SSPP involvement in two ethnic umbrella organizations a dilemma or special arrangement?

Sai Wansai —Just as the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has been stuck in a dilemma on its choice to be either with the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) or Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC), also popularly known as Panghsang alliance, for a few weeks ago, but now already decided to be with the latter, many have been speculating that the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) might now be also in the same position as the KIO to either opt for one or the other of the said two ethnic umbrella armed organizations.

UNFC’S FUTURE: Waning political clout or revamping the organization’s image?

Concerned Burma watchers and people involved in the country’s peace process eyes are trained on the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) two-phase meeting, one explicitly for the UNFC members and the other, that was programmed to host other Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) that are operating within the country, ethnic political parties and civil society groups.

CLD chairman Salai Ngai Sak discusses the unification of Chin parties

The leaders of the Chin National Democratic Party (CNDP) and the Chin Progressive Party (CPP) met on June 15 to sign an agreement on merging their two parties. However, the Chin League for Democracy (CLD) – another of the three leading Chin parties – was not included in the merger.

Chin World met with the CLD’s chairman Salai Ngai Sak to discuss his party’s delay in joining the merger and the future of Chin politics.
Salai Ngai Sak served as secretary in the Chin Literature and Culture Committee (Universities - Yangon) in the 1986-87 academic year while he was a university student. He actively participated in the Chin National Union during the 1988 Students’ Uprising. He became the first secretary of the Chin National League for Democracy (CNLD) when it was established to run in the 1990 Election. Later, he worked as an assistant director in the literature department of the Myanmar Baptist Convention.

Salai Ngai Sak also served as a township judge in Kayan, Tedim, Bago and Mongton. He resigned from his post in 2003 but continues to work as a high grade pleader for many cases.He led the founding of the CLD on April 1, 2014.

Q: The leaders of the CNDP and CPP have decided to merge their parties. What is your reaction to this?

A: I warmly welcome the signing of the agreement on June 15 to merge the CNDP and the CPP. I’m not surprised by the signing since the leaders of the three Chin parties met on May 1, 2016 and agreed in principle to merge. [So] I warmly welcome the merger.

Q: What happened over the past year since the parties agreed in principle to merge?

A: We agreed to form a ‘joint coordinating body’ with three representatives from each party to continue negotiations between the three parties. We discussed getting the approval from the CEC (central executive committee) of each party.

Q: The leaders of the two other parties have talked about the CLD’s delay in merging. What has caused this delay?

A: The agreement between the three parties for the merger is still confirmed. We need to look at the policies and [decide] whether we will join the UNA (United Nationalities Alliance) or the NBF (Nationalities Brotherhood Federation) in order to have a sustainable merger.
The CLD’s CEC has agreed to discuss in detail about bringing other Chin parties to join us in the merger. We submitted this to the joint coordinating body in order for them to review the proposal and respond on which points they can agree on and which points they can’t agree on.

But, we haven’t received a response from them. While we were still carrying out the negotiation, we saw in the journals about the merging of the CNDP and the CPP and the selection of the party name.

Q: What kind of proposals did the CLD make?

A: We proposed to establish a Chin Parties Alliance from August 2016 to January 2018 to work together on mutual trust building, policies and alliance issues. Three representatives from each party would be in this alliance. We would stand together for 18 months. If there were parties that want to join the alliance, we should allow them to join. The parties that want to merge should dissolve their parties in January 2018 and register together under a single party.

We submitted this proposal because we believed it would be more effective to carry out all-inclusiveness for a sustainable merger. If this program had been accepted, the Chin parties’ alliance would have been making a lot of progress. As there wasn’t any response to our proposal, each side waited for the other and caused the delay.

Q: What does the CLD plan to do now that the two parties have taken a step forward?

A: The CLD will hold a party conference in October to discuss the issue of merging the Chin parties since it didn’t work out as we proposed.

Q: The Chin people seem to want a unification of the Chin parties. Does this delay go against public wishes?

A: It’s good that the Chin people have urged the unification of the Chin parties. They want it to be successful. [We want to] find a solution through detailed discussion to prevent the group from splitting up after merging. We don’t want to split up like the ALD (Arakan League for Democracy) and the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP), which split up a year after merging. I believe it’s not too late to merge by March 2018.

Q: What does the merger mean for the 2020 Election?

A: It’s great to merge the Chin parties, but I don’t think they can win in the 2020 Election just by merging. It depends on leadership, policy and the qualifications of the candidates. For example, the CNDP ran in over 25 places where the CLD was not running in the 2015 Election but didn’t win. Similarly, the CNDP didn’t win when it ran in the places without the CPP. Even in the 2017 By-election, the CLD avoided running in Thantlang constituency in order for the CNDP to win, but it didn’t win. I believe it depends on the situation of the NLD (National League for Democracy) and the USDP (Union Solidarity and Development Party) and the qualifications of the candidates.

Q: Lastly, what do you want to say about the claims of position disputes surrounding the merger?

A: I have been facing some accusations that are not correct. Since the founding of the CLD, I have only temporarily taken the chairman position. I plan to resign during the re-election of the CEC at the party conference. I can’t say whether I will become a secretary or vice-chairman during the re-election. I have made several requests [to the CEC] to allow my resignation since I have taken full responsibility for the CLD’s failure to win in the 2015 Election.

The unification of Chin parties should only be for the Chin people. It must be honest and pure. The other parties should respect and give time to a proposal submitted by one party. Even if they don’t agree with the proposals, they should have patience and negotiate without blaming each other.

If we are unable to merge, we will need to accept a multi-party system and continue to join hands as allies. [For example,] the AFO (Anti-Fascist Organisation) and AFPFL (Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League) worked together with the Chin nationalists during 1945-48 era.

Government’s peace overture, China’s involvement and the Pangkham alliance

As United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of 7 Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) is pulling through its bi-annual meeting in two phases, one from from June 20 to 26 for the UNFC’s members and the other, from June 27 to 29 for all EAOs, to establish common ground like the one held in Mai Ja Yang, Kachin State in 2016, the other 7 EAOs under the banner of Federal Political Negotiation Consultative Committee (FPNCC) and the government’s Peace Commission (PC) is geared to meet each other in China in the very near future.

The FPNCC members are United Wa State Army (UWSA), Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), Shan State Progress Party (SSPP), Kokang or Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Mong La or National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Arakan Army (AA).

The initiative came from the government’s PC that has been entrusted by the State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, under the leadership of Dr Tin Myo Win.

According to the TNLA vice chairman Tar Jode Jar, vice president Thein Zaw of PC has contacted the Chinese authorities and relayed the message to negotiate with the Pangkham alliance or FPNCC, on June 19.

In the recant BBC interview, the TNLA leader said that it is likely the negotiation and meeting with the government might take place after June 20, in one of the town along the border in China.

However, the overture from the government side didn’t mention anything whether it would like to meet the FPNCC as a group, according to the TNLA leader, although he reiterated that any meeting between the alliance and the government has to be as a group and not separately.

But Zaw Htay spokesperson of state’s counsellor office told 7 Day Daily on June 15 that the meeting won’t be meeting the FPNCC as a group but would be conducting it separately, in which one group would comprise of four, and the other three.

He said: “Regarding the Northern Alliance (another name for the FPNCC), we have opened negotiation channel. But we won’t discuss with the committee that is formed with seven members. During the convention in Nay Pyi Taw, the meeting with the state counsellor was done separately one with four groups and another with three groups (in two sets of meeting).”

He continued to stress that if not, negotiation with the government separately as individual group could also be done.

Aung Soe, a member of the government’s PC and a lower house lawmaker also echoed Zaw Htay’s position saying that the government “will meet three northern groups together [the TNLA, the AA, and MNDAA] and the rest separately.”

Additional to this government’s mode of separate meeting scheme, the KIO’s initiative to meet the Tatmadaw or the Military separately regarding the ceasefire negotiation has also recently been in the pipeline.

Insider government sources close to a signatory ethnic armed organization said that recently, Khin Zaw Oo secretary of the government’s PC, on his way back from Nepal, met General N’Ban La leader of the KIO in Chiang Mai, where he was asked to convey message to the Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing that the KIO wanted a direct negotiation channel to talk about the ceasefire. The Military side has signalled to agree to the proposal and negotiation now seems to be in progress, although no details were forthcoming, as of this writing.

Apart from the problems regarding the mode of meeting between the PC and FPNCC, the latter’s alteration or amendment demand of the present, government accepted Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), so that it could possibly sign it, could be also a hard nut to crack, as its proposal amounts to somewhat like agreeing to a Hong Kong-like status under the former British administration or confederation-like political system aspirations would not be that easy to compromise for the government.

Given such a backdrop, where China is so intensively involved in the peace process to at least make the Burma-China border free from armed engagement between the Northern Alliance and the Tatmadaw, so that its “One Belt One Road” economic scheme could be materialized, both contending parties – the Tatmadaw and the Northern Alliance – are forced to accommodate the wish of the giant, powerful neighbour.

As it is, in order to appease or sooth down the demanding powerful neighbour, who, by hook or by crook, is already deeply involved in the peace process game, the concerned stakeholders would have to come to terms by any means. And as such, it would be much better for all to compromise and find a middle ground that is acceptable to all parties, from agreeing to the mode of meeting to accommodating political aspirations that all could live with.

For too long, the contending parties only continue to be bogged down to gain political edge primarily on both sides of the political spectrum. This failure to recognise a common visionary concept on how the country should be moulded and ethnic aspirations accommodated, need to be corrected, if we are to end this vicious circle of violence, peace restored and eventual political settlement made possible.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s Canadian Visit Exposes Media Blind Spots in Reporting Burma

Anyone working for social justice in Burma should be disappointed by the mainstream media’s coverage of Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit to Canada last week. Given ongoing military abuses throughout Burma’s ethnic regions, it was frustrating to see headlines focusing again and again that Canada must press Aung San Suu Kyi regarding her government’s brutal treatment of Rohingya Muslim communities in Rakhine State, while ignoring the plight of other ethnic peoples in Burma.

‘These Bengalis are killing members of their own community’: administrator discusses curfew, stability in northern Rakhine

June 11

The curfew has been extended in Rakhine State’s Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships now eight months after the government launched a counter-insurgency campaign in the area. The evening curfew remains in effect from 9pm through 5am in Maungdaw, and between 10pm and 4am in Buthidaung.

Narinjara News interviewed Maungdaw Township Administrator U Myint Khine to ask about the two-month extension of the night curfew, which was ordered on June 9.

Q: Why has the night curfew been extended in these areas?
A: The reason is a lack of regional stability. These areas don’t have 24-hour electricity. The night curfew was issued as we don’t have full [visibility] at night.

Q: What has caused the instability?
A: Everyone already knows about the incident on October 9 [when an insurgent group staged lethal, pre-dawn attacks on three border guard posts]. After the October 9 incident, there are still killings in the villages at night. You must have heard about the Bengali people who are being killed at night in retaliation for cooperating with the government and relying on the administration. We will need to impose the night curfew as long as these issues continue.

Q: Who is responsible for the killings? Which organizations are they from?
A: The killings are related to the October 9 incident. In the past, there was an insurgent group called the RSO [Rohingya Solidarity Organization]. Now, there is a group called the Arakan something [Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army]. These Bengalis are killing members of their own community.

*Editor’s note: Social media accounts that self-identify as representing ARSA have repeatedly issued denials about attacking civilians.

Q: Have there been any more attacks against security forces?
A: They haven’t attacked the Tatmadaw or the Border Police forces. They are only staging attacks among their own community. They haven’t attacked the [Rakhine] ethnic people, government officials, the Tatmadaw or the police. They are only attacking [Bengalis] who have assisted the government.

Q: What is your opinion about these killings among the Bengalis?
A: I believe they are doing it to disturb the mechanisms of the administration and to attempt to scare the public to prevent further cooperation with the government.

Q: What security measures are being carried out by the township administrators to improve stability in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships?
A: Tatmadaw and Border Police forces continue to operate in these areas. We have been discussing the issue [of the murders] at meetings that are held twice a month. When these incidents happen, we try to find out the truth. But because the murders are happening within their community, we are unable to discern the whole truth. They tend to keep things among themselves. It’s not good for them to be united in such a bad way. Even when they know about someone breaking the law or know who is responsible for the killing, they are very afraid to act as a witness. So, it’s difficult to reveal the truth. We are doing our best but we still need to impose the night curfew as long as instability exists.

Prospect of the Karenni and Mon in the wake of uncertain UNFC’s subsistence

After the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) resignation, followed by the Wa National Organization (WNO), the hitherto United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) members of seven has been left with just five members. And of the remaining five, one of them – the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) – has also joined the Pangkham alliance, also known as Federal Political Negotiation Consultative Committee (FPNCC), together with the KIO and thus the UNFC couldn’t be sure, if the remaining members count would be four or five. But at least for now, it could be counted as five, because the SSPP has not resigned from the UNFC, although at the same time, it is also the Pangkham alliance member.

Who is navigating the peace process ship?

The second round of the Union Peace Conference went ahead in the Burmese capital, Naypyidaw, from May 24 to 29. During those six days of talks, stakeholders signed partial agreements.

Striking for Peace and political power in Myanmar: Seeking true unity in the struggling Union

There is a once-in-a-lifetime political moment unfolding around us, as the people of Myanmar (Burma) strike for a new status quo of politics and peace. Many of our leaders are fighting for their humanity, regardless of race, gender, religion, ethnicity, culture and tribe. After decades of marginalization, resistance leaders and armed ethnic groups have been given a voice to share their alternative political views with the nation and the world at the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference from may 24 to 29.

Subscribe to this RSS feed