Constitution Remains Key to Solving Ethnic Quagmire
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Burma

NEWS ANALYSIS

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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Once all have firmly approved what should happen then it can enter the Parliament and it can start from there.”

As was highlighted at the UNFC conference, Naypyidaw's decision to amend the Constitution to appease Aung San Suu Kyi and to encourage her National League for Democracy (NLD ) to register, proves that a top-down decision to make changes can be implemented. But this process was technically done by vote in Parliament and required just a few minor changes that few people would object to.

The kind of amendments that would likely be needed to appease all of the ethnic armed groups, would certainly not be accepted by the entire legislature and could in fact further widen political divides even among the pro-democrats.

According to David Taw, whose  KNU is a member of the UNFC, “I can’t say I agree 100 percent with the UNFC’s calls for Panglong but I agree in principle. Panglong was quite a long time ago and we were under colonial rule. People wanted to get independence and the spirit was very high, so people were willing to sign very easily … At that time, everybody felt like they were suppressed. But now, if we call a big meeting like this then some are benefiting from this system so they won’t agree.

“ I think [changing the Constitution outside the Parliament] will be difficult. Firstly, because all democratic countries change their Constitution in the Parliament and secondly, because the arrangement of the Constitution was done by the regime, so they drew it up to protect them [in a way that] favors them … My honest view is that even if there is a good Constitution for the country, if the government does not act on the Constitution, then it is just paper.

“But at least if the Constitution is there, we can apply pressure, because they will respect the opposition's voice in the Parliament … If we are only discrediting the government and calling for changes, they won't listen. We need to develop some kind of mechanism that can work on how to change the Constitution.”

David Taw did agree, however, that multilateral discussions would be a crucial step to developing a strategy and that this could lead to a settlement in Parliament. “We need a mechanism that can work on how to change the Constitution,” he added. “I think we better sit down together and then work out a strategy that can be useful for everybody—all the ethnic opposition groups and the government… If we can get the government to sign [an agreement] then they can take it to their Parliament.”

According to anonymous government sources, such talks were agreed to in principle by Naypyidaw in their February ceasefire agreement with the New Mon State Party (NMSP), and will likely take place this year. According to Nai Hong Sar of the NMSP, who spoke at the UNFC conference, “we demanded a nationwide conference, a political dialogue, with all leaders of all mainstream ethnic opposition groups to have substantive political dialogue with the goal of solving our crisis in Burma.

“We also made the demand that such talks have witnesses from the international community. Our plan is to talk to the government and the commander-in-chief to make a mutual agreement between ourselves and them.”

“I am optimistic,” said David Taw. “While the government is changing we'd better use this opportunity because if we don't then we'll isolate ourselves. We have nothing to lose … I think there might be some changes [before 2015]. I have confidence in Aung San Suu Kyi and I think that her voice will be heard in the Parliament. I got some inside info that most MPs are not like before and they don't want to go back to military rule so no matter what they will support her.

“I think if we can approach the NLD and other parties who can influence the Parliament, I think the Constitution will change. Not everything, but minor things that don't hurt the generals. I think they will allow it … [The key things to change] are trade and investment … health and education. If they give power to the local governments, people will think more wisely about how the people will fit in [to the plans].

The road ahead looks tough and unpredictable, but from most points of view, progress is being made and the government is behaving differently than ever before. The most notable changes have been in Naypyidaw's tone and we are yet to see if comprehensive action will follow with regard to the ethnic conflict.

However, analysis of the new administration generally and the path it is trying to take does provide a rationale for optimism. It is well aware of the importance of stabilizing the border regions and bringing an end to national discord, both of which are goals that rely on finding a lasting solution to conflict. While the government’s current plan remains starkly at odds with the aims of the opposition, it seems to have the will for change and multilateral talks could begin to close the gap in understanding.

Kim Jolliffe is an independent research, analysis and training consultant focusing on conflict, politics and humanitarian issues in Burma.



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Dan BW Wrote:
25/03/2012
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:
22/03/2012
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:
22/03/2012
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:
22/03/2012
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:
22/03/2012
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:
22/03/2012
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:
22/03/2012
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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