YANGON – The implementation of the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) needs to be thoroughly reviewed, according to leaders of the NCA signatories’ Peace Process Steering Team (PPST), calling the current process a deviation from the path they had envisioned.
From June 28 until July 2, the PPST, representing eight ethnic armed organizations, held a gathering in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in review of the peace process. The discussions explored the strengths and the weaknesses the current process, including the challenges faced at the second session of the 21st Century Panglong peace conference due to the fact that national-level ethnic dialogues were unable to be convened in Shan and Rakhine states at the time of the event, held in late May.
Pu Zing Cung, the chairman of the Chin National Front and a leader in the PPST, said that “the current situation had deviated from the NCA text,” and that keeping the peace process on track was “the biggest challenge” that the signatories faced.
Thus PPST formed a NCA implementation review and reform team led by Karen National Union vice chairman Padoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win. Members said they aimed to assess the reviews in a month’s time and would bring their recommendations to the next signatories’ summit in early August.
The leaders told the reporters at the press conference held on July 2 that the political dialogue framework needed to be finalized, as two frameworks currently exist: the one drafted between the government and NCA signatories, and another one with between the government and both signatories and non-signatories. For inclusivity, both of the frameworks are being used.
Although a comprehensive and finalized version of the framework has not been reached, the PPST members said they tried their best to move forward with the peace process and to contribute to the Union Peace Conference sessions.
Further discussions must focus on the role of the federal states, power sharing between the Union and the states, state constitutions, and the joint implemention of the peace accord, PPST representatives said.
Despite disagreements, 37 basic principles were agreed upon at the most recent session of the peace conference. But federal principles as such equality, autonomy and the drafting of state constitutions have currently been left out of the resulting signed accord.
The Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) had said that through the peace conferences, they would combine all parts of the Union accord and submit it to the Parliament for approval; then the 2008 military-drafted Constitution could be amended, they added.
“The government, the Tatmadaw and the EAOs’ [ethnic armed groups’] interpretations and understandings of the NCA text are different,” said U Than Khe, the chairman of the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front, despite a common aim to build a future federal state through the political negotiations.
Therefore, its different interpretations have impacted the NCA’s implementation, the perspectives on the basic principles, and adherence to the promises made regarding the basic principles.
Pu Zing Cung highlighted the Tatmadaw and the EAOs’ different understandings of security sector reintegration and the inclusion of the political parties.
In the security sector, the EAOs want to implement security sector reform (SSR) on the basis of the federal principles, as was agreed to under the previous government, but the Tatmadaw currently has pushed for a process of disarmament, disintegration and reintegration (DDR).
All political party representatives should be allowed to participate in the process, he said, as the current National League for Democracy government allows for the participation of 23 political parties which have secured seats in the Parliament to be in the process.
The NCA signatories have uniformly emphasized the importance of holding ethnic national level dialogues, in which recommendations are gathered for the basic principles and then brought to the Union Peace Conference, by the Restoration Council of Shan State in Shan State (RCSS) and Arakan Liberation Army/Party (ALA/P) in Rakhine State. The RCSS and ALP did not have their people’s voices represented at the peace conference in May.
They said time constraints matter in further peace talks, and to follow the road map drafted in the NCA; not convening national level dialogues in Shan and Rakhine states, due to inadequate timeframes, would contribute to limitations on the meetings of each working committee in the political, economic, social, security and land and environment sectors, they added.
The government plans to conduct a session of the Union Peace Conference every six months, or twice a year.
Irrawaddy reporter Kyaw Kha contributed to this report.