Burma Army Chief Says Ethnic Rebels Should Abandon Arms, Make ‘Logical’ Demands

By Lawi Weng 30 June 2015

RANGOON — Burma Army chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing reaffirmed the military’s position that ethnic armed groups should disarm in their pursuit of peace, during a meeting with a Chinese diplomat, according to the military-owned Myawaddy newspaper.

Min Aung Hlaing offered his views on the stalled nationwide ceasefire process and the Kokang conflict along the Burma-China border during a meeting with China’s Asian affairs envoy Sun Guoxiang in Naypyidaw on Monday.

Sun Guoxiang attended an ethnic summit in Karen State’s Law Khee Lar earlier this month during which ethnic armed groups voted against endorsing the draft ceasefire text in its current form and established a new negotiating bloc to replace the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT).

Min Aung Hlaing said the army’s “true wish” was to restore peace but that some ethnic armed groups were pursuing their own aims. Although they were demanding their ethnic rights, he said, “we already have the constitution which offers equal rights.”

According to Myawaddy, the commander-in-chief told Sun Guoxiang that it was important ethnic rebels abandon armed struggle and accept the process of DDR—disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration.

“In any country there is only one armed force,” Min Aung Hlaing said, adding that ethnic armed groups should have the will to integrate according to the law and that their demands should be “logical.”

Nai Hong Sar, the head of the NCCT, refuted Min Aung Hlaing’s comments on Tuesday, calling for wholesale reform of the political system before such demands could be countenanced.

“We cannot accept their DDR. We cannot trust it. Our belief is that this country needs to establish a federal system. The army has to reform when the country has a federal system. There will only be a military regime if there is no reform within the Burma Army, even if the country has a federal system,” Nai Hong Sar said.

He said that ethnic minorities would not be able to voice demands for their political rights if they laid down their arms and cited the 2008 constitution as only entrenching the military’s political power.

“Burma does not have real democracy yet and it is not the right time to abandon the ethnic armed groups,” Nai Hong Sar said. “We agree there should only be one armed force in a country, but our ethnic armed forces need to take care of security in our regions.”

Regarding fighting in the Kokang Special Region, which began in February between the government army and Kokang rebels of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, Min Aung Hlaing reportedly told the Chinese envoy that the rebels, who he claimed were engaged in drug production, should not be allowed to harm Burma-China relations.

Sun Guoxiang told the Burmese army chief that China would not allow any group to use its territory to launch attacks on Burma and that Beijing respected its neighbor’s “independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”