Is Burma Army hard stance putting peace process in jeopardy?

Burma Army Commander-in-Chief, Min Aung Hlaing's unyielding, negotiated surrender position of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) and rejecting Ethnic Armed Organizations' (EAOs) insistence of incorporating security sector reform (SSR) are having a negative impact on the ongoing peace process, which resumes today, after a break for about a week ago.

According to The Irrawaddy report, on 27 March, “In the implementation of a cease fire and peace process, the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration [of ethnic armed groups] is essential,” Min Aung Hlaing said.

“National solidarity [and] national reconciliation… will be carried out without fail as the Tatmadaw is the Union Defence Services formed by ethnic people of the Union.”

When one looks at Min Aung Hlaing's statement generally, it is quite harmless and could even see eye-to-eye that DDR is the way to go, if durable post-conflict, peaceful atmosphere should be maintained. DDR, as its name suggests, is only all about disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, but says nothing about security sector reform, which from the EAOs' point of view is the restructuring of the military into a federal army, to be in line with a federal union. Besides, for the EAOs, insisting only on DDR is interpreted as a “negotiated surrender”; a non-starter to achieve a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).

Sean McFate, in his article “ The Link Between DDR and SSR in Conflict-Affected Countries” writes:
“Disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) and security sector reform (SSR) processes should be interrelated and mutually reinforcing. As DDR and SSR share the same objective--consolidation of the state’s monopoly of force to uphold the rule of law--they succeed or fail together and should be planned, resourced, implemented, and evaluated in a coordinated manner. The natural point of intersection for DDR and SSR is in the reintegration phase, as many ex-combatants find employment in the security apparatus that SSR creates.” (Source: The Link Between DDR and SSR in Conflict-Affected Countries – By: Sean McFate. Published: May 5, 2010)

Min Aung Hlaing's parting shot, on 13 February this year, when the EAOs were invited to attend the Union Day and four parties out of thirteen have signed the government's the “Deed of Commitment to Peace and National Reconciliation” MoU, that all should embrace the collective national identity of "Myanmar" and disregard their aspirations of  “ethnic or national identity", many were said to be caught off guard and later were furious on his parting remark, according to some ethnic sources that were present at the occasion.

Again, according to The Irrawaddy report of 17 February, Min Aung Hlaing was believed to have  again hinted that  Wa are foreigners. The report writes:

“On Union Day, Feb. 12, Min Aung Hlaing met with several ethnic representatives in Naypyidaw, imploring them as citizens to maintain their Myanmar identity. It was as if he were suggesting that some other ethnic groups were foreigners. Some observers interpreted the message as being directed at the Wa, one of the groups represented at the meeting.”

Finally, the Burma Army escalation of war in Shan and Kachin States, conducting massive offensive on Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Ta-ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Arakan Army (AA) and accusing Shan State Army-North (SSA- N), United Wa State Army (UWSA) and Mong La, are indications of total war declaration on all EAOs.

VOA of 28 March filed a report that the Burma Army have launched furious offensive at MNDAA positions along the Chinese border, and attacking the TNLA, in Kutkai township, at the same time. Also in Kachin State of Mansi township, the KIA and Burma Army are at loggerhead, following the armed clashes that occurred a week ago, involving attacks with fighter bombers and infantry offensives by the Burma Army.

According to Duang Khar, head of the Kachin Independence Organization’s technical team, the Burma Army offensives on KIA positions, with the pretext of taking action on timber smuggling gangs, is actually aimed at capturing and controlling of the strategic communication route of Bhamo-Namkham, from the KIA.

All the said episodes are pointing at the continuation of military hard-line policy of “total annihilation” or “negotiated surrender” of the EAOs. The military has started out with its strategy of Border Guard Force (BGF) program to control or get rid of the ethnic resistance, once and for all, but drew back, when met with massive deterrence; only to come back again, employing massive military offensives and blurting out ethnocentric statements, not at all helpful to the ongoing peace process.

So what is the motive behind such undertakings? Is it to sabotage the peace process, which the government has never really intended to fulfill, or to ward off the upcoming general election, using the pretext of heightened civil war, which the regime doesn't have the means to win?

If it is so, the regime's whole reform process will be just a sham undertaking, which was never meant to be fulfilled. Hopefully, this speculation will be proved wrong.

The contributor is ex-General Secretary of the dormant Shan Democratic Union (SDU) — Editor

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Kaplan's Burma

It took me 4 months to finish the 375- page 'Monsoon'by Dr Robert D.Kaplan published 5 years ago.

The book is not about Burma but about the struggle by the world's superpowers each against its own strategic disadvantage in the Indian Ocean region where Burma is holding the center stage.

The ocean is divided into ' two halves, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal: at the top of the Arabian Sea is Pakistan; at the top of the Bay of Bengal is Burma,both highly volatile and populous states'. He sees that'Whereas Pakistan is akin to the Balkans,with its tendency for dissolution,Burma is the early-twentieth-century Belgium,with its tendency to be overrun by great contiguous powers'.

We all know what Burma is to China,with its more than 1,060km long oil-gas pipelines across the country's northern sector. But what is it to India that has adopted the Look East policy and lately,under Modi's administration,the Act East policy?

During the British days,Burma,especially the Shan States, was india's buffers against France and its empire in Southeast Asia to the east. Only now China has replaced France. And the best solution,according to him,is not conquest but cooperation. Because Indian and Chinese economies are 'highly complementary'.

The same goes for between China and the United States. The'US depends on China for affordable goods and to prop up its currency within trillions of dollars of Chinese deposits,and China depends on the U.S. For its principal consumer market'.
23 March 2015 Singapore founder Lee Kwan Yew dies at the age of 92. ( Agencies)
As for Burma,he quotes an Indian writer Pankaj Mistra: Imposing a European model of the linguistically and ethnically homogeneous nation-state upon such a diverse country as Burma would have been difficult in any circumstances'.

He says'Burma must find a way to return the spirit of Panglong Agreement of 1947, which provide for a decentralized Union of Burma. Unfortunately,the agreement was never implemented,and this was the cause of all the problems since'.

He quotes USArmy Colonel Timothy Heinemann( retired)saying," Aung San Suu Kyi is little more than a symbol of the wrong issue ---'Democracy first!' Ethnic rights and the balance of ethnic power are preconditions for democracy in Burma. These issues must be faced first, or little has been learned from Afghanistan and Iraq."

He ends his chapter on Burma with the following words: The struggle over the Indian Ocean, or at least the eastern part of it near the top of the Bay of Bengal, may come down to who deals more adroitly with the Burmese hill tribes.

Elsewhere he also dwells on Arakan and Rohingya issue. He notes that ethnic Arakanese on Burma's western coastline where Arab merchants, following the coming of Islam in the 7th century,were penetrating would take an Arab name in the interests of commerce.

Bangladesh may be a sort of haven for the people who have come to be known as Rohingyas. But according to a prominent Kolkata journalist, more than ten million Bangladeshis are also living in India as economic refugees.

Chittagong and southeastern Bangladesh were as organically connected with the story of Burma throughout the ages as with that of India, according to Emdadul Islam, a local lawyer in Bangladesh's southeastern port city. For most of the 15th through 17th century,"the city and its hinterland were dominated by the Kings of Arakan."

Now there are some quarter million Rohingyas driven out from Burma in the country. with thousands in refugee camps. They are wanted by neither country but hated by both.

"Only a world of more flexible borders will free them,"Kaplan concludes.

I hope he's right. But how long will they have to wait? And how long the rest of the region will have to go on living with their sense of guilt? I hope our leaders have a good answer for these questions.

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Ceasefire debacle and illegal logging blame game

As 30 March meeting, the seventh round continuation of peace talks, that would be held between Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) and Union Peace-making Work Committee (UPWC) draws nearer, concerned people are speculating, whether the peace deal, known as Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) could be signed anytime soon.

While many are generally of the opinion that by finalizing the NCA, peace would be immediately achieved, the truth is the finalized draft, to be ironed out between NCCT and UPWC, have to go through the approval of the Union Peace-making Central Committee (UPCC) and Ethnic Armed Organizations' (EAOs) leaders, before starting the troublesome Framework for Political Dialogue(FPD), Political Dialogue(PD), deliberation of Union Accord, and finally the hardest part of implementation.

General Gun Maw has made it plain in the latest interview with The Irrawaddy regarding the peace process that it is not a bed of roses or a walk through the park.

In an interview conducted by Irrawaddy editor-in-chief Aung Zaw in Rangoon, on 25 March, when asked if NCA could be signed within a few days, as reported by some newspaper, he replies: “The NCA may be signed by both parties soon, but signing it does not mean peace. As I have said earlier, the matters we have to discuss after signing the NCA are much more difficult, so signing the NCA does not mean achieving peace.”

Lt. General Myint Soe, on one recent occasion said that even after the signing of NCA, it  doesn't mean that the armed clashes will stop at once altogether. As if to buttresses his statement, the attack on a lightly guarded Kachin Independence Army (KIA) position has been launched, coinciding with the seventh round of peace talks taking place in Rangoon, using fighter bombers and infantry attacks. The pretext accordingly is an accusation of KIA, abetting and helping illegally logging to China, which was roundly rejected.

Eleven Myanmar of 23 March reported that Lamai Gum Ja from Myitkyina-based Peace-talk Creation Group said, “The fighting occurred as the army detected timber smuggling from a helicopter. However the KIO said the place the fighting occurred is not used for timber smuggling.‟

The Irrawaddy on 23 March also reported that “The KIO official said that the Burma Army launched the attack after firing at trucks carrying timber from central Burma's Sagaing Division. The trucks passed several government checkpoints, he said, but they came under attack after crossing into Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) territory, which they travel through to enter China illegally.”

Duang Khar, head of the Kachin Independence Organization's technical team, in an interview with VOA, reported on 25 March, said that the smuggling racket has the understanding and backing of government institutions, such as police, army and civil administration, to conduct such a big scale illegal logging with so many vehicles involved. For the KIA, it only taxes the vehicles passing through its territory. Besides, the KIA said all the logs were originated from Sagaing Division and northern Shan state, for Kachin state has no huge forest reserves to entertain such massive logging enterprise. Apart from that, the timber loaded vehicles came across many government controlled gates, before reaching KIA territories.

When the VOA, Burmese Section, asked Duang Khar on the government accusation that KIA is protecting illegal logging vehicles, he replies: “ We don't have any need to protect them for they are working through give-and-take with various government agencies. One thing is that they have to pass through our territory, in order to go to the Chinese border. And so we just collect taxes and have no duty to protect them, whatsoever. Since they are doing their business through give-and-take with various government agencies, the KIO doesn't need to be responsible or give protection.”

The blame game on each other is, of course, debatable, but the whole point is the starting and escalating the armed offensive in timely manner from the part of Burma Army, while peace negotiations are going on and in full swing, in Rangoon.

The pressing question now is on how to achieve a durable ceasefire that really works. Deescalation of armed conflict is like a chain-smoker trying to cut down on cigarettes; when the motivation is high he might be able to reduce a bit of his intake, but once nervosity sets in for any reason, he will be inhaling more than usual again and won't be any near to quit it totally, as has been intended. So it is better to quit it altogether and not half-way undertaking of reducing it bits-by-bits. Thus, it is the same with ceasefire deal, make it or break it.

Many have been wondering why the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian rebels controlling a big swathe of Donetsk and Luhansk regions could reach a new ceasefire deal for eastern Ukraine in the Belarusian capital Minsk, just in one day, on 12 February 2015, and in Burma we are still shooting at each other, after more than three years of peace talks, plus state and union level ceasefire agreements with most of the EAOs.

According to BBC, the 16-hour talks went on through the night, between Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The two key points, out of the eleven agreed terms, which could be an eye-opener, for our so-called Burma and international experts funded by well-meaning international funders and all concerned parties, writes:
1. Immediate and full bilateral ceasefire
To take effect in parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, from 00:00 local time on 15 February (22:00 GMT on 14 February).
2. Withdrawal of all heavy weapons by both sides
To equal distances to create a buffer zone of: at least 50km (30 miles) separating both sides for artillery systems of 100mm calibre or more; 70km for multiple rocket systems and 140km for the heaviest rocket and missile systems such as Tornado, Uragan, Smerch and Tochka.
Ukrainian troops to withdraw heavy weapons from the current frontline.
Separatist forces to withdraw theirs from the line of 19 September 2014.
Heavy weapons withdrawal must start no later than day two of the ceasefire and be completed within two weeks. The OSCE security body will assist in the process. (Source: BBC - 12 February, Ukraine ceasefire: New Minsk agreement key points)
It is not that hard, so let us simplify the ceasefire process with genuine “political will” and draw back a little from portraying the conflict resolution as a mammoth, impossible, academic exercise and just an arena for intellectual debate.

The contributor is ex-General Secretary of the dormant Shan Democratic Union (SDU) — Editor

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Thein Sein should wrestle back sovereignty from the military

The seventh round of peace talks between Nationwide Ceasefire Negotiating Team (NCCT) and Union Peace-making Work Committee (UPWC), after six days of deliberation, from 17 to 22 March, made an abrupt recess and would continue on 30 March, according to the government and NCCT sources.
The sequence or road map according to Salai Liang Hmung of NCCT, who was interviewed by RFA on 23 March, will be the signing of Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), drafting of Framework for Political Dialogue (FPD), convening Political Dialogue (PD), calling for a Union Conference to reflect the issues pinpointed by PD, signing of Union Accord, tabling for the endorsement of the Parliament, and finally implementation of the agreed Union Accord.

He further said in the interview that some sticky points like recruitment of the Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) will be discussed at the stage of PD, on how Security Sector Reform (SSR) and Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) should be implemented. The government side also wanted to include representatives of non-Burman ethnic groups -Taing Yin Tha – at the PD phase, but when asked for specification it still cannot answer. He said the NCCT would normally welcome the move for as an umbrella organization of the ethnic groups, it would be a plus point, but need to know who will represent the government endorsed group.

As the peace talks seem to be making progress, the Burma Army (BA) started its offensive on a lightly guarded Kachin Independence Army (KIA) position in Kachin state.

La Nan, spokesperson of the KIA’s political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), told DVB on Sunday that Kachin outposts in Mansi Township between the villages of Madan Yang and Kai Hteik were bombed by two fighter jets at 3:15pm on 22 March following an armed clash nearby the day before.

La Nan, made a remark to VOA on the following Monday the intention of the BA latest assault, as follows:

“Given the fact that we were attacked whenever we held talks in the past, [the Myanmar military] appears to be taking advantage of the current talks in Yangon by invading our small bases. But, the attack hasn’t seemed to disrupt the peace talks.”

The government, according to RFA report of 22 March, said that the military operations were aimed at stopping illegal logging and transportation to China through Sagaing Division, also known as Sagaing Region. The KIA, however, rejected it by saying that their camps are not on the smuggling route.

It seems the BA is escalating its military offensives in Shan and Kachin states, according to TNLA, KIA and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) sources. While Kokang offensive by the BA is meant to prove its military supremacy position and face-saving undertaking to its tarnished ego for losing so many combatants on its side, the recent attacks on KIA position is aimed at gaining more occupation areas and influence, prior to political bargaining at the PD phase.

Nobody knows for how long this BA posture of  “state within a state”, will continue, conducting its own affairs, mostly not in line, or even against,  the policy of quasi-civilian government of Thein Sein, which from the outset seems to be trying hard to achieve the signing of NCA.

Janet Benshoof, in her article titled “Its time for international community to address Burma’s constitution” argued that the international community acts as if development and engagement alone can secure a democratic future for Burma.  She said that this neither serves the people of Burma nor advances the global security sought by the international community.

This fallacy is that justice, democracy, and rule of law can be established in Burma notwithstanding the fact that the 2008 constitution establishing the “Republic of the Union of Myanmar” grants the “Defense Services,” under Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, complete and total legal autonomy over its own affairs, as well as immunity for its actions, however criminal or corrupt. The truth is actually quite simple: unless and until the military is placed under civilian control through constitutional amendment, talk of democracy and rule of law in Burma is just that, talk.

A nation’s constitution is usually considered to be a quintessential exercise of sovereignty, and not typically a matter for international action, but just who has sovereign power in Burma? The legal definition of “sovereignty” or of a “sovereign” state requires that the state have complete legal authority over the military and over the constitutional amendment processes. In this case, the “Republic of the Union of Myanmar” does not meet the standard of a sovereign state. (Source: Janet Benshoof – DVB 20 February 2013)

If this is so, Thein Sein regime would need to wrestle back its sovereignty and amend the constitution according to the aspirations of all ethnic groups residing within the boundary of Burma. It can’t possibly allow the BA to sabotage the peace process whenever it feels like it. Thein Sein’s recent interview with the BBC and endorsement of BA leading the country through with its “disciplined democracy” is not going to put his regime in a good stead.

Many were openly amazed and even questioned the “self-appointed savior of the nation and champion of democratization process” posture of the military, when the successive military regimes, starting from 1962 military coup, have been the culprit that destroyed the nascent democracy.  The benefit of doubts that Thein Sein might be enjoying as a reformer is fading fast, with such statements and that he might be playing “good cop, bad cop” scenario, and in fact working for the military clique  to which he also belongs, is gaining more currency with each passing day.

To top this doubtfulness, the Union Peace-making Central Committee (UPCC) is almost identical with National Defense and Security Council (NDSC), dominated by the military. In the UPCC setup, Attorney General and President’s Office Secretary were inserted, while Minister of  Foreign Affairs was omitted, which is included in the NDSC line up. However, the members count of eleven is maintained. UPCC makes negotiation policy and decision for UPWC, which negotiates with its counterpart, the NCCT.

Thus, it is of course, not at all clear whether the President is functioning within the capacity of a head of state or leading the NDSC military-dominated setup, when conducting peace negotiation with the EAOs.

According to Myanmar Times report on 23 March, NCCT said it did not have the authority to sign a national ceasefire agreement and that the ethnic groups’ leaders, would call a conference of the armed groups to decide on the matter.

The report said that the reluctance of the EAOs might be the lack of trust.

U Aye Maung, chair of the Rakhine National Party, said: “It seems that ethnic armed groups are taking their time to decide, because [the government] talks peace on the table and fights on the ground.”

“If the Tatmatdaw declared it wouldn’t make any military offensives for maybe one month or two or three weeks and invited all ethnics for political dialogue, then I believe that all would … certainly join the dialogue.”

In the same vein, Roland Watson, who runs “Dictator Watch” website, in his recent article “Burma NCA negotiation update 2” writes:

“In conflict ceasefire negotiations all around the world, if one side attacks again and again, there is – normally, and rightly – no possibility of a ceasefire. For the side being attacked, to agree to any deal is a surrender – to accepting the other side’s right to attack, and even more to signing because the other side has attacked.”

Whatever the case, the issues of federalism, federal union army formation and anything to do with structural change of political system boils down to the need of “constitutional amendment”, or should we call it “constitutional debacle”, which have plagued the country since the independence from the British, in 1948.

This ongoing peace talks might be the best chance to achieve viable solution to this decades-old ethnic conflict. And to do it, the regime only needs to show “political will” by reining in the unruly military, stop the absurdity of lionizing it as a savior, democratic crusader, and should instead listen to the voice of the people and act accordingly. Otherwise, the regime runs the risk of going down the drain for being “birds of the same feather that flock together”.

The contributor is ex-General Secretary of the dormant Shan Democratic Union (SDU) — Editor

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Kokang's legitimate negotiation stance should be accepted

As Nationwide Ceasefire Coordinating Team (NCCT) and Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC) started to meet again on 17 March, for the seventh round of peace talks, aided by the historical meeting between the Kachin Independence Organization/ Army (KIO/KIA) delegation with the President and Commander-in-Chief at Naypyitaw prior to the peace negotiation, fierce Burma Army offensive on Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) goes on unabated.

The MNDAA offensive, which has started out on 9 February, has now turned into a prolonged defensive nature and it seems the government troops are having a hard time trying to dislodge the Kokang fighters and their allies Ta-ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Arakan Army (AA), which have openly declared that they are fighting along side against the Burma Army. KIA, Shan State Army-North (SSA-N), United Wa State Army (UWSA) and Mong La were also accused of giving a helping hand to MNDAA by the the government, but all denied to be involved in the Kokang fighting.

The government side maintains that the MNDAA started the fight and it is not going to give the party the legitimacy of a negotiation partner, but only determined to flush out it fighting forces, annihilate or swing them to surrender.

The MNDAA sees its offensive to retake the Kokang area as its home coming to reclaim its legitimate right back, which the Burmese military has unfairly robbed from MNDAA. The then military regime, State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), sided with Peng Jaisheng's deputy and chased him out, as he declined to accept the military demand to come under Border Guard Force (BGF) program. His deputy yielded to the Burmese military demand and was eventually made the ruler of the Kokang Special Administrative Area.

According to 19 March VOA report, Myat Htun Lin, MNDAA spokesman made it plain that its recent military operations are due to Burma Army's 2009 military actions against it, using various false accusations.

The then military regime accused MNDAA with weapon production and drug trafficking as pretext to chase Peng Jaisheng and its MNDAA out of Kokang area.

It was speculated that the MNDAA, in fact,  only wants to establish its legitimate political presence, within the mold of NCCT and United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) to bargain for its rights of self-determination. But with the Burma Army's ego badly hurt for losing so many combatants on its side, it is highly unlikely that the UPWC will accept MNDAA as negotiation partner for now.

Hla Maung Shwe, senior member of UPWC, recently said in an interview that the directive of Union Peace-making Central Committee (UPCC) doesn't include MNDAA, although NCCT insists that it is one of its member.

The same VOA report, Burmese Section, pinpoints the frustration of MNDAA, aired by its spokesman Myat Htun Lin, when he said: “ I couldn't understand anymore. This is like waging a defensive war against foreign invasion, using heavy weapons, fighter bombers, tanks and all. I've already said that we cannot accept this for we Kokang people are citizens and indigenous of the Union of Burma and also geographically a part of Burma, which is accepted by all.”

Regarding the Kokang conflict,  Naing Han Thar, chair of the NCCT, said in his opening remarks at the start of the seventh round of formal talks on a draft ceasefire in Rangoon, “In order to implement genuine and lasting peace, at the talks we need to discuss the issues happening in Kachin State, Palaung region and Kokang region to decrease tensions,”  according to Myanmar Times  report of 18 March.

He further elaborates:“We believe we will get eternal peace if we can hold all-inclusive political dialogue that includes all ethnic armed groups, after signing the nationwide ceasefire agreement.”
Meanwhile, TNLA released a statement pointing out that the increased military offensives in Kokang and Palaung areas are in no way conducive or beneficial to the ongoing peace talks in Rangoon and questions the sincerity of the government.

With the poisoned China-Burma relationship, due to Burma's warplane accidentally bombing the Lincang county of Yunan Province, killing five Chinese and wounding eight of them, the Kokang conflict has turned into an international issue. While talks of compensation, investigation, apologies and punishment of the responsible parties are on the Chinese government agendas, the real pressing, core problem is on how to resolve the border conflict and at the same time. maintain friendly relationship between the two countries.

The priority of the Chinese is to restore peace and normalcy along the border and to protect its vast economic interest within Burma. But this doesn't mean that China is going to dump MNDAA or the people of Kokang and side with the Burmese regime. This means the regime needs to employ a more accommodating political settlement through negotiation and not waging a total annihilation war, just to satisfy its ego, against Kokang and other ethnic groups along the border. For prolonged war along the border with China will, sooner or later, brings direct conflict with China, as the recent accidental bombing in Yunan shows.

For China, sealing the border or creating a border buffer zone is also not a solution, as its vast economic interest will be in jeopardy. And so it is left with the only option of pushing the warring parties to negotiate for a peaceful settlement. China has once intervened, by convening peace talks, to reduce tension between the KIA and Burma Army in 2012, when Burma Air force dropped bombs on Chinese soil in pursuit of the KIA troopers seeking sanctuary along the Chinese border.

Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail within the Thein Sein regime and should earnestly consider the NCCT's proposal of “all-inclusive” negotiation atmosphere, so that peace and harmony could return to Kokang and the rest of ethnic homelands.

The contributor is ex-General Secretary of the dormant Shan Democratic Union (SDU) — Editor

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Wa still "undecided" about NCA meeting

The United Wa State Party/Army( UWSP/ UWSA) still has yet to decide whether or not it would attend the upcoming 7th round of meeting between the Armed resistance movements' Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team(NCCT) and the government's Union Peacemaking Work Committee(UPWC) to discuss the 5th draft of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement(NCA) as an observer, according to its spokesman.

Speaking to SHAN this morning, U Aung Myint aka Li Julieh, said the party has been holding its annual meeting which is expected to last until 17 March, which coincides with the first day of the NCCT-UPWC meeting. Altogether 605 top members are gathered in Panghsang, the Wa capital on the Sino-Burmese border. " We are yet to decide whether or not we should go," he said.

The group's closest ally, the National Democratic Alliance Army(NDAA), whose headquarters is located southeast, meanwhile, told SHAN it had already chosen two representatives for the NCA meeting. "We are only waiting for Panghsang's decision," an NDAA official was quoted as saying." If they go,we go."

The two groups have been undergoing a tense relationship with Naypyitaw since the latter's accusation that they had been aiding and abetting the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army(MNDAA) Kokang group that has been at war with the Burma Army since 9 February.

Meanwhile many of the NCCT members are on their way to the former capital. The two sides,apart from the NCA, are scheduled to discuss reduction of conflicts, military Code of Conduct and joint monitoring mechanisms. " Now we're really getting down to business," said a member on condition of anonymity.

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When who came last becomes first

There are several things I had been wondering throughout my struggle through life. And one of them was why Malaysia, or Malaya as it was known before, wasn’t granted Independence at the same time  like India and Burma, if the British really were in such a hurry to get rid of their colonies after World War Ⅱ.

Of course, I could have found out the answer if I had just persisted. However I was so busy doing several things at the same time that I felt lazy to launch a full inquiry. The outcome: I didn’t find out any answers.

The only thing Shans know about Malaya/Malaysia is that their Federated Shan States (1922-1947), their first taste of federalism, came into being after a study trip to Federated Malay States (1895-1946).

“Please don’t waste your breath on us by trying to preach us about federalism,” U Tun Pay, the late prominent Shan politician, was reported as saying, in response to a statement made by a Burman leader who was apparently trying to convince Shan counterparts that there were better ways than secession to resolve differences between the Burmans and the non-Burmans. “We know by our own experience how acceptable it is to us. What you should do instead is to go and teach the generals who seem to be having a cock-eyed idea about federalism.”

In 1945, the British emerged from the World War, a victor but an economically spent one. The new Labor government led by Clement Atlee, despite protests by the Conservatives like Winston Churchill, who won the war but lost the elections nevertheless, decided to grant independence to her colonies, whether or not they were ready to become their own masters.

In the case of Burma, many, including old hands of Burma, have blamed London for the slapdashery that, according to them, have resulted in chaos and war for more than 60 years.

However, with Malaya/Malaysia, even the Labor government had taken its time. What happened?

Dr Paul Lim

According to Dr Paul Lim, who visited Chiangmai, 10-12 March, and who knew the country well, having lived there, the answer was simple. “It was Malaya’s rubber and tin industries that had kept the British economy afloat,” he told his listeners from Burma. “That’s why even Labor refused to let it go, at least not right away.”

I then looked up in D.G.E. Hall’s History of Southeast Asia (1955) and found his answer, though short, made sense.

Tin and rubber together had accounted for 86% of the country’s exports. Earnings were $519 million in 1948 and $1.195 billion two years later. And the British owned tin mines alone accounted for two-thirds of the production.

The outcome: Independence to Malaysia came only in 1957, 9 years after Burma. And compared to Burma, its problems are, according to one commentator, pint-sized.

With Burma, the peace process initiated by President Thein Sein, seems to be the last hope. Let us therefore support and encourage the peacemakers on both sides to do better and faster, instead of blaming one side against the other(s), so the vicious circle, on rather the cycle, ends soon and we can catch up with the likes of Malaysia.

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Fighting in Kokang and Kachin State Citing the recent heavy fighting in Kokang, northern Shan State, and continued clashes in Kachin State, some analysts/observers have concluded that the peace process in Myanmar is dead. How valid is this conclusion and what are the prospects for peace in Myanmar?  

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