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Forgotten "beginning heart" and the difficult road of peace in Myanmar: three times "Penglong meeting" backtracking

According to Xinhua News Agency's Yangon news on January 4, four police officers in the northern part of Rakhine State were attacked by ethnic local armed forces on the same day. The attack killed 13 policemen and injured 9 people.

At present, the peace talks in Myanmar are in the midst of a jigsaw. The sudden wars have once again touched the nerves of all stakeholders. The war suspicion has aggravated the international community's concerns about whether this round of peace talks can proceed smoothly. Why is the road to peace in Myanmar so twisted and twisted? To understand this problem profoundly, we must go back to history and find out its development logic in order to outline the real context.

The Panglong Consensus is gradually eroding

The federal cornerstone laid by the first Panglong Conference was gradually abandoned, leading to the institutional lack of political structure construction. In addition, the influence of various factors made Myanmar's foundation for building national identity weak, and ethnic relations deteriorated. The difficulty is increased.

In February 1947, the first Panglong meeting was held in Binlong Town, Shan State, Myanmar, hosted by Aung San Suu Kyi's father, General Aung San, and led by the Burmese, Yi, Kachin and Chin leaders. They agreed to unite and work together to end the British colonial rule, establish a unified Myanmar Union after gaining independence, and sign the Binlong Agreement.

The agreement emphasizes that all ethnic minority regions enjoy full autonomy in national politics. The results achieved at this meeting are called the Binlong Consensus. The core content is to emphasize reconciliation, tolerance, development, and joint construction. The Democratic Union of Myanmar allows all ethnic minority areas to enjoy full autonomy in national politics, allowing minorities to decide whether to remain in the Burmese federal system after 10 years of membership. It is this principle of self-determination of the nation that has laid a hidden danger for the future ethnic conflict in Myanmar.

On August 31, 2016, the NLD government led by Aung San Suu Kyi held the second 21st Century Panglong Conference in Naypyidaw. The members of the Preparatory Committee met several times with a number of ethnic minority armed forces. Invite leaders of armed groups to participate in this peace conference. The meeting was attended by 15 ethnic armed groups. In addition to the eight national armed forces that had signed the national ceasefire agreement, seven ethnic and local armed groups such as the Kokang Allied Forces, the De'ang National Liberation Army, and the Rakhine Army have not signed a peace agreement. This meeting.

There was a storm during the meeting and the atmosphere was tense. At this meeting, the NLD government proposed that only a single army in the future federal system would be strongly opposed by the representatives of armed minority organizations, which immediately led to heated debate. Under the guidance of this principle, all armed groups in all regions must hand over all the weapons in their hands. The reality is that there is a serious lack of mutual trust between the armed forces of the ethnic minorities and the government. They worry that after disarmament, they will only become the flesh and blood. It can be seen that the political strength of the parties is insufficient, and the results of the peace talks are very limited. Just after the conclusion of the meeting, according to a set of data released by the Myanmar Peace Monitoring Committee, in the northern part of the country in the following five months, a total of 150 days, armed conflicts of magnitude 86 occurred.

On July 11, 2018, the third Panglong meeting opened in Naypyidaw, and more than 1,000 representatives attended the meeting. Myanmar's state affairs Aung San Suu Kyi called on all parties to work together to achieve national reconciliation and peace. The meeting was originally planned to be held in the last week of May, but on May 12th, armed conflicts between the Burmese government forces and several ethnic local armed forces in the Mushi area in northern Myanmar delayed the meeting until July.

Aung San Suu Kyi stated in his opening speech that we must continue to work hard to create a new era of war, peace and stability for the new generation, and to renew the gloom of hope due to war problems. She called on all parties to work together to achieve national reconciliation and peace. At present, peace talks are still stuck in a stalemate, and it is still unclear what results can be achieved.

Observing three times at the Panglong Conference, there will be a very intuitive feeling: the peace process in Myanmar has been tortuous and it seems to have entered an infinite loop. The strategy of all parties is to promote war. Armed conflicts will occur before each peace talks. After the conflicts, they will sit down and negotiate. When they meet with each other, they will fall into a fight. The meeting will be held arbitrarily, but the war will never stop. The peace talks have no real progress, and the armed conflicts are hard to divide. Winning and losing. Although the participants all know that the meeting and talks will not have any results, they are still seriously preparing and actively participating in the meeting, as if the meeting itself has become the purpose of the meeting. As for whether it can be rewarded, it does not matter.

The Slow Transition of the Union of Federal States of Myanmar

Based on the agreement reached at the first Panglong Conference, Myanmar was a loose federal state from the very beginning of the founding of the country. At that time, the anti-Fascist People's Freedom League, which led the founding of the Burmese people, was not a political party in the true sense, but an alliance composed of multiple parties, groups, and individuals. Internal political views have been inconsistent and compete for power. The weakness of the handling of domestic national issues, while failing to resolve the political, economic and social development problems of the post-independence countries, was finally replaced by the military regime.

In 1949, the Karen ethnic group in Myanmar was deeply affected by British colonial rule and deepened the gap between Burmese's main ethnic group, the Burmese, and demanded the establishment of an independent Karen country. At this point, the prelude to the civil war in Myanmar was opened. The people of Vietnam have become stronger and stronger, and the ethnic barriers have become deeper and deeper. Coupled with the competition between political forces, the fierce struggle between centralization and decentralization has made the Myanmar issue more complicated and ethnic relations worse. Therefore, under the dual pressures of ethnic issues and political decentralization, the state power structure in Myanmar began to change.

As the most populous nation in Myanmar, Burmese accounts for about 69% of the total population. However, in history, there has never been effective rule over various ethnic minority areas, and there is no complete centralized dynasty system. Myanmar does not have a cultural foundation for the unification and has no historical experience of centralization.

In a long period of time, the struggle between the central government and the decentralization of Burma was fierce and uncompromising. After various political forces entered the political arena, they wanted to highly concentrate state power and increase the government and local political entities. Decentralized tension between. The Burmese government has always wanted to transform the federal system into a centralized state. This change began with the 1974 Constitution of Myanmar, which divided the country into seven provinces and seven states. Although the names of ethnic minorities have been preserved, the states at this time are no longer national autonomous units, and they have no real Power is no different from ordinary administrative areas. The status of the state and the general administrative province have been leveled, which means that the Myanmar government has completely abandoned the principle of state-state autonomy, ignoring the autonomy of ethnic minorities and over-emphasizing centralization.

This initiative is deeply rejected by the political entities of various ethnic groups. It is considered that this is not in line with Myanmar's national conditions. It seriously deviates from the spirit of the first Panglong meeting of the founding of Myanmar. It completely deprives the minority of the law of equal participation in the management of state affairs and local affairs. Rights have neglected the important role played by other political forces in the construction of the country, which has led to the loss of political mutual trust between the government and local authorities, and the confrontation has intensified.

The current National Ceasefire Peace Agreement (NCA), which is currently under negotiation, is a resentment of ethnic minorities. It is believed that the government's initiative to establish a unified army does not meet the principle of national autonomy emphasized by the Binlong Consensus; they also doubt the government. The motives for the unified reintegration of national armed forces.

The Burmese has the largest population compared to other ethnic minorities. However, if the Binlong Agreement is abandoned and the Binlong Consensus is based on this, and only wants to take the centralized system, it will encounter strong and lasting resistance because There are 135 ethnic groups in Myanmar, which is a constant fact.

Great country intervention, the prospects are unpredictable

In 2017, the war in northern Myanmar reignited, and the armed forces in Burma were intertwined, providing opportunities for major countries to intervene. The Rohingya crisis in Rakhine State that broke out in 2018 once stunned the Western world and wanted to stir up the situation in Myanmar.

At present, Japan is increasing its layout of Myanmar North Power. At the same time, Japan is expected to provide Myanmar with a loan of 100 billion yen for the renovation of the Yangon Ring Railway and the upgrading of power equipment. Japan's motivation to invest in the northern part of Myanmar is not for peace in Myanmar, but for its strategic location close to India, Bangladesh and Thailand. This is worthy of attention. Every year, the US ambassador to Myanmar meets with Kachin State to meet the leaders of the Baptist Church. Sometimes senior US military officials also visit the church. The current church is also a think tank of the Kachin Independence Army and a role of a civil propaganda organization.

Achieving lasting peace for the country is the common aspiration of the people of Myanmar, and peace requires compromise. In the peace process in Myanmar, a lasting peace can be achieved only through a political channel and a sincere dialogue. History has proven that armed conflict can only intensify ethnic conflicts and bury only good national transport. The future direction of Myanmar is still unclear, but what is certain is that only political dialogue can solve the problem.

(Author  刘琳 Shanghai Center for Global Governance and Regional Studies Southeast Asia Research Center

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