Constitution Remains Key to Solving Ethnic Quagmire
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Tuesday, October 15, 2019


Constitution Remains Key to Solving Ethnic Quagmire

By KIM JOLLIFFE / THE IRRAWADDY Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Karen National Liberation Army soldiers in formation during the 63rd anniversary of Karen Revolution Day on Jan. 31. (Photo: Reuters)
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This is seen by many to indicate intent to begin a mass offensive, if the political situation changes. Across a spectrum of people spoken to by The Irrawaddy, from community workers of different kinds, religious leaders, displaced civilians and the military, mistrust is rife.

However, David Taw, who led the KNU delegation to sign a preliminary ceasefire agreement on Jan. 12, says there are two ways of viewing the situation. “If you look at it from the military point of view, [these fears] are correct. In the past, the [outposts] were isolated and cut off by our troops and it was very difficult for them to send food supplies to the area. Once the ceasefire was signed they sent food, and people noticed it was a lot and started thinking that they are preparing for another offensive.

“On the other hand though, if we don't open up communications with them and don't set up the liaison offices, how can we check how many soldiers are in the military camp, how much food is being sent and whether it more than enough. So, we need to set up liaison offices quickly so we can check whether this is ammunition, whether this is food support or medical provisions and then compare it with the number of troops in the region.”

Essentially, while there is valid rationale for mistrust, David Taw believes further progress with negotiations will be the best way to tackle the issue.

Stage two in the government’s roadmap demands that armed actors must essentially give up arms and agree to full assimilation into the state military and government. Only after this, in stage three, will amendments to the 2008 Constitution be able to be made, through the legislature in full accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

This approach threatens alienating much of the opposition, as they have made it very clear, in agreements that have been accepted by the government’s ceasefire delegations, that political dialogue is a must before giving up arms, or in some cases, even before ending hostilities. Notably, the “substantive political talks” that most major opposition groups have demanded will likely focus primarily on changes to the Constitution.

To almost all observers and even to many elected MPs, the 2008 Constitution is fundamentally flawed, given the amount of power and impunity it affords the military. For opposition groups struggling for greater autonomy in ethnic regions, this disdain is particularly acute, not only for the power it affords to the military, but because it gives the central government complete control over the local administrations.

The particulars of this imbalance are vast, but include the Union Legislature having total control over matters of security and law enforcement, large-scale industry, imports and exports, judicial matters, education and curricula, management of development of border areas, and the ability to void any state laws if they conflict with those of Union.

Furthermore, chief ministers, who then appoint the leaders of all local ministries, are selected by the President and not directly by local election. To those that have been systematically oppressed and abused for decades, and to the leaders that have been shut out of the political process, there is little evidence that anything will change with the 2008 Constitution in place.

Herein lies what will likely prove to the main obstacle to the peace process. While the government insists that amendments to it can only be made in Parliament, the ethnic armed groups, who were largely obstructed from competing the 2010 elections and would need to give up arms if they wanted to in the future, are demanding that such decisions be made outside of the Parliament at a nationwide conference, similar to that of the historical Panglong Conference of 1947.

According to Col Hkunn Okker, a Pa-O representative of the exiled United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) representing the ethnic minorities of Burma, who spoke at a press conference on the Thai-Burmese border in late February, “We reject a dialogue based on the 2008 Constitution. The government requires that the Constitution can only be amended in the Parliament so we reject [it].”

“The political settlement must be made outside the Parliament, at a political convention” further clarified La Ja speaking separately with The Irrawaddy. “This must be something like the Panglong Conference. All of the ethnic representatives, all of the political parties and all those on the government side, should sit together outside of the Parliament at a convention and talk about how to amend the existing situation.

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Dan BW Wrote:
It is a good thing being able to see from a positive view but only when the intention is for the positive. What David Taw saying is similar to "at least we can see how they are planning to kill us by signing up cease-fire deal and setting up liaison office". However, he forget to see that by not signing up cease-fire and not allowing them to plan to kill his people would be much safer. Has he not leaned from the mistake the Kachin (KIO/KIA) made or simply it is just a revenge to the Kachin? (Note; during the cease-fire with KIA, Burmese military intensified it's offensive against KNU and its army and crushed them ). I hope David Taw knows that two mistakes wouldn't make one right. My question to David Taw would be if the Burmese government can't honor the promiss they have already made (Panglong Agreement), what make you think they would honor another one which is not even on the table yet!

chindits Wrote:
so basically if you follow his 3 stages road map, 60 years of struggle for state autonomy that was granted in Panglong agreement is uselss.

Kyaw Wrote:
The ethnic cleansing and atrocities in Kachins must be stopped by the Government troops immediately. KIO/KIA is respectful De-facto Government of Kachins. They represent absolutely to Kachin and they effectively influence to the Kachin state population. Weakening KIA can create uncontrollable terrorism with no leaders to talk and to negotiate in the population centers of middle Burma, the peace stability and prosperity dreams will be just vanished away. See the example of Pattani Thailand.

MawShe Wrote:
1) Amending the constitution in the parliament is unreasonable when these ethnic groups leaders are outside the Parliament. 2) They are outside now because they including KIO were not allowed to form a political party and join 2010 election. 3) Urging these groups to disarm and form a political party to enter the parliament to amend the constitution, without any concrete political resolve, is ridiculous because no one want to dump their arms before their goal is reached. 4) So talking about parliament should end here if we are to proceed pragmatic approach. We need alternatives like a national-wide ceasefire and nation-wide dialogue. Not one by one group deal. 5)This dialogue (Panglonglikeconference) should include experts and produce a new constitution draft. 6) This new draft should go to parliament to be approved or not.

Ohn Wrote:
The Devil appeals. The Devil always appeals to the dark side of people. Every one.

Khin Nyunt used to use this principle to control monks and people alike. Eg. " A -lo- daw- pye- phayre", honours- Thri Thudamma,etc, hundreds of professors!

This time round it is the so-called "Democratic Forces" and their desire to be like Singapore at all cost. To have big roads and tall buildings and iPAD's and not to be sniffed at with Burmese Passport at international airports.

Aung San Suu Kyi wants Burma to be like the leader of the ASEAN whatever it is.

Ohn Wrote:
Than Shwe senses RIGHTLY that for that people will ignore most inhumane killings and torturing going on at the highest level in 20 years and still sing praises of Thein Sein who is there just for the grace of Than Shwe whichever way anybody spins it.

Than Shwe rightly calculates that all his selling out of the country to Chinese will be put aside so long as people are getting money out of it as well like hauling pipes for the Chinese which is equivalent to putting out the carpet for the thief.

Ohn Wrote:
The public simply are not aware how much of the country has been sold off already and how many BULLDOZERS are going to turn up to their houses and farms one morning too soon.

But their misguidedly trusted "Democratic Forces" directly or indirectly desires it.

It is their duplicitous-ness that Than Shwe is exploiting.

Change of constitution? It WILL NOT happens because NO ONE wants it. All they want is to be like Bangkok. That's all.

Unless selling out the country for quick silver is denounced, one cannot say one doesn't support the killings that go along with it. By desiring the sacred "electricity" people are in connivance of killings to get it.

In the shallow world, the frog is the king.

Frog can be king ONLY if it is SHALLOW.

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