If peace is to be restored and the Union is to be rebuilt, the government must stop acting like a restaurant that offers only dishes it likes, according to an activist who has asked not to be named.
“This government, being a throwback to previous military dictatorships, is not used to asking what you want to have for your meal,” he said. “It instead takes it for granted that what’s good for it must be good for everyone.”
He was commenting on the 3 step peace process announced by President Thein Sein on 1 March and later reiterated in the 19 May statement: Ceasefire; Development, Cooperation against drugs and acceptance of the government’s political terms; and the signing of the final agreement in the parliament.
The government’s political conditions include:
- To remain forever in the Union
- To accept the Three National Causes i.e. Non-disintegration of the Union, Non-disintegration of National Solidarity and Perpetuation of National Sovereignty
- To set up political parties and enter elections
- To accept the 2008 constitution and to make necessary amendments in the parliament by majority consent
- To fully enter the “legal fold” for permanent peace and “live, move, work and consume” in accord with the constitution
- To coordinate existence of only a single national armed forces in accord with the constitution
To which the reply by the Restoration Council of Shan State / Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), one of the 12 armed movements that have signed ceasefire agreements, has been milder: It can only give a definite response only after consulting with the people and other stakeholders.
Others, most of which are members of the United Nationalities Federal council (UNFC), have taken a tougher stand. It had called for a 6 step roadmap:
- Meeting with the government’s peace delegation
- A preliminary political dialogue with the government
- An ethnic nationalities conference
- A national convention comprising all the nationalities including the government
- Signing a National Accord outside the parliament
- Implementation of the National Accord
“If the dishes are only table d’hote that it has ordered, and not a’la carte, how can the government expect the other nationalities to enjoy the meal?” he asked rhetorically. “The menu should be arranged to accommodate all.”
The problem, according to him, is that the present government, like its predecessors, does not trust the nationalities. “There is a thing called social capital, which expands when there is trust and narrows when there is no trust,” he said. “To expand it, the government and the elite must first get rid of their ko-ga-kyu-ko-du-ma-yone-ne (If it extends beyond your body, don’t trust even your knee) fixed idea.”
A recent consultation of ethnic representatives, meanwhile, have recommended a compromised approach on the government’s peace roadmap: Ceasefire, Implementation (of the ceasefire agreement) and Trust-building, and Political Dialogue leading to a 1947 Panglong-like Conference.
The UNFC peace roadmap, reported by SHAN, came from UNFC statement issued on 21 April 2012. But Irrawaddy’s report on 5 June on a different UNFC 5-stage roadmap is interesting: Political dialogue, Panglong-style conference, political accord, constitutional amendments and formation of a federal union and federal armed forces.