Members of Burma’s ethnic armed groups recently met for two days in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where they selected representatives to work with government negotiators on a draft of the country’s long-awaited nationwide ceasefire agreement, which is expected to be finalised by August 2014.
DVB’s Aye Nai interviewed Col Hkun Okker, a member of the ethnic delegates’ Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) about the results of the meeting and the challenges of finding lasting peace in Burma.
Q: What was discussed during the NCCT meetings in Chiang Mai?
A: This was mainly a follow-up to the meeting we had in Rangoon with the Union Peace Making Working Committee (UPMWC). There we agreed to draft a single text for the nationwide ceasefire agreement, which would include seven sections. The document will be drafted by 18 people, nine from the government and nine from ethnic armed groups. Implementing this plan was the basis of our discussions.
Q: What results came out of the meeting?
A: We discussed a policy for choosing those nine representatives. There will be permanent representatives and a few alternate representatives. This is our policy. We also delegated duties for drafting provisions in the agreement’s seven sections.
Q: Who will be representing the NCCT during the drafting process, and who will be representing the government?
A: I don’t know details about the government’s team, but according to Aung Min, he will lead three representatives from the government. I don’t know who the other two people will be. From the Hluttaw [Parliament] side, Thein Zaw will lead the three representatives but I don’t know who the two others are. I do not know which three people will represent the Burmese military.
On our side, Pado Kwe Htoo Win will be the leader, and two other alternate leaders will be chosen. Another five to six members will be selected from our 16-member NCCT team. Our policy is that there be five or six permanent representatives and the others will alternate.
Q: When will the joint committee start work?
A: At the beginning of April.
Q: When can people see the draft?
A: It is difficult to say as we haven’t even started writing it. I don’t know how long it will take.
Q: Some army leaders have said that they aim to sign the agreement before 1 August. From the perspective of the ethnic armed groups, is this timeframe important, and when would you like to see the process concluded?
A: If we can work fast, it may even be earlier than August. I am hesitant to estimate the time, however. We will only know once we are actually working on it. We’ll need to negotiate with the joint committee. It is too early to tell.
Q: In the joint-committee meetings, how much will you be able to negotiate on federal army and federal union issues?
A: I don’t know yet. But for establishing a federal union, both sides have already agreed and not much needs to be negotiated. As for the federal army issue, we have agreed to continue discuss this as we enter political dialogue. So there is not much to negotiate during the ceasefire drafting process.
Q: What do you think about the government peace team, which comprises executive, parliament and military representatives?
A: We see it as comprehensive. Parliament needs to approve the agreement we reach in order for it to become legislation, so the participation of the Hluttaw will make the process faster. We won’t need to hold separate parliamentary sessions to explain the agreement. Those delegates can explain the draft to the rest of the legislature. As for the military, if the senior officials join and agree on the conditions of the ceasefire, it will be easier for the army to keep their promises. The ceasefire will be stronger.