To Hopeland and Back: The 23rd trip

Day Five. Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Sometimes, it is as necessary to take risks to win peace, as it is in war to win victories.
Drum Beat (1954)

Today’s the Pyidaungsu Institute for Peace and Dialogue (PI) meeting which I have the honor to host. That’s why I wasn’t able to stay in Naypyitaw last evening, no matter how much I wanted to.

Here are some of the observations by the participants on current situation:

·         Burma is jammed between US, China, India and Japan, depending on all of them to survive. The dark horse is Russia that keeps a low profile in the country but according to Geopolitics weekly, its biggest concern is its “sprawling landmass and lack of defenses” that “compel it to reach beyond its borders and build buffers against the West.” 

·         Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has visited all these big powers except Russia, where the President went in May.

·         Noteworthy is the remark by the outgoing Japanese defense minister Gen (not General, just his name) Nakatani before his June visit to Burma: that three countries (Thailand, Myanmar and East Timor) are very important for Japan’s security.

·         In October, the United States upgraded its relations with Burma by removing several former junta leaders and “cronies” from its blacklist.

·         Inside the country, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi announced on Burmese New Year’s Day peace and reconciliation were her priorities. Accordingly, the Union Peace Conference #2 (re-labeled UPC 21st Century Panglong #1) where 18 EAOs had attended was held, which announced that the UPC#3 will be in February following (local based, ethnic based and topic based) political dialogues. The 1975 state protection law has been revoked. So has the notorious Section 5 J.

·         The “dark side of the moon” includes:
Dr. Sai Oo

-          Still no report from Union Election Commission (UEC) of the 2015 general elections
-          The war has intensified and the Lady “seems to be at a loss” how to handle the military on the one hand, and the peace process on the other

And here are some of PI’s key plans:

·      The PIY (PI Yangon) will become main office headed by Dr Sai Oo. PICM (PI Chiangmai) will remain as PILO (PI Liaison Office)

·      More publications, especially the “Bilateral Agreements” between Naypyitaw and the EAOs

·      Continues working with key stakeholders in the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee (JMC), Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) and the National level Political Dialogues (ND)

·      Recruitment of new researchers

The journal however will be incomplete without touching on the negotiations between Naypyitaw and the non-signatories. Here are some of the observations:

·         The general impression is that the international community wants the NCA signed, but has little understanding of the reasons behind the non-signatories’ refusal to sign

·         The government is also suspicious that the 9 point proposal presented by the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) is just a delaying tactic, because the proposal, while including other items, does not have anything to say about “all inclusiveness,” which it has time and again stated publicly as the key condition prior to its signing

·         On the non-signatories’ side, the government, or rather, the military’s continued offensives remain a stumbling block

·         One thing seems to be clear: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, unlike U Thein Sein, her predecessor, doesn’t have any legitimacy problem. She therefore has very little incentive to compromise with anyone, except the military
For the military, it appears to be gaining legitimacy, thanks to its decision to allow the Lady’s party to assume office. The Arakan Army’s activities, for instance, had been dubbed by it “as anti-democracy and a hostile act toward the state.” If it can say this to AA, so it can to others too

A lawyer friend I meet later tells me this: I’ve already advised the UNFC that it should sign, at least for two reasons:

·         One, if you keep on refusing to sign it, the world will think you’re just being pig-headed, and if the Burma Army attacks, you have no one to blame but yourself. On the other hand, if you have signed it and the Burma Army still attacks you, the whole blame will be on it instead
Marshal Ivan Konev (Photo:

·         Two, by signing the NCA, you will have the legal protection from it, as it has been ratified by the Parliament. But if you don’t, there will be nothing to protect you, not even the bilateral agreements you had signed, because the NCA only ‘recognizes, reinforces and reaffirms’ these agreements only if you are an NCA signatory

Of course, there is a question about the military launching attacks to pressure the EAOs either to sign or, though surprising it may seem, not to sign.

Marshal Ivan Konev, the Russian general who made a name for himself during World War , has a winning answer which I think is applicable to both military or political situations:

Make up your mind what the enemy expects you do, then do just the opposite

The evening is quietly spent celebrating the victory of Donald Trump, as well as weeping for the defeat of Hillary. I’m sure you know how we do it.


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