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

  • Written by SHAN/ Sai Wansai
  • Published in Op-ed

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.