Ethnic alliance ready to meet government negotiator

UNFC Press Conference on 19 April 2012 (Photo: SHAN)

Friday, 20 April 2012 | S.H.A.N

The 11-member United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) is now ready to parley with Naypyitaw’s chief negotiator U Aung Min, according to the statement issued by the grouping yesterday at a press conference held on the Chiangmai-Shan State East border.

This is the official response to U Aung Min’s offer made through him on 23 December 2011 in Bangkok, said Hkun Okker, the UNFC’s Joint Secretary #2 and President of the PaO National Liberation Organization (PNLO).

The alliance is expected to present U Aung Min with a new peace roadmap. “The fact that some of our members have signed ceasefire agreements with the regime doesn’t necessarily mean we agree with its proposed peace process.”

Five of the member organizations that have signed ceasefire agreements are Chin National Front (CNF), Karen National Union (KNU), Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), New Mon State Party (NMSP) and Shan State Progress Party (SSPP).

Other members are Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), Arakan National Council (ANC), Lahu Democratic Union (LDU), PaO National Liberation Organization (PNLO), Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF) and Wa National Organization (WNO).

The said 3 stage process as announced by U Aung Min during his meeting with representatives from 5 armed movements in Chiangrai on 19 November includes Ceasefire, Development and Political Dialogue leading to a (1947) Panglong-like conference.

President Thein Sein, during his speech to the Union Assembly on 1 March elaborated further:
State level. Stop all hostilities, stay only at agreed areas, not to hold any arms in other places except from those agreed areas, open liaison offices, and fix the venue, time and date for Union level dialogue
Union level. Points to be discussed: not to secede from the Union, accept the Three Main National Causes, cooperate in economic development tasks, cooperate in elimination of narcotic drugs, take part in political process by setting up political parties, entering elections, discussing with other national races at the Parliament to amend the constitution, and coordinating existence of a single armed forces
Third step. Agreement amending the constitution to be signed at the Parliament.

The UNFC however has a different proposal to make on the process:

(1) Meeting of the UNFC Peace Delegation and the Union Government Peace Delegation (led by U Aung Min Delegation) as soon as possible;

(2) Meeting of the UNFC Peace Delegation and the Union Government Peace Delegation as a preliminary-stage political dialogue;

(3) Holding of an Ethnic Nationalities Conference with non-UNFC ethnic forces;

(4) Convening a National Convention comprising all the nationalities, particularly with the participation of government, outside of the parliament, holding the results obtained from the Ethnic Nationalities Conference;

(5) Obtaining a “National Accord”, according to the majority decision, from the National Convention and the signing of it by all the forces;

(6) Continuing work according to the provisions of the “National Accord”.

Concerning the last point, David Tharckabaw, Vice President of the UNFC, said he expected a new Nationwide Referendum to take place to approve the constitutional amendments. “We certainly cannot accept the government’s Stage 2 about development,” he argued. “Because, in our experience, with big development projects come big businesses that lay waste to the environment and the people’s livelihood. It should therefore be considered only after a political solution is reached.”

The proposal also calls for the political dialogue to take place outside the Parliament. “We may be taking a parallel position to that of The Lady,” admitted Hkun Okker.

According to Ms Zipporah Sein, General Secretary of the KNU, who met Aung San Suu Kyi on 8 April, the Nobel laureate was said to have accepted the challenge of amending the constitution “within the Parliament.”

The statement also urges the international community to continue relief and rehabilitation assistance to the refugees and IDPs replaced by war, as part of the peace process.

16 delegates representing 9 of the 11 member alliance had participated in the 2-hour long press conference, emblazoned with the well-known Three Musketeers slogan, “All for One and One for All.”

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