Following is an opening address delivered by Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaingat a special meeting between the Government and Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement Signatory Ethnic Armed Organizations at the third anniversary of signing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) at Shwe San Ein Hotel in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday:
Today is the third anniversary of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) reached between the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and ethnic armed organizations (EAOs). First and foremost, I would like to extend greetings that may all representatives of NCA signatory ethnic armed organizations and officials who are attending the retreat have mental well-being and enjoy peace and tranquility.
The nationalities of the country know that the current anniversary is more significant than the anniversaries of the previous two years both in character and essence. I have noticed greater aspirations and interest for peace of the national people. At this moment, we are gathering here, serving the historic duty to fulfill the wish of the peace-loving people. We of the Tatmadaw are exerting utmost physical and intellectual efforts to shoulder the historic duty well and restore eternal peace and strengthen democracy.
Gathering greater momentum for the peace process
At the previous NCA signing ceremonies, there were speeches and dinner, which was only a little bit noteworthy than a normal commemorative ceremony. But this year is more significant, with the involvement of follow-up talks. We are going to gather greater momentum for the peace process. I have already explained the resolution of the Tatmadaw to complete the peace process in 2020 in my address at the opening ceremony of the previous Union Peace Conference. Here, I would reiterate that the Tatmadaw will present the eternal peace to the people who are desirous of it after fully realizing the resolution.
The government is working under the goal of adopting more basic principles by holding the conference for three times in 2018 and 2019. The previous conferences have already adopted 51 basic principles for political, economic, social and land and environment sectors, and they have been formed as parts of the Union Agreement. Those principles can be adopted thanks to the benefits of NCA and the adherence to its roadmap. It is not an easy task to reach accords among the warring factions through face-to-face discussions. It is the result of collective talks under the spirit of oneness. Basic principles should be adopted in accordance with the 11-point fundamental rules of the Chapter I of the NCA. So, I would suggest that fundamental rules must be thoroughly understood. The first point is an accord which is a clear explanation of the way the Union, based on democracy and federal system, will be established, as it is the cornerstone of the current peace process and aspired much by the national races. It has three objectives, three basic factors and a three-point guarantee which must be followed compulsorily.
An accord has been reached on building the Union, based on democracy and federal system, in accordance with the results of the political dialogue. The three objectives are non-disintegration of the Union, non-disintegration of national solidarity and perpetuation of sovereignty which in reality are “Our Three Main National Causes.” The foundation is formed with deterrent principles—liberty, equality and justice. Democracy, equity and self-determination are guaranteed. All must aware of the fact that the said guarantees can be realized through the strict observance of Our Three Main National Causes. Now I will deal with “non-secession” which is said to be a difficult issue at the conference. Our Three Main National Causes is to be always kept in the fore at the political dialogue held after abandoning the armed struggle line. So, it needs to realize the issues that go against the objectives — non-disintegration of the Union, non-disintegration of national solidarity and perpetuation of sovereignty – must be avoided at the very start of the talks. Section 10 of the 2008 Constitution of Myanmar has clearly stated that no part of the territory constituted in the Union shall ever secede from the Union. So, the word “non-secession” is a term or assurance truly required for the eternal peace. The anniversary sessions of the Peace Conference, including the present one is initiated by the peace overture extended by the administration of President U Thein Sein in 2011. At the dialogue with EAOs according to the “The Invitation for Peace Talks” issued on 18 August 2011, the peace processes began only after the initial accord to accept Our Three Main National Causes and to stay away from raising the issue of secession. Therefore, it doesn’t need to dispute whether to insert the agreement “non-secession”. I would like to say that the agreement must be inserted in line with the principles of NCA and the principles of the Constitution 2008. Law, rules and disciplines are defined as “exhortation” and “prohibition”. The Union Agreement in implying the law mentions exhortation and dos. So also, only then, will it be endowed with descriptions on prohibitions and don’ts. The root cause of inserting the prohibition “non-secession” does not mean that it does not believe national brethren as criticized by some organizations. I would like to say it aims to ensure full guarantee in the long run, to build trust and to join hands with them on the path of eternal peace without doubt.
An ideology of sharing power and sovereignty
The Union System or the Federalism is an ideology of sharing power and sovereignty to unite diverse regions, states, ethnics and tribes. It is visible that the Federalism cannot be taken as definite, and practising of such system cannot be the same in various countries. The Union System can be practised under the Coming Together Federalism, the Putting Together Federalism and the Holding Together Federalism. Our country is a family which had been practising the Holding Together Federalism during the monarchial era before falling under the British colonial rule. At a time when King Thibaw, the last dynasty of Myanmar, was captured by British, 500 followers led by the person waited at Phayagyi of Mandalay for taking back the king from British. He was a Shan Chieftain namely Nyaungshwe Chieftain U Saw Maung. Therefore, British colonialists worried about unification between Bamar and ethnics. British practised various administrative systems and laws such as the Shan States Act of 1888, the Kachin Hill Tribes Regulation-1895, the Chin Hill Regulation-1896 for prevention of the unification in order to cause divisiveness between ethnic regions and the central region of Myanmar. Diarchy ruling system which was practised from 1921 to 1937 did not accept participation of ethnic regions, and the legislative council set the ratios for those elected from general constituencies, those from Indians, Kayin ethnics, half-breed British citizens and British citizens with the purpose of disintegration in racism. It can be seen that British colonialists arranged practice of divide-and-rule system in the mainland of Myanmar without satisfaction to instigate the hilly and plain regions. The 91-department administration in Myanmar divided the general constituency, Kayin ethnic constituency, Indian citizen constituency, half-breed British citizen constituency, European citizen constituency and chettyar association constituency join the Lower House. Other ethnics did not participate in it separately.
Consequences of divide-and-rule system caused disunity among ethnics and tribes, triggering the armed conflicts. In the time of parliamentary democracy when the worst time in internal armed conflicts of Myanmar from 1948 to 1958 after Myanmar had regained her independence, the diversities of political, racism, ethnic affairs and dogmatism triggered conflicts based on armed struggle lines against successive governments. It is noticeable that international community belittled Myanmar as “Yangon government” at that time. It can be said that the sparks of internal armed conflicts did not start between the Tatmadaw and ethnic armed groups but between the relevant government and ethnic armed groups based on root cause of the armed conflicts and starting time. The Tatmadaw taking responsibility of defence organization safeguarded the State and sovereignty of government. Nowadays, I would like to say the one-sided conclusion over internal armed conflicts which is a problem happening between the Tatmadaw and ethnic armed organizations is inappropriate and incredible.
Panglong Spirit and Panglong Agreement
Our country was divided into pieces in colonial rule. Before regaining independence, all the parts of regions were united to sign the Panglong Agreement to be able to regain independence together. In looking back the history of Panglong, everybody can know the Panglong Agreement did not easily come out.
General Aung San himself was thoughtful to return from the Panglong Conference and secure independence for only mainland due to instigations and one-sided demands. He ordered personal assistant Bo Tun Hla to call the airplane for return. At a time when ethnic people and students gathering around Panglong heard news that the General would return home, they went round there by chanting slogans “Unite Shan and Bamar” and “Don’t want colonialists”. Thanks to their moves, the Panglong Agreement could be signed. At present, some persons said it needs to forge the Panglong Spirit and follow the Panglong Agreement. What is Panglong Spirit? I understand however difficult we are, we need to hold together. On my view, the Panglong Agreement is an agreement holding-together for our national brethren in holding-together for many years to recognize more strengthening of unity.
The Panglong Agreement consisted of nine paragraphs only. Each paragraph and line from the agreement did not have any letter in meaning of the secession. It comprised how to unite and how to regain independence. The paragraph which is mostly criticized and referred to is the last sentence of fifth paragraph. The sentence is “Full autonomy in internal administration for the Frontier Areas is accepted in principle. Everybody may notice the phrase “internal administration”. On the other hand, it means the Self Governing. We all agreed the Self Determination in the NCA. So I said NCA is wider than the ceasefire and I dubbed NCA is a single way of the Union in order to end the armed conflicts in the Union. Especially, it needs to take care of no derailment from the route to Our Three Main National Causes and guarantee of non-secession in enjoying the rights and guarantee of Self Determination.
In carrying out the peace processes, sub-para (d) of Paragraph 22 of the NCA mentions “We agree that all decisions adopted by the Union Peace Conference shall be the basis for amending, repealing and adding provisions to the Constitution and laws, in line with established procedures.” The phrase in line with established procedures means the process for the amendment of the Constitution in Chapter XII of the Constitution. It can be seen that although amendment and adding provisions can be done for the Constitution, it does not allow redrawing. Endeavours of us lead to the eternal peace through the nationwide ceasefire. I have frequently said there is no importance than peace in the peace talks. All discussions mainly lead to the peace and ending armed conflicts. It is not for political game. Any attempt to make unilateral demands in the name of peace talks poses a hindrance to the peace process. We agree in principle on amending and supplementing the really necessary provisions of the constitution with the aim to achieve lasting peace. But it would be difficult for us to agree on amending and supplementing the constitution and other laws with intent to serve self-interest and abuse the NCA. It can be witnessed in 2015 that rights and privileges were given by amending and adding 34 points in the region or state legislative list from Table-2 of the constitution (2008) and 20 points in the provision for collecting taxes by regions or states from Table-5. Measures will be taken for further amendment or supplement if necessary. According to the wishes of some national races after the 2015 election, the right to elect region or state chief ministers through the majority votes from parliamentary representatives in region or state parliaments is another issue we need to consider. In the government, secretaries are appointed under ministers so that there could be no delays in handling administrative machinery whenever political situation changes. Likewise, we must consider assigning duties to region or state governors in addition to chief ministers and ministers. Such a system is successfully being adopted by our neighbouring India, a large federal democratic country.
Honest and fair politics
There have been stronger voices over difficulties in taking over and assuming State duties under the State Constitution (2008). The 2008 Constitution gives guarantee to the country. The participation in the election is political parties and candidates give guarantees to voters. Parliament and the government are to successfully implement the facts described in the Constitution. Under the former President U Thein Sein government, the country was also ruled in line with this constitution. The then government successfully underwent democratic transition and uplifted national economy to a certain degree. There were landmarks in the fields of international relations and internal peace. The incumbent government has also come to power after being elected and forming a government in accord with the constitution. Unless this constitution (2008) meets democratic norms and international standards and the major institutions fail to abide by it, I assume that there is no way the current government became the ruling party from the opposition party. Here, I would like you to point out and invite open discussions if there are any violations of the rights for political parties and organizations, the rights for the citizens and the rights for federalism, which are the essence of the constitution, and any discrimination against national races. Political revenge and democratic bullying will hinder national development. We should take lessons from political revenges in some countries. We must be careful about abolishing the existing laws or enacting new laws before we reach a safe situation just because of political revenge. At the beginning of democracy, security, peace and stability are the most important things. Nothing is as important as ethnic affairs and national interests. Although there is a saying that all is fair in war and politics, I want honest and fair politics.
In demanding self-determination and self-administration for federal Union system, it should be aware that in any region or state in the Union, people belonging to various ethnic groups live collectively, and it not the case that a particular ethnic group live separately. For example, according to 2014 national population census, there are over 1.6 million people in Kachin State, where Bamar make up 29.2 percent, Shan, 23.6 percent, Jinghpaw, 18.97 percent, Lisu, 7 percent, Rawang 5.5 percent, Lowaw, 3.33 percent, Lachit, 2.89 percent, Zaiwa, 1.57 percent while other ethnicities make up around 8 percent. Though there are eight major ethnic groups, there are over 130 tribes. Democracy is about implementing the wishes of the majority in line with law with respect for the wishes of the minority. Regarding self-determination and self-administration, wishes, opinions and rights of ethnic minorities in concerned regions and states must also be taken into consideration.
Emergence of NCA
Regarding ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), all need to sign the NCA (Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement). The NCA emerges at the request of ethnic armed groups. We are not using the NCA as a weapon. We never coerce EAOs by taking advantage of the NCA. In implementing the works in accordance with the Constitution, the same should go for all groups.
Holding political dialogue without ceasing fire can trigger more disputes. It is like fighting a political war besides the military front. EAOs took up arms and demanded national equality, self-determination and self-administration from successive governments. They have been agreed in principle in the NCA, and are being discussed at political talks. Those wishing to get political power should set up official political party and contest for election, those wishing to do business should set up a company, and those wishing to serve in the services to defend the country should join the Tatmadaw, which is the official armed organization of the country. Ignoring this fact and building political power, armory, forces and territory with the force of arms and the bullying of ethnics on the pretext of peace should be assumed as opposing the democracy which people aspire, opposing the federal Union, and having intent to exercise warlordism. Anything that goes against the wishes of the people must be averted through various means. As doing businesses by taking up arms during the peace talk amounts to creating the right by putting pressure, it is not suitable. The NRPC will make arrangements for the needs of the EAOs during the peace talk. They need to consider their views on armed struggles.
The government and Tatmadaw have equally treated EAOs. They adopt the same stance toward KNU, which is strong and which have clashed with the Tatmadaw for many times, and CNF and ALP, which are less strong and barely clashed with the Tatmadaw, and let them sign the NCA. Expanding political power, armory, forces and territory under the cover of NCA will only have negative impact on already stable regions and ethnic areas, so there is a need to avoid this. Regarding RCSS (SSA), MTA led by U Khun Sa surrendered to the government which was formed under the pretext of politics and security and entered the legal fold on 5 January, 1996, and it split and went underground at the end of January. It is clashing with other EAOs as it is building up political base, weaponry, size and enormously expanding its territory after signing the NCA. The NCA shouldn’t be misappropriated. If there is misappropriation, the Tatmadaw, which is responsible to protect the lives and property of ethnic people, will not just stand by and do nothing. It can be seen that there is no fighting in most of the places where NCA signatories are allowed to be stationed. Why? It is because officials of the both sides comply with the NCA.It is undeniable that the resultant peace has enabled locals to work for their social improvement, and those regions have developed compared to the past. Therefore, the sooner permanent peace is achieved, the better the social well-being of people will be. I therefore would like to urge you to jump onto the democratic path without hesitation. And people are also anticipating to achieve permanent peace as soon as possible.
Abandoning armed struggle
The stage we have to undergo to end armed conflicts and achieve eternal peace is security reintegration. Regardless of political system, every country has a single army for state defence. EAOs, when they get self-determination and self-administration granted in accord with the law in self-administered region and regions and states, have to abandon armed struggle. If they want to continue serving defence duty, they have to join the Tatmadaw. They will be awarded appropriate ranks depending on criteria for service personnel and their qualification. Today’s Tamadaw was born of Myanmar’s independence struggle. The Thirty Comrades led by General Aung San constituted the embryo of the Tatmadaw. The Tatmadaw originated from the Burma Independence Army (BIA) formed on December 27, 1941. In the time of the Fascist Japan, the strength of Tatmadaw got reduced, and the BIA was transformed into the Burma Defence Army (BDA). The Patriotic Burmese Forces (PBF) was disbanded when the British entered the country for second time in 1945. It tried to replace it with the so-called Burma Army formed in India when the British escaped the war. The entire people opposed that plan. A proposal pertaining to “Tatmadaw” was submitted at Nay Thurein Conference for the continual existence of the Tatmadaw. Ceremonies supporting the proposal submitted to the Nay Thurein Conference were held in Mandalay, Sagaing, Myingyan, Pyinmana, Taungoo, Bago, Thayawady and Hinthada on a grand scale. For the formation of the MyanmaTatmadaw, the British signed the Kandy Pact on September 7, 1945. For the formation of Tatmadaw (Navy) and Tatmadaw (Air), Letyar-Freemen Contract was signed between Bo Letyar, a member of the Thirty Comrades and John W Freemen on August 29, 1947. Bama Air Force was formed on December 15 and Bama Navy on December 24. Respective parts of the current Myanmar Tatmadaw, battalions and units emerged in accord with the government’s gazettes and the formation order of the State. Our Tatmadawmen join the army with own desires and are not performing the duty under a quota system. Military officers are appointed under the government’s gazettes. Servicemen are appointed in accordance with the designated qualifications and the military service rules. They have to be loyal to the State based on the hierarchical administrative system. These existences, gazettes and rules and regulations are the things to be abided by all military servants. The formation of defence units in every states and the appointment that goes beyond the military service rules, without step-by-step military duties are the thoughts that turn back. In addition, the Tatmadaw has agreed to make reforms which are in conformity with the democracy system in principle. All EAOs first need to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) and make security integration.
In conclusion, I would like to urge all concerned to-:
-Carry out the works with a view to fundamental principles of the NCA agreed in laying down basic principles for peace process and the fundamental principles of the 2008 Constitution.
-need to pay special awareness of the fact that the process is not intended for the short-term peace and the peace that will last during a tenure of the government. We should see it for the long term.
-Ethnic armed groups which have not signed the NCA yet are urged to sign the NCA by valuing the people’s desires for peace. I would like to urge signatories to the NCA to continue sticking to the peace process in good faith. Thank you, all.