Political sequence, legitimacy and bargaining in Burma

By: Sai Wansai
Thursday, 01 August 2013

The new political entity “Union of Burma” came to life in 1948, due to the Panglong Agreement in 1947. So it is first, the Panglong Agreement, followed by 1948 Constitution.
Sai Wansai
As all know, that successive military government – Revolutionary Council, BSPP, SLORC, SPDC and now military-dominated Thein Sein regime – have failed to honour the Panglong Agreement, which calls for a genuine federal system of governance.

Because of the military clique breaching the contractual obligation, the Union of Burma formed in 1948 is, in a legal sense, no more in existence. This brings us back to a pre-Panglong Agreement period, where political bargaining has to be restarted anew.

According to DVB report on 30 July, Harn Yawnghwe said: "“You are negotiating with a government, which is in power because of this constitution. So there’s no way of getting around accepting this government if you want to talk to them, and there’s no way of getting around accepting this constitution if you want to talk to them.”

So when Harn Yawnghwe said that the ethnic armed groups must accept the military-drawn 2008 Constitution and recognised Thein Sein government as a pre-condition, to go to the negotiation table, it is somewhat illogical.

The sequence should be: first political settlement, i.e., Panglong-like Accord; second, nation-wide ceasefire; and third, amendment or rewriting of a Union Constitution.

It is true that Thein Sein regime is now being accorded with legitimacy by international community, partly to encourage him and his team, which are considered to be reformers; and mainly out of economic interest, as the last remaining virgin market left to be exploited, paving way for the lifting of various sanctions. Whatever the case, for the non-Burman ethnic nationalities, Thein Sein regime remains a de facto government and not de jure, which comes to life only through a series of orchestrated manipulation; from self-drawn, military-favoured, 2008 Constitution, rigged constitutional referendum to flawed 2010 general elections.

Such being the case, the non-Burman ethnic groups see Thein Sein regime and the Burmese military as a negotiating partners or adversaries and not as a government that is entitled to speak for the whole country. That is why the non-Burman ethnic groups have insisted upon a tripartite dialogue, involving the government plus military, democratic opposition groups and non-Burman ethnic nationalities.

Some elements from the non-Burman side want to consider Thein Sein regime as partner in the reconciliation process. But although Thein Sein maybe forthcoming with promises, tangible results still need to be seen. In other words, forming a coalition, or becoming subordinate to Thein Sein regime is an ill-thought out strategy to fight for one’s political, national aspiration. In short, all non-Burman ethnic groups should see clear and transparent that Thein Sein regime is an adversary in negotiation table and not partner.

Finally, the non-Burman ethnic nationalities should stick to their common goal of achieving the rights of self-determination, democracy and equality, if they still want to be a potent force at the bargaining table with the adversaries.

The contributor is the General Secretary of Shan Democratic Union (SDU) - Editor


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