UWSP Criticizes the Government Peace Process at Ethnic Summit

By Kyaw Kha 24 February 2017

RANGOON — Bao Youxiang, chairman of the United Wa State Party (UWSP), has criticized the government-led peace process and called on ethnic armed groups to develop a new one during a summit of ethnic armed organizations in Panghsang, the capital of the Wa Self-Administered Division.

As the summit kicked off on Wednesday, the UWSP chairman said that discussions between ethnic armed groups and successive governments since the National Convention in 1993 were “confusing and unproductive.”

He said that disputes between the government and ethnic armed groups could not be solved and that civil war could not be stopped, either by the military regimes or the latest civilian government.

Government efforts to force a nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) still have not provided an end to the fierce clashes, he criticized.

Bao Youxiang urged participants to find a new peace process before the second 21st Century Panglong Conference begins in March.

Ethnic armed groups attending the summit included the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) or Mongla group, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) or Kokang, and the Arakan Army (AA).

The Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) and New Mon State Party (NMSP) were both invited to the summit but did not send delegations.

State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has urged the ethnic armed groups to embrace the “Panglong Spirit,” but she has only vaguely explained what she means by that, Bao Youxiang said. It is assumed that the Panglong Spirit refers to the equality and federalism pledge of the 1947 Panglong Agreement.

The UWSP chairman called on Panghsang summit participants to define a new Panglong Spirit that would match the practical realities of modern-day Burma.

In the past, he argued, the armed ethnic groups did not make clear their definitions of democracy, equality, independence, and self-determination.

This oversight allowed successive governments to take advantage of the armed groups, he said.

Bao Youxiang urged the summit participants to discuss their standpoints on the NCA, and to adopt better strategies for political dialogue with the government.

Over the past decades, previous military governments practiced a policy of divide-and-rule when it came to dealing with ethnic armed groups. Those governments pushed to hold separate negotiations with each ethnic armed group.

The UWSP chairman said he would not allow the Burma government to take the lead role in future discussions.

The MNDAA and SSPP also sent messages to the summit. MNDAA delegates suggested that China be invited to supervise the peace negotiations between the Union government and ethnic armed groups.

The MNDAA said they did not accept the terms of the NCA, and they called on the government to design a new ceasefire agreement that would be acceptable to all ethnic armed groups. They said they would not mind if they were left out of the political dialogue or subjected to military pressures because of their refusal to sign the current NCA.

SSPP members said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s government was not actually ruling the country. They pointed to the fact that the Burma Army still controls three key ministries—defense, home affairs, and border affairs—and that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi still cannot changes Article 436 and 59(f) of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution because the Burma Army controls 25 percent of the seats in Parliament.

Any hopes for achieving internal peace, establishing rule of law, or amending the 2008 Constitution—all issues that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has spoken loudly about—are quickly fading, said SSPP delegates.

The SSPP pointed out that the Burma Army was not under the control of the government, according to the controversial 2008 Constitution.
SSPP members also accused the Burma Army of attacking ethnic armed groups—often against the policies of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi—in order to perpetuate its grip on power.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.