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POSITIVE STEPS TOWARDS PEACE, BUT FAMILIAR FACES MAY SIGNIFY TROUBLE AHEAD

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ENAC Briefing No. 17

24 May 2016

-On May 16th, Aung San Suu Kyi met with representatives of the Tatmadaw and the former Myanmar Peace Center (MPC). The State Counselor reiterated the need for a “21st -Century Panglong Conference” at the end of July, and the creation of a committee for the reorganization of the MPC as the National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC), a committee to prepare for the “21st -Century Panglong Conference,” and two subcommittees – one to work with Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) signatories and one to work with non-signatories. The majority of ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) did not sign the NCA on October 15, 2015.

The creation of a peace process sub-committee to work with non-signatory EAOs suggests that the government will soon open discussions with these groups, who have not yet been approached by the new government. This is a positive step towards a successful process. Another welcome development is the committee to reorganize the MPC as the new NRPC, headquartered in Naypyitaw rather than Yangon. The MPC’s reputation amongst EAOs is heavily tarnished, and any continued involvement of the old MPC or its leaders may signify trouble ahead.

However, the effectiveness of the new non-signatories subcommittee will be largely determined by its ability to approach non-signatories without triggering the issues that led to the failure of the NCA process, namely the exclusion of various EAOs. Unfortunately, it seems the subcommittee’s composition could be problematic. ENAC has received information from a reliable source that at least half of the ten subcommittee members are associated with the MPC or Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC), the Thein Sein government’s peace negotiation team during the NCA process.

The presence of MPC- or UPWC-associated members on the subcommittee that approaches signatories may make sense – discussions with signatories will be a natural continuation and implementation of the NCA. However, for non-signatories, this is not the case; for them, the NCA peace process failed. Any indication that the new government’s peace team will favor the approaches of the UPWC and MPC will only make newly-initiated discussions that much more difficult. The State Counselor and her team are well versed in the recent peace process and would not be handicapped by the absence of familiar faces on the government’s side of the negotiating table. Therefore, these old-guard negotiators may threaten a fragile process more than strengthen it.

Fortunately, the likely appointment of Dr. Tin Myo Win as the non-signatories subcommittee chairman is a positive sign of a new approach to peace, but that progress will be severely belied if he is surrounded by old-guard negotiators. Meanwhile, despite the efforts of these very same negotiators, military offensives continue in Arakan, Kachin, and Shan states. It is now the time for new faces on the government’s side of the negotiating table. Download PDF file

Ethnic Nationalities Affairs Center | www.burmaenac.org

 

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