Contact: Roland Watson, roland@dictatorwatch.org


May 24, 2015

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UPDATE: At the EAO meeting the leaders dismissed the NCCT, just as we described as the correct course of action, and established a new negotiation team.

Amazingly, we are once again at another potential failure point for Burma's ethnic nationality pro-democracy resistance. Personally, I can't believe that we have to go through this again and again. It is intolerable that Kwe Htoo Win (from the KNU) is Deputy Leader 1 of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), and that he keeps making ludicrous statements - now focused on the idea that a nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) can be signed without the TNLA, MNDAA and AA. (These groups, along with the KIA, are engaged in heavy combat with the Burma Army, resisting its invasion into their homelands.) It is also dreadful that some other NCCT delegates have publicly considered this possibility as well.

The ethnic resistance has three strengths: unity, its guns, and the fact that it HAS NOT signed the NCA. While the first is in some ways suspect, with the breakaway of the KNU and the SSA-S to the regime's side, there was remarkable unity at the Ethnic Armed Organization (EAO) leadership meeting in Pangsang, as reflected in its statement. For the second, the EAOs in recent years have put up a very good fight and caused massive losses for the Burma Army, first in the Karen area before KNU Chairman Mutu Say Poe's treason and now up north. And for the last, not signing the NCA gives the ethnic groups great leverage. The regime and its international allies want the NCA more than anything else. First is the question of why, and second is the issue of what happens after. Why is simple. Not only will no NCA make it much more difficult for the regime to steal the upcoming national election, more fundamentally - following Suu Kyi's surrender, and since with this the ethnic resistance is the ONLY serious resistance left in Burma - a signed NCA will mean an ethnic surrender as well, and through this the complete collapse of the country's pro-democracy movement. If this happens, even the ethnic guns won't make a difference. With an NCA in place, any subsequent conflict will be blamed on the EAOs, even though it is unquestionably in self-defense. The floodgates will open to publicly branding the EAOs as insurgents - which has already begin, and after this, as terrorists.

An NCA will also be used as justification by the West to increase its military cooperation with the regime, ostensibly as geopolitical positioning against China. Indeed, and counterintuitively, signing the NCA will lead to the EAOs' worst fear being realized: the United States arming the Tatmadaw against them.

The leaders of the EAOs must understand Western views on what is happening in Burma. As hard as it is to accept, it's really only about the money, corporate money. Freedom and democracy, crimes against humanity, have zero priority. And, for corporate money, it starts with the natural resource money in the ethnic nationality states.

Signing the NCA without the TNLA, MNDAA and AA will break ethnic unity. That is traitor Kwe Htoo Win's goal, and apparently even deemed an acceptable move by others. (The entire purpose of the NCCT from regime collaborator Harn Yawnghwe's perspective - he was the driving force behind establishing it, using EU money - is to destroy ethnic unity.) Even worse, it will completely sideline the ethnic groups. They will lose all their leverage. No one will care about the ethnic cause anymore, and if they do fight, for any reason, they will be called terrorists. The Burma story will move on to the election, and, for the West, to finding a way to legitimize a second Thein Sein Administration, or, more likely, a Min Aung Hlaing Presidency. Dictator-behind-the-scenes Than Shwe will be laughing so hard that he falls down, and will no doubt open his most expensive bottle of wine or whisky to celebrate.

The risk, once again, could not be more grave. It is essential that the draft NCA not be signed by the EAO leaders. Indeed, it would be a huge mistake to sign anything - if this were even possible - before the election. In addition to the other core demands - the end of conflict, human rights abuses, and that everyone sign, the argument that it has to wait until after the election, so the EAOs can deal with the new leadership, is irrefutable.

In conclusion, it is time to deal with the problem-making NCCT. It should be shut down, using as the rationale the idea that its work is done. It negotiated a draft NCA, but which is flawed. The dictatorship would not compromise on any of the ethnic nationality core issues. Harn's subversive vehicle therefore should be abandoned, and instead we should directly confront the question of what is really required to overthrow the dictatorship, as well as end the West's support for its tyranny over all the people of Burma.