International Campaign for Freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Weekly Highlights: Elusive Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement Continues to Distract from Substantial Peace Talks

 

18 - 24 August 2014

Weekly Highlights

Elusive Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement Continues to Distract from Substantial Peace Talks


As talks over the signing of a nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) are delayed once again, thus pushing substantive dialogue further into the future, Burma's decades long civil war rages on in Kachin and Shan States.

Talks over the signing of the NCA have now gone on for nearly 18 months and the situation on the ground has still not changed. The Burma Army continues to attack ethnic armed groups in areas where ceasefires have been signed, such as those of the Shan State Army South and Shan State Army North, as well as continuing offensives against the Kachin Independence Army and the Ta'ang National Liberation Front (TNLA) where there is no ceasefire. On Monday 18 August, a civilian in Namkan Township, Shan State was shot dead and another hospitalized after a clash between the TNLA and Burma Army. Human rights violations such as sexual violence, arbitrary arrest, torture and extrajudicial killing continue in these active conflict areas, while in areas where individual ceasefires are holding, the Burma Army is entrenching its power both militarily and economically through land confiscation and reinforcement of its positions.

The aim in this pursuit of the NCA is questionable as it distracts from the real issues at hand that prevent the ethnic people of Burma from enjoying genuine peace. Let us not forget that the Burma government has already signed ceasefire agreements with most ethnic armed groups. But has this stopped the attacks and human rights violations inflicted on local communities by armed forces? This question cannot be answered in the affirmative. Just ask the villagers who live in Murng Hsu, Shan State, whose homes came under artillery attack, and were forced to act as guides for the Burma Army in June of this year in a supposed ceasefire area. If all groups sign on to the NCA, the biggest question is how can they trust that the Burma Army will actually cease its attacks. There is scant evidence of this from current and previous ceasefires.

The NCA in its current draft talks of the agreement to draw up codes of conduct, monitoring of the ceasefire and to enter political dialogue within 90 days. This is all very well, but an agreement to draw up codes of conduct and lines of demarcation isn't actually establishing codes of conduct. When will this actually happen if it has already taken 18 months to simply agree in principle to do it?

The key problem, however, is political dialogue. As it stands, the framework to engage in political dialogue must be completed within 60 days of signing the NCA and the dialogue itself must be commenced within 90 days of the signing. The question must be asked as to how realistic this is. If it has taken 18 months to get to this point, where further talks need to be scheduled to finalize the agreement, will political dialogue, and all this entails, including the development of a federal system, resource sharing, greater autonomy for regional legislatures, and reduction of the power of the Burma Army, really be finalized in an election year? Will the Burma Army really relinquish power just before the 2015 general elections? Will they be willing to change the fraudulent 2008 Constitution that the National League for Democracy (NLD) and  the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society Group have been campaigning for the past few months, gaining millions of signatures? Because this is the key. If the 2008 Constitution is not changed, sustainable peace will not be achieved, and the government can be lauded for the public signing of the NCA but if it does not actually precede substantive change, the communities that have suffered for so long in ethnic areas will continue to suffer at the hands of the Burma Army while natural resources in these areas will continue to be exploited.

The NCA is a sideshow, a smokescreen that disguises the structural reasons that mean there is no peace in Burma today. Unfortunately this process has been the focus for the ethnic armed actors involved in negotiations, as well as much of the media attention. It has the potential to serve as a reason for elements within the international community to claim peace in Burma while they reap the rewards of investment in the rich natural resources in ethnic areas.

It is imperative that efforts and energy are reinvested in a genuine peace process, one that will constitute actual and substantial change that guarantees equality and serves as a point of healing for the long suffering ethnic people. The international community must recognize what the NCA actually is, an agreement in principle with the government, and as yet not the Burma Army who hold the real power in this charade of a peace process, to proceed with further talks. This is merely a starting point. Structural change that guarantees the rights and equality of ethnic people through a power sharing agreement has yet to commence. This involves changing the 2008 Constitution as a priority. Once the 2008 Constitution is changed, then we can say that a peace process has begun in earnest.

News Highlights

 

As many politically motivated arrests and prosecutions, as well as arrests under alleged criminal charges continue, allowing the government to stifle dissent and limit freedom of expression, workshop draws over 100 representatives from various sectors in an attemp to decide what constitutes a political prisoner, a decision which has implications for President Thein Sein, who promise to release all prisoners of conscience by 2014
 

Inside Burma

Four political parties are preparing to contest an upcoming by-election in Karen State at the end of the year, taking place due to a death of a MP earlier this year, though the government has yet to officially announce the date of the by-election

During a meeting in Naypyidaw, Speaker of Lower House Parliament Shwe Mann and Speaker of Upper House Parliament Khin Aung Myint "generally agree" to consider legal revisions of the country's penal code, specifically section 499 and 500 which is being used to jail activists and journalists

Thein Sein says corruption and bribery are still chronic in the country, urging civil service officers to change their morality and spirit to speed up anti-corruption process during the rest of his administration period

Separate township courts in Rangoon sentence land rights activist Sein Than to 4 months in prison - lengthening his term to eight months – for violating the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, a proceeding that has been criticized by lawyers and activists who argue that multiple trials contravene the country's penal code

Aung Win, a lawmaker from Mraybon Constituency, Rakhine State says authorities in Rakhine State solved only 17 out of 212 cases of land confiscation, which are mostly related to land grabbing by Burma Army and local businessmen

In a meeting with Farmers' Affairs Committee of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society in Ye Township, Mon State, local farmers express dismay for having been forced to accept unfair compensation for land confiscated by the Burma Army

According to activists and UN officials, Burma government pressures aid workers and foreign officials not to use the term "Rohingya," a term used for a minority group who are viewed by Burma authorities as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and have been excluded from the UN-supported national census

Telenor, a new network of mobile communications in Burma says contractors constructing its mobile network station sites have been employing children and found three workers under the age of eighteen, despite having implemented strict guidelines against child labor

Regional

Burmese Embassy in Thailand are in process of revising procedures that will allow migrants from Bura without IDs to receive temporary stay permit from the Thai junta in order to obtain their IDs from Burma, new passports are available for pick up at the embassy in Bangkok or at offices in three border towns

The UMW Group in Malaysia secure contracts from its three major customers in Burma involved in jade mining industry in Hpakant in Mandalay Region - the contracts worth RM200mil to supply more than 60 units of Komatsu equipment there- after Burma government announced they will allow Jade-mining activities to resume from Sept 1, 2014 which they suspended in May 2012 due to security reasons

Doctors are concerned over the spread of drug-resistant Malaria in Southeast Asia including Burma

International

UK to increase its development aid to Burma by more than a third in the next fiscal year, an increase of $136 million US, according to the newly appointed international development minister

In cooperation with Burma's Cooperative Bank, China UnionPay International (UPI) accepted by over 140 countries and used in more than 20 countries to introduce EASi Travel UnionPay card for the first time in Burma to facilitate Burmese citizens in domestic and international payment

Japanese Trade Minister Toshimitsu Motegi to visit Burma next week to attend a series of economic ministers meetings of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Naypyitaw in order to promote economic cooperation with ASEAN

LSIS, a unit of LS Group, South Korea, signs an agreement with Burma to supply high voltage distribution panel boards as well as providing more than 3,000 vacuum circuit breakers to Asia General Electric over the next five years, as they hope to generate $13 million from the deal

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime starts a four year, $45 million program to help Burma's law enforcement system better tack drug trafficking, human trafficking, transnational crime, environmental crime and border control, saying such criminal activities in Burma is undermining the country's development, increasing human insecurity, and threatening peace talks aimed at ending ethnic insurgencies

Opinion

ASEAN has responsibility to protect the Rohingya from genocide
By Casey Karr and Naomi Kikoler
Jakarta Post

Name of Muslim group in Myanmar goes unspoken
By Matthew Pennington
Associated Press

UK Silent on Growing Numbers of Political Prisoners in Burma
By Mark Farmaner
The Huffington Post

Latest from the Blog

 

Reform of the Police and the Judiciary is a Matter of Urgency
By Burma Partnership

Actions

TAKE ACTION! Send a letter to the British Foreign Secretary to raise awareness of the current state of political prisoners in Burma and to propose Burma establish a permanent independent political prisoner review mechanism involving international expertise

TAKE ACTION! Four of the five media workers from Bi Midday, who have been arrested over a report that claimed opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic leaders had been elected as an interim government, are now being pressured into changing their lawyers. Write a letter to Thein Sein and Minister of Home Affairs calling upon the immediate and unconditional release of the media workers, while granting them access to lawyers of their choosing

TAKE ACTION! Write to authorities of Burma, urging them to end the ongoing harassment towards human rights defenders Htin Kyaw, Tin Maung Kyi and Zaw Win, and to release them immediately and unconditionally, while guaranteeing  the physical and psychological integrity of the prisoners in compliance with United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders

In Kyaythee Township, northern Shan State, about 300 internally displaced persons plan to submit a petition to the Burma Government, asking them to order the complete withdrawal of Burma Army who have occupied the village since clashes between Shan State Army-North and Burma Army took place over a month ago

Statements and Press Releases

Ministry Of Defence Broke Law Delaying Disclosure Of Burma Military Training Details
By Burma Campaign UK

ေပါင္းေလာင္းအေရး ေဆာင္ရြက္ေပးေနေသာ ကယန္းမ်ဳိးဆက္သစ္လူငယ္ KNGY ၏ ဗဟိုေကာ္မတီ၀င္ ခြန္ႏိုင္လင္းထြန္း ကို ရဲတပ္ဖြဲ႔၀င္မ်ားမွ ရိုက္ႏွက္ျခင္းႏွင့္ ပတ္သက္၍ ထုတ္ျပန္ေၾကညာခ်က္
By Kayan New Generation Youth

Statement on USCIRF Visit to Burma
By United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

Reports

South-East Asia: Irregular Maritime Movements (January-June 2014)
By UN High Commissioner for Refugees

Global Humanitarian Overview – Status Report
By UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

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As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed,

As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed,
"Justice is a dream. But it is a dream we are determined to realize."