Answering questions on WGEC

The WGEC (Working Group for Ethnic Coordination) is the offshoot of the conference of ethnic armed movements, 26-28 February 2012, 6 months after President Thein Sein issued a formal invitation for peace talks.
Leaders of 17 armed groups were gathered at the meeting, 9 of which had already made positive responses to the President’s call. Many of those present were familiar names among the media circle:

Gen Mutu Saypoe Karen National Union (KNU)
Zipporal Sein Karen National Union (KNU)
Nerdah Mya Karen National Union (KNU)
Kwe Htoo Win Karen National Union (KNU)
Khu Oo Reh Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP)
Gen N. Banla Kachin Independence Organization (KIO)
Dr Laja Kachin Independence Organization (KIO)
Zin Cung Chin National Front (CNF)
Dr Sui Kha Chin National Front (CNF)
Hkun Okker PaO National Liberation Organization (PNLO)
Nai Hong Sa New Mon State Party (NMSP)
Gen Yawd Serk Restoration Council of Shan State / Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA)

The situation was not perfect. Government troops were still fighting against the KIO (that had signed the ceasefire agreement in 1994) and the two SSAs (that had signed it on 2 December 2011 and 28 January 2012 respectively). In addition, unlike the 1989-2009 period, when groups that concluded truce automatically became legal organizations, those that had signed new ceasefire agreements were still illegal organizations, though allowed to operate in government-controlled cities and towns.

Moreover, despite calls for a nationwide ceasefire declaration from almost every quarter, the government had simply ignored them. “The Burmese government always likes to have a card up its sleeve,” commented a participant.

It was to find out how they could respond to this challenge that they had come together. And they were not disappointed, because they saw eye to eye in several areas:

  • The biggest challenge is to amend the 2008 constitution
  • Trying to amend it within the parliament is out of the question
  • The basis for negotiations must be the 1947 Panglong Agreement through which the Union came into existence
  • There must be a common set of principles and plans for all the groups concerned
  • Popular participation and cooperation with democratic forces are necessary to reach a win-win solution

The 3-day consultations ended with 2 resolutions:

  • A 3 stage peace plan (Ceasefire, Implementation of agreements, and Political Dialogue)
  • To form a working group to develop a common set of principles and plans for the peace process

The result was the Working Group for Ethnic Coordination (WGEC) in June 2012. Initially, it was made up of representatives from the 7 states plus advisers. But following the Ethnic Nationalities Conference in September, representatives from Civil Society Organizations (2 each from youth, women and issue-based CBOs) were added.

Since then, it has met once a month to work out a framework for the upcoming political dialogue which includes: agenda, composition, mandate, structure, transitional arrangement and core principles, among others.

The draft framework drawn up by the WGEC is now waiting for comments and suggestions from each group until it becomes a blueprint to be proposed at the next meeting with the Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC).

Finally, there has been questions about whether the WGEC is the ethnic resistance’s answer to the government’s Myanmar Peace Center (MPC).

SHAN cannot answer to this. But according to the WGEC meeting held last weekend in Chiangmai, there are clear differences. For one thing, the WGEC members, except for advisers, are members of the resistance and activist organizations. For another, they don’t receive salaries for their work. And, last but not least, representatives from each group take turns to facilitate the monthly meetings. There are no fixed office holders.


Allwebsitetools © 2014 Shan Herald Agency for News All Rights Reserved