The peace process that is scheduled to pick up again on May 24, known as Union Peace Conference – 21st Century Panglong (UPC-21CP), now seems to be further away from being all-inclusive again as the one main ethnic bloc, United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), is beginning to disintegrate starting last month when the Pangkham-initiated, totally new peace approach was launched on April 19, by rejecting the government-led Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA)-based peace process that so far has been the only game in town.
When a truck crashed through a Thanbyuzayat traffic circle last month, destroying a golden Sheldrake sculpture, many Mon people saw their feelings of persecution embodied. The Sheldrake is a symbol of Mon culture and its destruction capped off 100 days of ethnic strain that included the opening of the controversial General Aung San Bridge and a by-election in which ethnic politics was central.
Every man is my superior in some way.
In that I learn from him.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
It was an honor to attend, observe and advise the Annual meeting of the almost 4 year old Committee for Shan State Unity (CSSU), the association of 3 political parties, 2 armed resistance armies, and 6 CSOs, in Chiangmai.
Introduction: The Contemporary Impasse
With the Union Peace Conference, known as the “21st Century Panglong”, rescheduled to start on 24 May, we are about to revisit some highly sensitive issues in Myanmar’s recent past that were very wrongly handled at the time. If the forthcoming conference is to right the historical wrongs that have since haunted us, it is essential that all sides in our country’s impasse look back to history and re-assess the reasons for the legacies of conflict and state failure that have long held back national progress. Seventy years after the Panglong agreement in February 1947, nation-building is still an unfinished process, ethnic conflict and human rights violations are continuing, and many of the political and economic challenges have deepened after more than half a century of military rule.
Since October 15, 2015, Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA)-based peace process has been the only game in town. Principally, Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) must sign the NCA before being allowed to participate in what is officially known as the Union Peace Conference – 21st Century Panglong (UPC-21CP), which has been convened twice already, once during the tenure of President Thein Sein and again during the rule of National League for Democracy (NLD) government, under the de facto leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi. The third conference is scheduled to be held on May 24, according to official announcement, following the agreement reached earlier at the Joint Implementation Coordination Meeting between officials of the government and leaders of the armed ethnic organizations that have signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, in Naypyitaw.
The Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing visited Europe at the invitation of the European Union Military Committee (EUMC) November last year and again starting from April 22, by its German counterpart, Chief of Defense of the German Armed Forces General Volker Weiker, which is still ongoing at this writing.
The Arakan Army was established in April 2009, declaring its mission as safeguarding the Rakhine (Arakan) peoples right to self-determination, and protecting the cultural heritage and identity of the Rakhine ethnicity. The Arakan Army (AA) is one of the four members of the Northern Alliance – a coalition that emerged in November 2016 during a joint offensive against the Tatmadaw in Muse township. The alliance, which consists of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Arakan Army (AA), has continued carrying out coordinated attacks on Tatmadaw and government outposts in northern Shan State. The alliance has lobbied for both the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and China to be given observer status in the peace process. None of the four factions of the Northern Alliance have signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).