To Hopeland and Back (Part II) #5

As the plane touched the ground in Tachilek on 17 June, a Burmese official who came to pick me up handed me his handphone: a call from U Hla Maung Shwe, MPC special adviser.
He wanted to know how I rated the success of the trip led by Lt-Gen Yawdserk in percentage terms. I thought for a while and answered, “60%”.

Looking back after two weeks, I still hold to the same percentage, which was a 10% increase from my original 50%.

My calculation was that since this was a great opportunity to show to the skeptical world that Naypyitaw really meant business, I had no doubt it was going to look good.

However during my 8-day stay there, I also found out that there were several people and officials who were working hard to widen the space and make the trend irreversible. Of course, the time is quite limited, 2 ½ years until the end of 2015. But with careful planning, implementation, cooperation and a lot of luck, many things can be accomplished. That was the reason for the 10% increase in my success rate.

Coming to this, I remember someone asking Yawdserk during a press conference, “You seem to be supporting President Thein Sein a lot. Why is it?” His reply was, “Well, he appears to be a good man to me. And anyhow if I’m going against him, I’ll be in the camp of the people who are opposing the reforms. You know I cannot side with them.”

So what about the remaining balance?

It is very clear. There is still fighting in Shan State and Kachin State. The reason: the Burmese military is still on the push, although it is placing all the blame on the rebels at the same time. The rebels had in the past lodged complaints with U Aung Min, the President’s front man, and it hadn’t worked.

It means a separate peace talks with the military, whose army commander in chief, Vice Senior General Soe Win, who is also wearing the hat of a vice chairman in the Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC), is in order.

Knowing the military and its Total War mentality (and that of the rebels’ own hardliners), it won’t be an easy job. But no stones should be left unturned. Because we know not all the military’s top brass are for war. And if the talks turn nasty, it’ll leave no doubt in the onlookers’ minds whose in the wrong.

My conclusion, therefore, is that although one leaf of the door to peace is still closed, we should not wait until it is also opened. We should instead plan carefully and boldly step in through the open side of the door and push/pull the remaining leaf open both from inside and outside, and if the door just collapses, so much the better.


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