Contact: Roland Watson, roland@dictatorwatch.org


March 24, 2015

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The 7th round of Burma's nationwide ceasefire negotiations are over, and a number of participants have said that they are nearing conclusion. This begs the question: What has changed from last September, when the Burma Army repudiated many previous concessions? Is the military dictatorship finally willing to end its attacks against the ethnic nationalities, and allow the country to be at peace?

As the renewed air attacks against the KIA literally the next day illustrate, the answer to this is no. Why then the optimism?

The NCCT negotiators have returned to their respective areas to consult with the EAO leaders. But, they intend to go back for yet another round of talks next week, at which they are hopeful that a final deal can be agreed.

There are some important observations that need to be made about this process. Lian Hmung Sakhong, quoted by Myanmar Times, said at a a press conference: "I want to give you a clear message that NCCT members do not have authority to sign an National ceasefire agreement. Our leaders have the power to sign. Even if we conclude the draft, we have to submit it to our leaders individually. And then an ethnic armed groups conference will decide."

One could take the view that the NCCT members returning to talk to the leaders is simply a normal and natural consultation. However, a cynic might say that if the NCCT representatives can persuade the leaders to accept their deal, then everything else, even the ethnic conference, will be a rubber stamp.

Secondly, 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.

Therefore, for Burma, the EAOs should never sign, unless they truly are defeated, which - obviously - is not the case.

The optimism at the latest round implies that some groups have now joined the KNU in going over to the dictatorship's side - in expressing an open willingness to sign any deal, no matter how bad it might be for the ethnic nationality peoples. Others, though, are probably just being positive as a signal to their funders and to appease international diplomatic pressure, which is wholly on the regime's side. The key of course is the KIO/KIA. A Kachin friend commented that the recent KIO/regime meeting was a means to divert the KIA from becoming more involved with the Kokang resistance. It is one thing for the KIO to agree to talk to the military dictatorship. There is, after all, no harm in talking. To go from talking to actually accepting a bad deal, though, is entirely different. One wonders how the Kachin people, not to mention KIA soldiers, might respond to such an action.

Finally, this is being presented as a "nationwide" ceasefire, but as the dictatorship has no intention of including the TNLA, MNDAA, NDAA and UWSA, as well as other armed resistance groups, the word hardly qualifies. We should all beware, though, ANY deal that is signed - any deal that includes the KIO - will be trumpeted as "Nationwide" by the dictatorship, the International Community, and soft-headed media. The facts will be irrelevant. The Burma story will be over. The student protests, even the election, will not matter. The students will be imprisoned - the number of political prisoners will skyrocket, and the election will either be rigged or abandoned. No one from the international community, starting with President Obama, will do anything at all. Destructive and exploitative development on a massive scale, beginning with Dawei, will commence.

Therefore, the EAO leaders should continue to be resolute, to defend their people, and think long and hard before they sign any agreement, and not until it really is a Ceasefire - until the Burma Army stops its attacks and pulls the invading Burman soldiers back from the ethnic nationality homelands.