Guest Column

‘All Stakeholders’ Negotiations Can Succeed: Just Take Out Min Aung Hlaing

By Igor Blazevic 3 January 2023

Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG), National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC), Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) and 20 other important drivers of the broad, nationwide movement against the military junta have released an important New Year Joint Declaration on the People’s Revolution.

In it they articulate a clear vision and roadmap for how to lead Myanmar out of the current tragedy caused by the futile and criminal effort of the military junta to grab and consolidate power. Leading actors of the Spring Revolution are showing unity and mutual agreement on the principles and key steps for how and where to go to end the violence and destruction of the country and to find a solid political solution on which lasting peace and development can be built.

Myanmar’s neighbors, other relevant and concerned countries in the Indo-Pacific region and key global actors have a clear choice. The first option is to help the people of Myanmar and their legitimate representatives follow the path that is outlined in the New Year Joint Declaration – and that includes rejection of the junta and eradication of the military dictatorship.

The other option is to continue to do little or nothing, such as by engaging in futile efforts to negotiate an agreement between “all stakeholders” including the current murderous and illegitimate junta. This approach will just lead to further escalation of the junta’s war against the people, further mass atrocities, deepening instability and chaos, continued destruction of civilian infrastructure and the burning to the ground of hundreds of villages, the creation of hundreds of thousands of IDPs (internally displaced persons) and a further meltdown of the economy. At the end of this path, after years of conflict and enormous civilian suffering, we will have neither stability under consolidated military dictatorship nor negotiated compromise between “all stakeholders”. Instead, we will have a broken, fragmented country divided into territories (most likely five to seven) controlled by different armed militias with the former Myanmar army being nothing better than the worst among all predatory militias. It will be an irreparably broken country, like the current Libya or South Sudan.

This Joint Declaration, as well as a few other statements issued over the New Year period (like the statement of the Three Brotherhood Alliance and a speech given by Kachin Independence Organization chairman General N’Ban La) clearly show to international actors and neighbors of Myanmar that a dialogue and agreement between all relevant stakeholders is already present. Such dialogue and agreement is possible and already exists once one takes Min Aung Hlaing and his criminal junta out of the equation. Min Aung Hlaing’s blunder, his failed coup, is the root of all the troubles that have happened in Myanmar since February 2021. His effort to impose power through sheer brutality, murder and destruction is the only obstacle to finding a solution for the country.

Remove Min Aung Hlaing and it will be possible to relatively quickly deescalate the violence, bring back basic security, provide much-needed humanitarian assistance, resume economic activities and start political negotiations, which have a good chance of finding compromise and agreement about the founding documents of a new Federal and Democratic Union of Myanmar.

Removing Min Aung Hlaing would be much easier than it seems to international actors. He is already rejected by the people of the country and has a very shaky position within the military itself. What is holding him in the game – in addition to the brutal violence he is applying, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s cynical assistance, and revenues from Myanmar’s gas fields – is the readiness of Myanmar’s neighbors to treat him as an indispensable part of the “all stakeholders negotiations”.

Start an active dialogue with all stakeholders without Min Aung Hlaing, and support the processes and actions of all stakeholders without him – and the junta will collapse in a matter of months. Once that happens, the Myanmar military without the current junta will be quick to join the political dialogue and negotiations of all stakeholders, and to join it in a constructive and productive manner.

Myanmar’s neighbors, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the UN and other relevant international actors have a clear choice and a clear opportunity to solve the deepening state failure of Myanmar. There is a realistic chance to achieve what we have not seen in decades – the possibility for lasting peace and stability.

If Myanmar’s neighbors, ASEAN, the UN and other relevant international actors miss this chance, the country will continue to fall deeper and deeper into violence, destruction and fragmentation. Putin might not care about this, but all others, including China, India and Thailand, have an interest in not allowing things to develop this way.

Igor Blazevic is senior adviser with the Prague Civil Society Centre. Between 2011 and 2016 he worked in Myanmar as the head lecturer at the Educational Initiatives Program.