When news came yesterday that a new peace negotiating team has been formed on 3 May under the chairmanship of Vice President # 2 Dr Sai Mawk Kham and the joint vice chairmanship of U Aung Min, U Thein Zaw and Army Commander in Chief Gen Soe Win, I remembered what Harn Yawnghwe, Director of Euro Burma Office (EBO), and Yawd Serk, leader of the Shan State Army ‘South’ told me earlier:
Following U Aung Min’s marathon meetings with leaders of 5 armed opposition movements on 19-20 November 2011 in Chiangrai, where he announced the government’s 3-stage peace process: Ceasefire, Development and Political Dialogue that would culminate in the holding of a Panglong-like conference, Harn Yawnghwe, who was invited by U Aung Min to act as an honest broker, “suggested that a series of workshop might be needed over a period of 12-18 months to prepare for the conference. (But) U Aung Min said he would like it to happen sooner.”
Which seems to fit in with Naypyitaw’s planned special events for Burma in the upcoming three years:
- 2013 - Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, a universal symbol of peace and fraternity in the country
- 2014 - The long-awaited chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and the end of the 15 year master plan of drug eradication in Burma
- 2015 - The second free, fair and inclusive general elections
All these suggest that Naypyitaw needs to step on the accelerator on the peace process.
So far, the two negotiation teams, one led by U Aung Min and the other by U Aung Thaung, have been able to reach ceasefire agreements with 12 armed movements:
U Aung Min
U Aung Thaung
But despite numerically superior success, U Aung Thaung had conspicuously failed to make headway with the Kachin Independence Organization / Kachin Independence Army (KIO/KIA), against which the Burma Army has been fighting for 11 months. Many observers think it may be the reason why his name has not been seen in the new set-up.
Apart from the KIA, the Burma is still fighting against the two SSAs since the ceasefire agreements with them were signed. The RCSS/SSA, better known as the SSA South, has also been unable to resettle the 8,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) as local Burmese commanders have refused to cooperate. “We need to have the Burma Army on board,” growled SSA leader Yawd Serk at a recent meeting with him. “We won’t be able to accomplish anything without them (generals).”
But will the participation of the Army in the negotiations make things easier? “I imagine they’ll be tougher,” said one of the SSA senior members. “But once there is an agreement, it’ll be easier to implement. So far, the agreements are only ‘in principle’ and not ‘in execution’.”
Let’s hope he’s right.