STAKEHOLDERS BUSY WITH POLITICAL MANEUVERING AS PANGLONG CONFERENCE NEARS: The questions of political will and trust-building
The United Wa State Army (UWSA) soldiers march on the 20th anniversary in the Headquarters Pangsang in 2009.
"Let us continue the pilgrimage to peace – not return to war.” His Eminence Cardinal Charles Bo makes a plea for peace and an end of conflict in Myanmar.
Myanmar is passing through some of the most agonizing moments in her history. With our hands reaching out, we appeal to all: Please heal – do not wound.
The people of Myanmar are deeply saddened by what looks like a relapse into darker days. Myanmar needs the world’s attention to strengthen its fragile journey to democracy.
Three major events are disturbing the people of Myanmar. The report published by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on 3 February is heart-breaking and profoundly disturbing. The United Nations reports brutality and other grave human rights violations by Myanmar’s security forces in an area north of Maungdaw in northern Rakhine State. The UN High Commissioner portrays such inhumanity and barbarity that it is hard to read about, and hard to believe.
Over the past five years, Myanmar has experienced many positive changes and has become a more open country. My country men and women believe that it is a dawn of hope. The opening of the economy and media, a functioning democracy, a smooth transfer of power – all pointed towards a new Myanmar of hopes and dreams.
We pray earnestly that this may not become a false dawn. Merchants of hatred are in full swing. Hatred against others of different races and religions has intensified to a very alarming level. What happened in Rakhine state needs to be stopped once for all.
The situation in Kachin and northern Shan states is equally of deep concern to me, particularly with the arrest of two Kachin Christian pastors, Nawng Latt and Gam Seng, in Mong Ko, following the bombing of a Catholic church. I pray for their trial, that justice will be done and they will be released. I pray too for the thousands displaced by recent military offensives in northern Myanmar.
The tragic assassination of U Ko Ni just over two weeks ago was another step backwards for Myanmar and a blow to our hopes of democracy and peace in our country. I send my heartfelt condolences to his family and friends, and my prayers for his family, and for all those with whom he worked and who continue his courageous efforts to move towards the constitutional reform so needed in Myanmar.
I call on the government of Myanmar to bring an end to the military offensive against civilians in Rakhine state. Peace with justice is possible and is the only way.
I call on the government of Myanmar to bring an end to the military offensives in Kachin and northern Shan states.
I call on the government of Myanmar to allow unhindered access to all parts of Rakhine state, Kachin state and northern Shan state for international humanitarian aid agencies, media and human rights monitors.
I call on the government of Myanmar to work with the international community to investigate the crimes reported by the United Nations, in a truly independent way that results in justice and accountability.
And I appeal to the international community to be vigilant. You have welcomed positive changes. People of Myanmar seek peaceful and positive change. Merchants of hatred who lived by spilling the blood of brother against brother are active again. Myanmar needs the world community to extend all support to the present democratic government with clear understanding that violence against any population is not acceptable.
I offer my prayers and solidarity to everyone in Myanmar – and especially at this time in Rakhine state, Kachin state and northern Shan state – who is bereaved, vulnerable, fearful, homeless, hungry, sick and to all the orphans and widows, the victims of rape and torture.
Let the UN’s devastating report serve as a wake-up call for us all.
Let us work together to end violence and terror in our country, and to build a Myanmar where every man, woman and child of every race and religion born on Myanmar soil is recognised both as our fellow citizen and as our brother and sister in humanity.
Let us build a Myanmar where hope is not an illusion, and where we can join hands, regardless of ethnicity or religion, in peace and solidarity. I pledge to renew my efforts to that end, and I extend my hand to any of my brothers and sisters of any race or religion who will join with me. Peace with Justice is possible. 2017 has been declared a year of peace by the Catholic Church.
Let us continue the pilgrimage to peace – not return to war.
Cardinal Charles Maung Bo is Archbishop of Yangon and became Myanmar’s first ever Cardinal in 2015. He has long been a foremost advocate in the country for human rights, religious freedom, inter-religious harmony, peace and justice.
RANGOON — The Drug Policy Advocacy Group (DPAG) has called for a reform of Burma’s drug laws, demanding new policies focusing on the rehabilitation of drug users.
“The 1993 Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Law focuses on punishment. But what then, after a drug user is given imprisonment?” asked Dr. Nang Pann Ei Kham, coordinator of DPAG, during a Thursday panel discussion in Rangoon on addressing Burma’s drug problems.
According to Burma’s 1993 narcotics law, anyone found guilty under the statute “shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend from a minimum of 5 years to a maximum of 10 years and may also be liable to a fine.”
DPAG has been working to develop an advocacy platform for “non-punitive, evidence-based drug policy changes” in the country. The group was formed in 2014 by “likeminded” organizations and individuals, and supports a global campaign to rehabilitate and reintegrate drug users into society under the theme “Support, Don’t Punish.”
The group networks with both domestic and international groups, such as the National Drug Users Network Myanmar (NDNM), Myanmar Opium Farmers Forum (MOFF), Myanmar Anti-Narcotics Association (MANA), Medicins du Monde (MdM), Save the Children, Transnational Institute (TNI), HIV/AIDS Alliance and the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission.
“The 1993 law is out of date, and what’s more, is that it has not been a successful law [in terms of] drug elimination,” said Dr. Nang Pann Ei Kham.
The key recommendations raised by DPAG included decriminalization of drug use and of small-scale poppy farming by those with limited sources of livelihood.
The group also recommends voluntary treatment for drug addiction, and the assurance that drug-related laws and policies demonstrate respect for human rights.
Other recommendations included a greater focus on the prevention and elimination of organized crimes, large-scale drug production and human trafficking, and inclusion of civil society organizations (CSOs) and vulnerable populations in the policymaking process.
The group also called on the government to provide greater support for development projects in ethnic areas where poppies are grown.
Dr. Mi Mi Khaing Zin from MANA also spoke out in favor of a new drug law that respects human rights and focuses on the rehabilitation of drug addicts.
“The 1993 law focuses on punishment rather than the health problems of drug addicts,” said Dr. Mi Mi Khaing Zin.
According to the governmental anti-drug body the Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control (CCDAC), a working group comprised of several CSOs and government ministries reviewed Burma’s 1993 narcotics law in order to adopt a new policy with a treatment-oriented response to drug addiction.
Burma is currently the second largest producer of raw opium in the world, after Afghanistan, according to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko
Reminds me of our meeting with Padoh Mahn Sha, together with David Tharkabaw, Saw Sarkis and my wife some two years before he was assassinated.
Through correspondence with him, I came to know on how he was thinking in terms of ethnic struggle for self-determination and national unity.
His wisdom is that in order to achieve self-determination rights for the non-Bamar ethnic nationalities, they need to work in unison militarily and politically. Besides, the ethnic should and must seek cooperation and coordination with the like-minded democratic elements from the Bamar masses, political parties and even from the Burma Army.
A bold initiative at that time, as the ethnic groups only understood that the Tatmadaw or Burma Army was an evil entity and must be avoided or gotten rid of it but never to be considered as an alliance in the ethnic struggle for self-determination.
No doubt, his progressive thought has found the way, not even in the KNU but also into other ethnic resistance movements, finding large acceptance on how they should go about with their struggles.
Padoh Mahn Sha's political legacy will live on for a long time to come.
Link to the story : Relatives barred from Padoh Mahn Sha statue ceremony
It is a time tested conclusion that the Tatmadaw, and also the Aung San Suu Kyi headed NLD regime for that matter, cannot go it alone.
The wishful-thinking of that the Tatmadaw's military pressure to break the will of the ethnic resistance into accepting the watered down version of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) version, which is not accompanied by ending the Tatmadaw's offensives in Shan and Kachin States, lacks all-inclusiveness participation and equitable, level playing field, will remain an illusion or pipe dream only.
As for Suu Kyi, coercively sticking to her rigid time schedule would eventually bring in the NCA-non-signatory ethnic armies is also equally an impoverish way of thinking, likely following the Inter Mediate's, a policy think-tank that supervises Suu Kyi, suggestion, according to a knowledgeable signatory ethnic armed organization.
It seems Suu Kyi is employing a paternalistic attitude, by probably thinking and believing that: "She is grabbing the non-signatories of NCA by the collars and forcibly putting them into a paradise-like atmosphere - literally Nat Pyi in Burmese, where the latter complained that it is too high and instead jumped down".
What a pity that the situation has been misinterpreted by the Tatmadaw and as well Suu Kyi.
Link to the story: http://frontiermyanmar.net/en/preparing-for-the-next-panglong-conference
What Aung Naing Oo pointed out is most crucial to the continuation of peace process dialogue.
His suggestion of "Unnecessary restrictions must also be removed. Flexibility must be prioritized. Negotiators must be provided with proper policy direction and communication," or key words like “restriction, flexibility,and communication” are most important to keep the process going.
In plain words, for example the issue of "restriction", like Paragraph 17/1, Association with Illegal Organizations Act that could cause personal security concern for the ethnic resistance leaders should be waived, if not abolished it all. The detention of one All Burma Student Democratic Front (ABSDF) leader, whose party is a signatory of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), is still detained with the Burma Army initiative, is the case in point. In the same vein, a dozen or so soldiers of Ararkan Liberation Party (ALP), also an NCA signatory are detained and their weapons confiscated, citing trespassing their designated areas, and still are under detention.
"Flexibility" in this period of ongoing peace process should mean looking the other way or turn a blind eye for the sake of a bigger picture or goal-setting. In this case, it is the achievement of the political settlement through negotiations. The Tatmadaw is just doing the opposite, by imposing its own rule of being a sole protector of the national sovereignty, when in fact this is the very notion that has been the bone of contention for adversaries and all parties involved in the peace process.
It should be clear that while the Tatmadaw wants to be the sole owner of the country's sovereignty, the ethnic nationalities see it as their ultimate goal to wrestle it back, in the form of a "shared-sovereignty". It is a political demand and they are risking their lives so that the political equation is changed into a form of federal union system of governance. In other words, this should be negotiated at the peace conference and not already taken for granted by the Tatmadaw, as it is now doing and acting with implementation that isn't helping the peace process to be fruitful at all.
Regarding "communication", especially with concern to JMC or ceasefire joint-monitoring procedure, it is not at all working, seen from several firefights with the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) or the Shan State army - South, which is also an NCA signatory.
All in all, it is the “political will” and sincerity that is badly needed from the part of the Tatmadaw to end its offensive wars in Kachin and Shan States, in the name of safeguarding the country's sovereignty, and come down from its moral high horse of being the sole protector and owner of the national sovereignty and national unity, using sheer military might, which has failed to work, after employing the said policy for decades.
Link to the story: http://frontiermyanmar.net/en/dialogue-or-despair-two-futures-for-the-peace-process