Thursday, October 28, 2010

NLD senior leader joins call for ‘true Burmese union’

Thursday, 28 October 2010 01:12 Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Senior National League for Democracy party leader, Win Tin, joined calls supporting the idea a second Panglong conference as a solution for Burmese ethnic peoples to win back the right of self-determination lost for 60 years, he said.
Zomi National Congress (ZNC) issued a statement on Sunday on its 22nd anniversary since founding, in Kalaymyo, Sagaing Division, which called for convening a second Panglong conference. The declaration was signed by NLD leaders, ethnic leaders and veteran politicians.

Win Tin, 81, told Mizzima he supported the declaration, which he too had signed.

The ZNC said it had made the call because the 2008 constitution and 2010 election could not guarantee national reconciliation and genuine federal union based on the right to self-determination as desired by ethnic peoples.

Mizzima interviewed Win Tin on why this statement was issued at this time, on its impact on the historical 1947 Panglong Agreement and the NLD’s opinion on federal union.

The Panglong Agreement was a deal reached between the Burmese government under Aung San and the Shan, Kachin and Chin peoples on February 12, 1947, which accepted in principle “Full autonomy in internal administration for the Frontier Areas” and envisioned the creation of a Kachin State by the Constituent Assembly (Burma’s first post-independence parliament). The deal came almost a year after the First Panglong Conference was held in the town of the same name in the south of Shan State.

The NLD, along with ethnic parties, has a signed the statement calling for a second Panglong conference. How did the declaration evolve?

This was not done by the NLD. The Zomi National Congress (ZNC) initiated it, negotiated with ethnic leaders and compiled their opinions. Only after that did our NLD party and groups such as veteran politicians sign it. So the prime movers behind … this … are ethnic leaders.

Can we say this is the stance of the NLD as vice-chairman Tin Oo and central executive committee (CEC) member Win Tin signed the declaration?

Yes, NLD agreed to this statement. All other CEC members signed it too. We don’t want to take credit for initiating this declaration as all of these works were carried out by ethnic leaders. These ethnic leaders led in initiating and compiling the opinions … in drafting and finalising this declaration. They asked us to join them and we agreed to do it. [After that] We participated in every part of it. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi may know about it also but as yet we’d had no contact with her at the time the declaration was drafted.

Do you think it’s a fair assumption Suu Kyi will agree with this statement?

I assume she’ll agree. The phrase ‘Second Panglong’ is an expression she once used so there will not be any hiccups with it. You may remember when U Nyan Win (one of Suu Kyi’s lawyers) disclosed her opinion on the issue of re-registering the party with the election commission for contesting in the upcoming election … [that] she was ready to accept the party’s majority decision.

Not everyone expected to be on the declaration signatory list have signed it. How would you explain this?

It seems that ethnic leaders had to do it very surreptitiously. Before sending the final copy to us, they negotiated among themselves secretly and we first heard about it only on October 20. At that time, it was difficult to book a flight and we weren’t able to reach Kalaymyo on time so we had to sign it in Rangoon. Other ethnic leaders in Rangoon such as Nai Ngwe Thein, Nai Tun Thein and Aye Thar Aung, also couldn’t make it in time.

As you said, we couldn’t find Aye Thar Aung on the list. What does the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament (CRPP) think about the declaration?

They will sign because Aye Thar Aung was away from Rangoon … on a tour to Kachin State with an NLD delegation. The whole CRPP will join. We weren’t yet able to tell Thein Pe about it though he is a member of CRPP. He was also away … with the NLD on a tour of the Chin Hills. He will join the list on his way back by stopping over in Kalaymyo. The situation is like that. Some did not take part in the discussions over drafting this declaration.

Will this second Panglong conference have an impact on the 1947 agreement initiated and signed by Bogyoke (General) Aung San?

No, it will not. The essence of that agreement was to consolidate the unity of Burman and non-Burman ethnic people in regaining independence from British colonial rule. The British colonial ruler wanted to divide Burma proper and frontier areas in granting independence … Some wanted independence along with the Burman and some didn’t. In Bogyoke Aung San’s sincere words, ‘we will take you along with us in regaining independence’. He approached the ethnic people in this way. Finally, the ethnic leaders signed this historical agreement along with the Burman. The essence is genuine union that guarantees equality and the right to self-determination of the ethnic peoples.

After … 60 years under the rule of BSPP and military dictatorship, we’ve gradually lost the essence of genuine union. We’ve also lost the equality and right to self-determination of ethnic peoples. When the National Convention (NC) was convened, ethnic people joined it with the expectation of gaining self-determination, equality and genuine union through it by reaching a ceasefire agreement with the junta. They attended the NC, which started in 1993, but … whatever they sought on ethnic rights … did not materialise as they weren’t given a voice.

Now, the Border Guard Force (BGF) has appeared and along with the danger of a new wave of civil war breaking out. We’ve already had the first salvoes with shots fired in the northern region (Kachin State). Even within the DKBA (Democratic Karen Buddhist Army) there was division, with some of its members agreeing to accept the BGF and some against it. The KNU (Karen National Union, DKBA’s rivals) had boycotted it long before. So, what we really have is a constitutional crisis.

According to the 2008 constitution, all the armed forces shall be under the control of the sole Commander-in-Chief of the Tatmadaw (Armed Forces). So the military junta must work towards putting all these ceasefire armed groups under the complete control of its chief after this constitution comes into force or even before coming into force. If this task can’t be achieved, they have to launch war against these ceasefire groups stationed along the borders.

At this time, the idea of resolving political issues by invoking the spirit of Panglong as tried by Bogyoke (Aung San) and the political aspiration of establishing genuine union with ethnic people and recognising the right to equality among all ethnic peoples has resurfaced … This is not a political conspiracy. The political spirit embedded in the Panglong agreement inherited from Bogyoke (Aung San) and his colleagues will vanish forever when this constitution comes into force. So this second Panglong issue appeared … this is not just a coincidence … .

What is the NLD’s opinion on the State Peace and Development Council’s (SPDC, the junta) BGF policy?

These ethnic armed groups started their revolutions, struggles … based on politics, 20-30-40-50-60 years ago. We can’t force them to join the junta’s army or convert their armies into either BGF or people’s militia by surrendering their arms because their struggles started based on political objectives and ethnic rights issues. Some have degraded into “opium armies” and some have surrendered their arms. So I think the junta’s final BGF proposal cannot be accepted by them by any means. NLD’s stance is to resolve ethnic and border issues through political means only, rather than through any kind of BGF. That it the better option.

The border area is inhabited by non-Burman ethnic groups. What is the policy of the NLD for border security in a federal union?

It would be premature to comment on these policies at this time. It is difficult for us. We are not the ruling party. We are very far away from ruling the country. But I dare say principles of federalism are quite contrary to secession. We believe in federal principles and we will implement them. In establishing a genuine federal union, I firmly believe that participation by all ethnic peoples for the sake of security of this union shall automatically be realised.

There are some ceasefire groups such as the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), New Mon State Party (NMSP) and United Wa State Party (UWSP), and there are the non-ceasefire groups, the Karen National Union (KNU), the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) and many others. What are your thoughts on the role of all these groups?

I assume they will certainly join with us one day. Some will not. Some organisations think more about their own survival and businesses. We have seen such unhealthy tendencies for a long time. I believe they will not be left very much far behind us and will not be left alone if we can regularly offer them our political leadership.

What will be the role of the junta’s armed forces in this proposed conference?

Pro-democracy forces and ethnic forces have asked the military to engage in dialogue for more than 20 years but they haven’t responded … so I have to say there will be no chance of including the army in negotiations on Burmese affairs.

Can this conference concept create confusion against the previous position of the NLD and ethnic forces’ demands for a revision of the 2008 constitution and the tripartite dialogue?

No … these are separate matters. The … deliberations will continue. For instance, pro-democracy forces and ethnic forces represent two parties. The Tatmadaw is not included in either of these parties so the tripartite dialogue advocated by the UN and others would be impossible. But at least dipartite is possible. And then after accepting the formation of genuine federal union, it will be quite different from their constitution. Their military-ruled union is quite contrary to our genuine union so there will be some constitutional issues that we can sort out with them through negotiation.

Will the second Panglong conference be held before or after the election?

The time is too close. Convening the conference is not as easy as sitting in a teashop. Thorough deliberations must be made beforehand. So I think it won’t be any time soon … But we have the intention of make it materialise as soon as possible.

The SPDC seems determined to push its election through by all possible means. Moreover some parties are not interested in a boycott. Is this conference setting up a confrontation with the next elected government?

I don’t think so. Every government has the responsibility to resolve any issue arising in the country by negotiations, no matter what they like or dislike about the issue. It will be unwise if they resolve these issues by military means. They must explore ways to resolve these issues by political means only. It would not be right to resolve them by shooting and imprisoning people. There will be negotiations between us and the upcoming elected government.

Leave a Reply