Is Burma holding peace talks only to end economic sanctions?By Zin Linn Feb 02, 2012 7:35PM UTC
The historic Panglong Agreement has been ignored by the successive Burmese military rulers for decades. The agreement has been overlooked by the generals as they rule the country dictatorially. The Panglong Agreement was signed on Feb. 12, 1947, between General Aung San and leaders of the Chin, Kachin and Shan ethnic groups.
According to several ethnic groups, if not for the historic Panglong Agreement, there would not have been the Union of Burma. The said Panglong Agreement between the non-Burman leaders and General Aung San was the foundation of today’s Union of Burma or Myanmar.
Many ethnic leaders asserted that they don’t have faith in the new 2008 constitution. They say it will not produce a genuine federal union in the future. In addition, the Burmese armed forces take 25 percent of all seats in the existing parliament, so the current constitution will not grant the democratic freedom and fundamental rights for the ethnic groups of the nation.
For instance, as reported by the Kachin News Group (KNG), the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), which is still engaging in armed conflict with the Burmese government, declares they want a proper ‘political dialogue’ to begin with Burma’s retired General Thein Sein’s government and they do not want to take part in talks just for transitory “ceasefire”.
On January 27, the Chief of Staff of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) Major General Gunhtang Gam Shawng Spoke at a public meeting in the KIO’s Laiza headquarters. He criticized the breakdown of the KIO’s 17 year-long ceasefire agreement with Burmese government as a failure to resolve many key political issues, especially on the KIO’s 50-year-struggle for greater Kachin autonomy.
Gam Shawng also said that the lack of a political dialogue during the ceasefire period was a great loss to the KIO and severely hurt the entire Kachin population.
On January 12, the 19-member peace-talk delegation of the Karen National Union (KNU) had meeting with Burmese government representatives in Pa-an Town, capital of Karen State, Karen News said.
As reported by Karen News, the KNU tabled 11 key points including a demand for the Burmese government to stop military operations in ethnic areas, to start a nationwide ceasefire as soon as possible, to guarantee the human rights and safety of civilians, to build trust, to plan development projects that allow full participation and decision making of local villagers, to immediately stop forced labor and to stop excessive taxation and extortion of villagers.
Saw David Thrac Kabaw, KNU’s vice chairman said it is difficult to know the ‘real agenda’ of the Burmese government.
“Our past experience has been that the real power always lies in the hands of the military hardliners and in the past they have not hesitated to use guns against ethnic people. The Burma Army’s offensive against the Kachin is very brutal. The Burma Army has moved almost two thirds of its soldiers there,” he told Karen News.
On January 28, 2012, the preliminary peace agreement between government’s Shan State peace-making group and Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP) was signed in Taunggyi. According to Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.) referring Maj Sai La, spokesman of SSA North, it would be impossible for the SSA North alone to negotiate with government for peace building in Shan State.
“All groups and all those concerned in Shan State must participate,” Maj Sai La said. “For this purpose, we have already asked Hkun Tun Oo, who released from jail on January 13, to take the leading role.”
Hkun Tun Oo, 68, leader of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), is known to be respected by all Shan movements and other ethnic nationalities.
Meanwhile, Burmese government and ethnic Mon rebels reached a cessation of hostilities on Wednesday, BBC Burmese service radio said. Ceasefire with the New Mon State Party (NMSP) was the latest in a series of skeptical peace agreements.
The ceasefire between the government and the NMSP was the seventh such agreement between the government and ethnic revolutionary groups since former military junta’s premier and now President Thein Sein made a peace call with ethnic rebel groups late last year.
After SSA North and NMSP signed temporary ceasefire with government, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the Karenni National Progress Party (KNPP) become potential groups to talk with government’s peacemaking team.
Kachin State is vital to both Burma and China since it has to give room for massive hydro power dams and twin fuel pipelines. So, Kachin’s territory will become a key transportation passage for oil and natural gas flow en route to Yunnan province, China.
So, there is a question about who really benefits from the ceasefires?
Some analysts believe it will be of benefit to military-backed President Thein Sein government. Furthermore, the real aim of seeking temporary ceasefire by Thein Sein government seems to the easing of economic sanctions and the promotion of foreign investment.