Sunday, October 12, 2014

European Union and politics that goes hand in glove

Weekly Eleven Published on Tuesday, 07 October 2014
When the peace process, relating to a ceasefire and a political dialogue, is highly likely to be in a deadlocked or discontinued, it can be reviewed that European Union (EU) nicknamed a peace donor is raising concerns. With such concerns, the EU should be aware of a strategic intervention approach between the government and ethnic armed groups, steering clear of the political game going hand in glove with the government.

Throughout the post-independence period of Myanmar history, the successive regimes intentionally ruled out the leading role of an influential non-partisan or a middleman in helping to achieve national unity and local peace process. The internal peace efforts made by influential statesmen including Sayagyi Thakin Ko Daw Hmaing, U Aung Than—the elder brother of Gen. Aung San—and former Brigadier General Kyaw Saw were also neglected. Sayagyi Thakin Ko Daw Hmaing’s intervention in internal peace was rung down a curtain noticeably or unnoticeably, it was turned a blind eye and it was set aside. For that reason, it can be reviewed that the role of intervention has been still puny from the initial stage of building internal peace in the post-independence period to the current peace process.

It can be reviewed that there is no non-partisan but biased persons, moreover, there is no interventionist but government supporters in the current Myanmar’s peace process and such political game totally goes against sustainable peace building.  A man of staying neutral or an interventionist must be really a middleman and have influence over both sides. In Myanmar’s democratic reforms and national reconciliation, a blank is appearing for enabling real interventionist to be involved. In this situation, the United Nations, EU members, the United States and People’s Republic of China should focus on strategic intervention approach between the government and ethnic armed organisations. They should keep a close watch on the situation in order to turning their observer position to the negotiators. If they intervene themselves in the democratic reforms and national reconciliation, they must be careful about their stances not to choose government side noticeably.  

Taking a look at the international’s role, the EU has the most influence over Myanmar’s deadlocked peace process after the Washington and China. The EU has already built its influences by contributing over 90 million euro to Myanmar’s peace-making process. On April, 2013, the EU lifted all sanctions against Myanmar, apart from the military equipments. It can be assumed that the EU would have its influence over Myanmar’s political sector to a certain degree. We can draw a conclusion that the EU would have more influence over it if the EU could sketch a project that the world countries can involve in.

EU Ambassador Roland Kobia and EU Member States issued a statement on October 2 this year after meeting with ethnic minority group leaders, representatives of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), including some members of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) on September 29. Like its talks with the armed national races groups, the EU should exchange views with the government and Tatmadaw (the army).

The EU ambassador emphasised on October 2 that the need for an early conclusion of the National Ceasefire Agreement and the launch of full-fledged inclusive political dialogues aimed at achieving lasting peace in Myanmar. He underscored the direct link between peace, security and stability on the one hand, and socio-economic progress, growth and overall development of the whole country, notably of the conflict-affected areas, on the other hand.

It is an undeniable fact that the more the country sees peace, the more people have to enjoy development. However, the EU should not hesitate to continue revealing the fact that the government has more accountability in the peace-making process than the armed groups.

Although the EU’s proposal to sign nation-wide ceasefire plan as quickly as possible is reasonable, I want to point out that its proposal to start political dialogue participated by all groups to have long-lasting peace have some facts to consider. The EU should consider that their aim to sign peace treaty and start political dialogues quickly will be different with those of Myanmar government.

They should consider that it is not reasonable to start political dialogues because general election will be held within a little over one year and there may be different reasons to choose representatives for all groups before and after the election. I think it is more sensible to start political dialogues after election because the political game before and after 2015 election may be opposite in direction. The period before the political dialogue and after cease fire treaty should be a preparation phase for the dialogue and it is better than everything that if EU intervene for negotiation between the participants.

The nation-wide ceasefire agreement is the lifeblood which can lead to the long-standing national peace. The ceasefire agreement that won’t last for long cannot be a good beginning of the long-standing peace. As the saying goes “A good beginning makes a good ending”, the European Union should guide Myanmar to continue its path to the long-standing cease-fire agreement.

The EU says it understands the importance and complexity of the current negotiations. The commitment of negotiating parties has been humbling, and all would now deserve to reap the benefit of the talks through a quantum leap. The signature of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement would send a strong signal to the population of Myanmar, and to the international community, which could in turn launch new initiatives and instruments of support to the country in a stable and safe environment. Therefore, the EU calls upon all parties to show a spirit of compromise for the benefit of the country and of the Myanmar people, ending conflict, suffering and underdevelopment. The EU is proud to be one of the biggest political and financial supporters of the peace process and intends, as requested by negotiating parties, to increase its support to accompany the next phase.

As the EU's role is crucial not only in finance, but also well in politics as well in Myanmar's peace process, a systematic study of the fluctuation of the peace process is needed. Since the financial aid is being given with the entire people in mind, the EU not only needs to inspect the use of the financial aid with transparency, but also release the budget report to the public. Only then, the entire people will have full confidence in the EU's financial aid and the assumption that the EU is in league with the government will become shaken.

In the current political process, the EU must take heed of interacting and becoming too familiar with the government, the government stooges, and the government supporters. The entire people may easily regard the EU has going hand in glove with the government based on its acts of over-familiarisation with the government, the government stooges, and the government supporters. Moreover, it is important for the EU to avoid holding meetings with the ethnic armed groups on behalf of the government to inform the government's views, giving pressure to the ethnic armed groups or forcing them into a tight corner, and giving promises for development incentives indirectly.

In conclusion, it is crucial for the EU to stand neutral between the government and the ethnic armed groups in politics. If it can stand fairly and neutrally and take the position of a true peace middle man or a negotiator, it can be concluded that Myanmar peace process will have a brighter future. It must be highlighted that the EU can receive negative response from the public, have its dignity tainted in politics, and become well-known as going hand in glove with the government if it craves too much for the investment and economic incentives and indirectly stands on the side of the government, the government stooges, and organisations that support the government.