Shan State Assembly want to recruit staff by themselves

The speaker of the Shan State parliament has said that the regional government – not the central government – will recruit civil servants for the Taunggyi-based assembly.

Speaking to lawmakers during a Shan State Assembly session in state capital Taunggyi on Monday, Sai Long Sang said the recruitment of office workers for the assembly would be an internal matter, undertaken by the state government itself.

His statement came after Mahn Win Khaing Than, the speaker for the Union Parliament in Naypyidaw, advised his Shan State counterpart that “some changes were coming” to the parliament in Taunggyi during a visit in February. He noted that those changes would be enacted by the end of this year.

“However, it was unclear what he meant by ‘changes’,” said Sai Moon Lern, an MP from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) representing Mong Nai Township. “Whether the staff would come from the central government or be recruited locally as new employees.”

Currently, there are little more than 10 office workers at the Shan State government, all of whom were appointed by the central government, a system that harks back to the days when the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) held power.

This current parliamentary session meeting started on March 20 and is scheduled to end on March 23. Among the issues to be discussed are: infrastructure development; and the state budget.

By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)

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Stop using civilians as weapons of war, Shan CSOs urge armed groups

Following accusations of extrajudicial killings and the mass abduction of civilians in northern Shan State’s Kyaukme district by the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), 35 local civil society organizations (CSOs) have released a statement, urging all armed groups to refrain from using civilians as weapons of war.

According to the statement, which was published on Saturday, about 90 villagers were arrested and two were killed by troops from the TNLA between 6 March and 15 March 2017 in Mantong and Namtu townships, which are in Kyaukme district. The arrests were all ethnic Shan villagers.

“Each and every armed group must stop using civilians as their weapon when fighting each other,” read the statement. “Please stop violating the villagers. Please understand their position, because whenever any armed group makes a request of them, they are obliged to follow it. Please stop fighting.”

Clashes between the TNLA and the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) broke out in November 2015, only one month after the RCSS/SSA signed a National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the Burmese government under then president, Thein Sein. The TNLA was excluded from the signing and the peace process.

Clashes between two groups have continued to date.

“We want the Shan and Ta’ang people to live together peacefully,” said Sai Seng Murng, a co-organizer of the statement. “We want the government to resolve these problems.”

He added: “Armed groups should protect the people, not oppress them.”

Regarding the alleged abductions or detention of civilians in Kyaukme, Mong Aik Kyaw, the TNLA’s spokesperson, told DVB on March 15 that his group did not arrest the villagers. He said the villagers were called in for a seminar about the dangers of drugs.

However, the CSOs’ statement said that among those arrested, three villagers are still listed as missing. At the time of reporting, there is no news about them.

Fighting continues regularly in the northern part of Shan State between the Burmese armed forces and ethnic armed groups, both NCA and non-NCA groups. Since 2017, thousands of villagers have been compelled to flee their homes due to the various armed conflicts.  

By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)

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UNFC vows to hold on

Members of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) that are parties to last month’s “Panghsang Pact” have decided to hang on together, despite the uncertainty of continued membership by its two strongest members, according to the alliance’s secretary general Khu Oo Reh.

Khu Oo Reh, the general secretary of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) and the Vice Chairman of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

 Speaking to the Peace Process Working Committee (PPWC), the implementation body of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) signatory organizations yesterday, he said, “Whether or not the KIO (Kachin Independence Organization) and the SSPP (Shan State Progress Party) continue to be part of us, remaining members have decided not to dissolve the UNFC. We will work together with other EAOs (Ethnic Armed Organizations) to seek a way out. We will consider other options only if our present resolution doesn’t work out.”

Other possible options, according to discussions at the meeting held at Chiangmai Orchid Hotel, are:
·        The return of KIO and SSPP back to the fold
·        The merger with the Panghsang Pact
·        Dissolution

The 22-24 February Panghsang summit, hosted by the United Wa State Army (UWSA) considered the strongest of all existing EAOs, had rejected the NCA and resolved to seek a new path for peace. Both the KIO/KIA and the SSPP/SSA had participated in the event. Only the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) and the New Mon State Party (NMSP), also invited, chose to stay behind.

Other remaining UNFC members are Arakan National Council (ANC), Lahu Democratic Union (LDU) and Wa National Organization (WNO). The three, considered as non-combatant groups, were disallowed by the previous government to sign the NCA, but invited to take part in the political dialogues. All three had rejected the offer, demanding that they be accepted as signatories instead.

The meeting, which lasted from 09:00-12:30, resolved to hold a joint strategic planning meeting early next month.

The long-delayed UNFC Congress, due to be held 23 March, has been postponed until June, to await for final decisions from the KIO and SSPP.

“If the KIO chooses to stay with the Panghsang Pact, it may be welcomed by the pro-Chinese elements,” said a Thai observer. “But if it continues to remain in the UNFC, it may be welcomed by pro-West elements.”

The SSPP meanwhile is dependent on the UWSA for arms and ammo to defend itself against continued harassments and attacks by the Burma Army. “Its heart may be with the UNFC,” said the same Thai observer. “But its immediate needs are with the Wa.”

 By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)

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NAMING PROBLEM: A bridge too far in Mon State?

With the United Nationalities Alliance (UNA) taking up position on the naming of the bridge as “Bogyoke Aung San”, in Mon State known as “Thanlwin” bridge, the controversial issue has taken an active spin, which was followed by a massive protest on March 19 Sunday,  to keep to the old name that is preferred by the local people.

It all started out as the bridge’s proposed name became known when the Ministry of Construction sent a letter to Aung Naing Oo, deputy speaker of the Mon State parliament, announcing a celebratory opening ceremony for it on February 13, the 102nd birthday of Gen Aung San. Locals were outraged by the decision and the opening was canceled, according to the Irrawaddy report of March 15.

On March 2, some three thousand Mon population, including the Mon State deputy parliament   speaker protested against the naming of the bridge, which was endorsed without the consent of the people.

On March 14, however, Speaker Win Myint put it to a vote after 15 Hluttaw representatives spoke on the bridge name, the motion to name it Bogyoke Aung San Bridge was approved with a majority vote from NLD representatives. Accordingly, the proposal resulted in 217 lawmakers voting in favor, 43 against and 116 abstaining.

On March 18, the UNA, which consists of a dozen ethnic political parties, issued a 5 point statement underlining  that the parliamentarians of the ruling NLD party should not use their majority vote to override the desire of the local Mon State population.

Furthermore, the statement warned that this act of using majority vote could harm the life security of the ethnic peoples in the future.

Sai Nyunt Lwin, general secretary of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), whose party is also an UNA member elaborated to the Radio Free Asia recently, regarding the statement: “In any issues they [the National League for Democracy (NLD)] could decide according to their desire, as they have the majority in lower, upper and union parliaments. They should avoid taking measures that could hurt the minorities and pay attention to the minorities' desire. And if issues would be decided neglecting the minorities' concern, a lot of worries could arise. (For example), we won't be able to do anything if they want to change the name of Taunggyi (the Shan State capital)”.

On March 19 Sunday, over twenty thousand people, involving Mon, Pa-O, Karen and locals, staged a demonstration in Mawlamyine, also known as Moulmein,  strand road against the naming of the bridge as “Bogyoke Aung San”, chanting slogans that they rejected the parliament endorsed name.

The combined demonstrator groups also issued a statement to acknowledge the local people's desire; perpetuation of national unity; national reconciliation; emergence of a genuine democratic country and federal union that is anchored in the rights of self-determination.

Difficult choice of name?

According to Union Minister for Ethnic Affairs Nai Thet Lwin: “Whoever you ask – local resident, monk, historian or politician – you will get a different answer. There was a suggestion to name it Thamein Bayan Bridge. Another person preferred the name Thanlwin Bridge,” reported the Myanmar Times of March 17.

“If you ask a local from Mawlamyine, they would reply “Mawlamyine Bridge” and if you ask a local from Chaungzone, it would be “Chaungzone.” If you name it Mawlamyine-Chaungzone-Thanlwin Bridge, that may satisfy residents on both banks,” said the Ethnic Affairs Minister.

But March 14 report of the Irrawaddy said that residents favored naming the bridge linking Moulmein and Chaungzon townships “Yamanya”, meaning Mon State in Mon language, or “Salween Bridge” or “Thanlwin Bridge”.

Whatever the case, one thing is sure and that is the rejection of the parliament approved name that is given after the independence struggle hero “Bogyoke Aung San Bridge”.

Minority right in jeopardy?

As it is, even though there is already an endorsement by the parliament to go ahead, nothing has yet been decided.

But alarm bell has been rung, especially in the ears of the ethnic population, that the NLD is ready to bully with its majority votes to achieve its desire, whether such a generalization is logically valid or not is, of course, debatable.

It is true that the country is still not a full fledged federal union, but the NLD should make use of its majority vote cautiously where the minorities are involved, so that minority rights could be protected, has been the main concern of the ethnic states.

The argument goes that if such a small matter of even naming the bridge could be bullied, how would it look like when hardball political bargaining would come into play.

It should be noted that this episode is viewed by the non-Bamar ethnic as the NLD catering to Bamar ethnocentrism, no different from the successive military regimes, and is pushing the ethnic states' population to accept assimilation and acculturation, at the expense of diluting their own identity and culture.

In the same vein, in February, the locals in the Kachin State capital Myitkyina and Mon State’s Mudon Township have raised objections to planned statues of Burma’s independence hero Gen Aung San in the two locations.

Construction has already begun on plinths for the statues in the town centers of Myitkyina and Mudon but civil society groups complained that they cannot accept the statues while there is ongoing conflict in Kachin State and the federalism and equality pledged by Gen Aung San in the Panglong Agreement of 1947 remains unfulfilled, according to the report of the Irrawaddy on February 8.

Although polite arguments were being given, in reality the non-Bamar ethnic nationalities consider all these moves to be a camouflage assimilation or Burmanization scheme, which they must resist. But this is not to say that they don't respect Aung San. They still consider him – then in 1947 and also now - to be a great statesman and Bamar national leader, whom they could trust and work together for ethnic harmony. But unfortunately he was assassinated before the achievement of independence from the British, in 1947. Subsequently, all the promises made by him as a Bamar national leader were watered down during the constitutional drafting, which has left the non-Bamar ethnic nationalities at disadvantage, leading to the constitutional crisis that isn't able to be resolved, up to these days.

For now, it seems the NLD is confronting in Mon State “A bridge too far” -  meaning: A step or act that is regarded as being too drastic to take - sort of scenario, which it has lightly thought out that it could be overcome easily.

Given such controversy and emotionally charged atmosphere, the NLD and its boss State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi should be cautioned and reminded that a withdrawal from such confrontation would be a wiser way to go than pushing it stubbornly through, if the gradually depleting trust of the ethnic nationalities is to be restored.

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Burmese commander accuses Shan armies of undermining local development

Maj-Gen Than Hlaing, the commander of Eastern Central Command, has accused two ethnic Shan armies – the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) and the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) – of undermining local community development, according to an official of the SSPP/SSA.

The SSPP/SSA soldiers
Speaking to Shan Herald under condition of anonymity, the SSPP/SSA official said that representatives of his group had gone on Monday to a meeting with Maj-Gen Than Hlaing at the Eastern Central Command headquarters in Kholam Township, southern Shan State. He said that the Burmese military commander had bluntly alleged that due to the actions of the SSPP/SSA and RCSS/SSA, the townships of Mong Nong and Kehsi were still underdeveloped.

“The way he [Maj-Gen Than Hlaing] spoke was disrespectful,” the Shan army official said. “He accused us of failing to follow the 2012 ceasefire accord, and he insinuated that we are trying to expand our territory. He also called us ‘narrow-minded’.”

On the contrary, the SSPP/SSA official said, it is in fact the Burmese military which has launched offensives against ethnic people and expanded their positions into areas recognized as zones under the control of ethnic armed groups.

Fighting has broken out regularly in recent times between units of the Burmese armed forces and the SSPP/SSA and RCSS/SSA. This year alone, clashes have occurred between Burmese troops and SSPP/SSA forces in Mong Nong Township, while they have also engaged with the RCSS/SSA in Hsipaw Township.

The RCSS/SSA soldiers march on the Shan National Day
The SSPP/SSA official said that the Shan armies were also accused of not following the Burmese military’s so-called ‘Six-point Principles’* The Burmese commander reportedly emphasized that the 2008 constitution was applicable to all parties, and reasserted that the military will protect it.

The RCSS/SSA was not immediately available for comment. The RCSS/SSA is one of eight ethnic armed groups which signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with President Thein Sein in October 2015.

The SSPP/SSA opted not to ink the NCA in 2015. However, it has signed state-level and union-level ceasefire accords with the government.

*The Burmese military’s Six-point Principles are: to maintain a keen desire to reach eternal peace; to keep promises agreed to in peace deals; to avoid capitalizing on the peace agreement; to avoid placing a heavy burden on local people; to strictly abide by existing laws; and to ‘march towards a democratic country’ in accordance with the 2008 Constitution.

By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)

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Report on report: China and Myanmar’s Peace Process

The first thing I would like to say is my sincere thanks to Ms Yun Sun for writing this report. She certainly knows more than us (that means me) about China, Wa and the Kachin.

On China, these are the things I’ve learned:
·        Its official policy is “persuading for peace and facilitating dialogues”
·        There are certain Chinese special interest groups and individuals who have offered direct financial support for ethnic armed organizations in Myanmar:
1.     Yunnan Jingcheng Group, founded by Jingpo (Kachin) businessman Dong Lecheng. His hotel in Ruili was the venue for negotiation between Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/KIA) and the Myanmar government in 2013
2.     Yucheng group, a private financial company founded by a 34 year old Ding Ning, currently under criminal investigation, had reportedly provided funding to six armed groups active on the border: Arakan Army (AA), KIO/KIA, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA),National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and United Wa State Army (UWSA)
On Kachin
·        The political and financial support KIA enjoys from their Chinese Kachin brothers is perhaps the strongest among all ethnic armed groups. Such strong support carries important sway in China, because the local governments are keen to pacify ethnic minority groups for the sake of social stability
·        But China is not really happy about the KIO/KIA on several factors: Not always supportive of Chinese investments, maintaining close ties with western countries and organizations, attempts of “internationalization of the Kachin issue” by proposing to invite the United States, the UK etc into the peace process, its radical hardliners opting for independence and “stalling the peace process” through the alliance under its leadership, the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC)
On Wa
·        Among all the ethnic groups in Myanmar, UWSA perhaps has the closest ties with and elicits the most sympathy from China, to the extent that some local officials regard UWSA as China’s “illegitimate child”
·        China will not push UWSA to quit the peace process; however, neither will it push UWSA to embrace by any settlement it is unwilling to accept. In the view of both China and UWSA, such an imposed settlement would be fragile, unsustainable, and only live likely to cause greater instability in the future
·        China supports the tacit leadership role of UWSA among the ethnic armed groups in northern Myanmar
·        Chinese authorities seem to tolerate Wa’s illicit economy, including drug trafficking and casinos, for revenue, and instead pursue tighter law enforcement within China to combat the crimes

Other than these six groups, according to her, the Shan State Army North and Shan State Army South also matter to China even though they are farther south from the border. However, compared to other groups, why they matter so much is something the author has only a few general answers, such as their stand on the NCA and cooperation with the government military, which “affect the unity and politics of ethnic armed groups”. For example, the current hostilities between the SSA South and the TNLA.

My thought is that perhaps Ms Yun Sun would like to find out more. And it wouldn’t have been difficult for a researcher of her stature to do that.

A great country is like the lowland toward which all streams flow. Hence, if a great country can lower itself before a small country, it will win over the small country; and if a small country can lower itself before a great country, it will win over the great country. The one wins by stooping; the other by remaining low.

Chapter 61, Dao De Jing, by Lao Zi
Author: Yun Sun, Henry L. Stimson Center
Publisher: United States Institute of Peace

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HURDLES IN SHAN STATE: Shan State Army-Tatmadaw armed engagement, ceasefire monitoring debacles and Shan National Conference

The armed conflict in Kokang that started out on March 6 and at this writing is still continuing has captured major attention domestically and as well internationally. But parallel to this, a little less known war erupted between the Military or Tatmadaw and the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) recently, on March 7, needs to be discussed or taken into account. Because this is a serious challenge facing the mechanism of Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee – Union (JMC-U), which is one of the basic important arm of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA)-based peace process and also affects the other arm, Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC), that is responsible to hold the 21st Century Panglong Conference (21CPC) or Union Peace Conference (UPC), under the Joint Implementation Coordinating Meeting (JICM) directive that is the highest organ in the implementation of the NCA.

JICM is made up of two party blocs: one is the government, parliament and Military and the other, the Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs), with each bloc having 8 representatives in the setup.

Under the JICM is the JMC-U composed of three party blocs: government, parliament and Military with 10 representatives; EAOs with 10 representatives; and civilian with 6 representatives.

The UPDJC, which is entrusted to hold the UPC or 21CPC, is made up of three party blocs:  government, parliament and Military with 16 representatives; EAOs with 16 representatives; and political parties with 16 representatives respectively.

Now let us look at the military engagement between the Tatmadaw and the RCSS, followed by the problematic issues surrounding the Shan National Conference (SNC) that is supposed to take place under the rubric of NCA's state-level or national-level political dialogue, to lend inputs to the UPC.

RCSS-Tatmadaw armed clashes

According to Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN) report Burma’s armed forces have launched offensives against the RCSS/SSA, a signatory to the NCA, on March 7.

Lt-Col Sai Nguen, the RCSS/SSA spokesperson said that the Burmese troops from battalions 502

and 242, which are under command of Military Operations Command (MOC 1) based in Kyaukme Township, opened fire on Tuesday on Shan positions in Oum Mu tract in northern Shan State’s Hsipaw Township.

“Heavy fighting took place from 2pm until 6pm,” he said. “It was a premeditated attack; that is why it was so heavy.”

He said that since his group signed the NCA in October 2015, it has clashed more than 20 times with the Burmese army, 5 of them which could be termed as serious heavy battles.  

The Shan army spokesman speculated that the reason for the assault was part of a plan to push all ethnic armies out of Hsipaw and Kyaukme Townships.

Min Zaw Oo, director of JMC-U said that the clashes were due to the unfinished area demarcation and also the different interpretation of the Kengtung ceasefire agreement that was signed between the RCSS and the Tatmadaw in 2012.

According to Min Zaw Oo, the Kengtung agreement included demarcation areas, which from the the Tatmadaw took it as where the RCSS troops should be located. But understood by the RCSS as designated areas for its headquarters only. Based on this different interpretation, skirmishes happened as both parties accused each other of trespassing into its areas of control, reported 7 Day Daily on March 11.

Shan National Conference

According to the SHAN report of February 24, Burma’s military has intervened in plans for Shan National Conference (SNC), insisting that state capital Taunggyi cannot be used as a venue for the forum and instead directing organizers to smaller townships.

According to Col. Sai La, an official with the RCSS/SSA, which is hosting the event, his group met with Tatmadaw [Burmese military] representatives at talks mediated by the government-led Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) on February 15. He said that the Tatmadaw offered only a restricted shortlist of options for holding the SNC, which is the last forum where ethnic Shans may gather to express opinions and make decisions ahead of the national peace talks known as the 21st
Century Panglong Conference (21CPC), which is after postponing several times now slated to be held in May.

“The Tatmadaw said we could hold the conference in Mongpan, Mongtaw or Nam Pan Kun townships,” he told Shan Herald on February 24.

The three towns are each underdeveloped and inconvenient in terms of travel, accommodation and hospitality, he said.

“We requested permission to hold the SNC in Taunggyi,” said Sai La. “They responded by saying that only the Tatmadaw could stage official meetings in the state capital. Other than the three towns put to us, they would not budge in discussing the matter further.”

The ensuing request for permission to hold the SNC either in Taunggyi or Panglong, the historical town where the 1947 Panglong Agreement was signed, to Lt-Gen Khin Zaw Oo, a Tatmadaw representative at the UPDJC and  Aung San Suu Kyi in her capacity as both State Counselor and chairperson of the UPDJC were also not successful, as both said that they could not interfere in what the military had ordered.

Regarding the row, Zaw Htay, the presidential spokesman said that “the UPDJC is at the moment discussing among themselves internally,” according to the 7 Day Daily report of March 7.

Reportedly, Colonel Sai Merng of RCSS said that the Committee for Shan State Unity (CSSU) has sent out representatives and met the people in some 40 townships, where data were being collected and is now ready for the national-level conference or dialogue.

But he said: “If national-level political discussion cannot be conducted, our participation in the Panglong convention also has to be reconsidered. Without inputs from the people, we could hardly participate comprehensively in the discussions.”

The Committee for Shan State Unity is comprised of Shan political parties and armed groups, including the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP), the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) and the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS).


Summing up the situation, the armed engagement between the RCSS and the Tatmadaw shows that even though the government is keen to portray that signing the NCA would create an absence of war and conducive to the peace process, the contrary proves to be the case.

According to the RCSS, starting from the time of NCA signing in October 15, 2015, there were more than 20 armed conflicts, with 5 of them serious and furious battles. Thus, it is evident that the JMC is not working and this self-help joint monitoring setup must be replaced or added up with a neutral international team to be credible, if ceasefire monitoring and enforcement are to be employed effectively. This is also the point of argument pushed forward by the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) in its 9 point proposal to alter the present NCA.

Again, the convening of state-level or national-level political discussion or dialogue is hampered by the heavy-handedness of the Tatmadaw in even choosing the venue of holding the meeting in the case of SNC, needless to say of blocking the Arakan State conducting such a conference.

What the ethnic nationalities don't understand is that why should the UPDJC dominated by the government and the military call the shot in even small matters like choosing the venue for national-level political discussion, which begs the question of how it would look like when it comes to the hardball political bargaining in the future.

In addition to these said problems, the government seems to have no idea on how to bring about the solution to the war in Kachin and Shan States; how to respond to the United Wa State Army (UWSA)-led Panghsang peace initiative; and how to concretely take up position on the UNFC's 9 point proposal, rather than just a vague agreement in principle positioning, not to mention the internationally damaging country's image caused by the area cleansing undertaking by the Tatmadaw against the Muslim population in the Arakan State.

While the issues to be resolved are many and seem impossible to overcome, they are interrelated. And as could be seen from the examples in Shan State, the government and the Military would need to do more on accommodation to facilitate the peace process, coupled with the acceptance of “all-inclusiveness” as time and again been urged to end the war in the north, if necessary by declaring unilateral ceasefire by the Tatmadaw.

It is not uncommon that the stronger party has to take the initiative to break the deadlock, in many of the conflict resolution settings. Thus, decisive change of policy that is embedded in altruism and  largesse should be the way to go for the Tatmadaw.

It should also be noted that anything less than political accommodation and all-inclusiveness participation won't be able to resolve the host of problems that have been burdening and bedeviling the country for so long. 

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Book review

Book Title: Lessons learned from Myanmar Peace Process
Author: Aung Naing Oo
Publisher: The Center for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPCS), February 2017
Introduction by: Lt-Gen (ret) Khin Zaw Oo
Number of pages: 153

My first impression, while going through the booklet, was that in many ways it read like a new version of Dale Carnegie’s all time bestseller, “How to win friends and influence people,” though it was, as the title suggests, about the peace process in which the author was actively involved from 2011-2016 as a member of the semi-governmental Myanmar Peace Center (MPC).

Here are some examples:
On 2 December 2011, U Aung Min, the government’s chief negotiator met for the first time with the New Mon State Party (NMSP) leadership in Thailand’s Sangklaburi. The meeting lasted two hours, one and a half hour of which was spent listening to NMSP (then) General Secretary Nai Hongsa.

Aung Naing Oo
(Photo: eastwestcenter)
“When the first thirty minutes was over, the 1948 independence wasn’t achieved yet,” he quotes U Aung Min saying. “When it was one hour, the Tatmadaw had just staged the 1962 coup d’etat. Our Peace facilitator U Maung Maung became very impatient and was about to interrupt, and I (U Aung Min) had to tell him not to rock the boat. The fruit of my patience was the signing of the state-level ceasefire agreement with NMSP on 25 February 2012.”

Moral: Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. (Dale Carnegie)

Another is U Aung Min’s encounter with the Kachin Independence Organization/Army, (KIO/KIA)’s chief negotiator Major General Sumlut Gun Maw in 2014.

Gun Maw had arrived at the meeting in Myitkyina carrying a big file of reports on the Tatmadaw’s excesses. The latter, having been informed in advance, also came to the meeting with its own file to counter the former’s accusations.

“Following the customary opening remarks made by each side, Gen Gun Maw picked up his file from the floor and all of us, except for U Aung Min, were braced for the assault. He said the first thing he would present was about violations committed by the Tatmadaw. Before he could continue, U Aung Min said, “All these problems that have beset the peace process, I’m fully responsible for them. All these have come about because of my weakness.” 

His unexpected admission left the Kachin leader speechless.

The result: the file picked up by Gen Gun Maw went back to the floor and the meeting proceeded in a friendlier atmosphere.

Moral: If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically. (Dale Carnegie)

The one thing that really drew my attention was the government’s genius in recognizing the fact that there was a crying need for less bureaucratic and less red tape peace making institution. Out of this realization came forth the MPC as a “One Stop Service” (OSS) mechanism. Complaints, instead of traditional governmental channels, were handled by it. (“Mutual trust and respect between the President and the Tatmadaw also made things easier,” U Aung Min later commented.)

One reader remarked, “Now that the National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC), the successor of the MPC, has become fully-governmental, we are facing the same old bureaucratic problems again.”

On the other hand, some of his other arguments may be unacceptable by many. For example, why some Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) are not invited by the government to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) as well as why no outsiders are welcomed as mediators.

Nevertheless, his reasoning is interesting and anyone who is for or against the NCA should read it.

To settle an argument, think of what is right, not who is right.


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