogether.

And as such, the war in Kokang and armed conflict going on elsewhere within the country, have to be stopped, the sooner the better.

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Mongmao youth call for protection of natural resources in Shan State

A group of youth in the Mongmao region have urged all citizens in Shan State to protect the state’s natural resources and environment.

“We urge all youths in Shan State to oppose every group that is destroying our forests, mountains, rivers and other natural resources,” said a young man in Mongmao region who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Since April 8, 2015 the youths in Se Lant town, Muse township have organized a protest to stop mining company trucks carrying silica rocks through the town.

The silica mine is located on the Loi Te Mong (Te Mong Mountain) just 2 miles  east of Se Lant town.

According to a news source; the roads in Se Lant town are damaged because about 20 silica trucks pass through the town daily. Residents are often hit by the trucks.

The silica mining company has used different routes to transport silica rocks from Se Lant town to the Burma-China border. Routes across the Mao (Shweli) River include from Mai Sak village to Nong Mon village, and from Nong Mo village to Ta Jarng village. Another route is through the forest from Mai Sak village to Nong Seng village into China. Some companies have paid a bribe to village heads to pass through rice fields before entering China.

A resident in Nong Seng village said, “About 20 six-wheel trucks carrying silica rock pass through our village every day. Each truck carries about 8 tons of silica rock. These vehicles are trucks from China. We can see Chinese text written on the front of the vehicle.”

On 24-26 April 2015, the youth group will organize a walk up Te Mong mountain aimed at raising awareness about the damaging impacts of natural resource extraction.

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