BURMA: Reform process hindered by two sources of governing power

BURMA: Reform process hindered by two sources of governing power

Wednesday, 27 February 2013 18:00 Sai Wansai

President Thein Sein on Tuesday, February 26, met Norway’s prime minister as he kicked off a 10-day visit to Europe aimed at forging stronger ties between Burma and the West. He will be visiting Finland, Austria, Belgium and Italy before returning home on March 8.

Hardly has he landed in Oslo, he was confronted by a group of exiled demonstrators, made up of non-Burman ethnic and pro-democracy group, who wanted to highlight the true nature prevailing in Burma.

When asked by the BBC why they were demonstrating, one participant said that even though the government has been emphasizing internationally about its democratization process, the reality on the ground is that civil war is ongoing with no real change for the people basically. He also said that the country is still a partly military and partly civilian administration, which they like to inform the real situation to the Norwegian public. According to the BBC, the said exiled group is to meet President Thein Sein today, where he will answer questions and clarify the government positions, probably ranging from the issues of civil war to 2008 military-privileged, Constitution.

While the Oslo exiled group is somewhat reluctant to endorse the President fully for his reform process undertakings, Democratic Voice of Burma (DVD) deputy editor-in-chief said: “This kind of visit is important in the context of political change in the country because President Thein Sein and the reformers in this current government need encouragement and support from the international community so that the hardliners who oppose transformation can be isolated.”

The President Delegation spokesman, U Ye Hut told the BBC recently that no signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will be on the agenda with any country.

Yesterday, after meeting with Norway Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, Thein Sein said: “We wish to learn from you the manners in which we can manage these resources to the benefit of our people.” He also called for more cooperation between the two countries, which are both rich in energy resources but at very different stages of development.

All in all, it seems, judging from what he had told Stoltenberg, Thein Sein generally intends to lobby for more backing for his reform process, including the field of capacity-building and economic development. But U Ye Htut, in his recent interview with the BBC, said General Soe Win will be also clarifying the government position on peace process.

Meanwhile, the offensive in Shan and Kachin States continue on and off, depending on the mood of the Burma Army, buttressing the fact that the country is ruled by a dual-system of military and quasi-civilian government, with two sources of power competing with each other.

Kachin News Group reported on 25 February that fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Burma military broke out last weekend near Sawlaw and Chipwe in northern Kachin state. The clashes started after government troops from Infantry Battalion 29 attacked the KIA Battalion 10 on Saturday. Chipwe, located north east of the Kachin state capital Myitkyina, is home to a small 2,000 MW dam built to supply electricity for the construction of the now officially suspended Myitsone dam.

Shan Herald Agency for News also reported recently that the government troops attacked Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) in northern Shan State, Tang Yang area and also Restoration Council of Shan State/ Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) in Kholam area, Southern Shan State during the last two weeks of February, breaching the ceasefire agreements signed by both the SSAs. The armed clashes between the Burma Army and the two SSAs is now said to number more than 100 times. A peculiar situation for a ceasefire agreement, which would have long been terminated if this happen in other countries.

But an optimistic, Minister U Aung Min, who is also vice-chairman of the government’s Union Peace Working Committee, told the reporters that the clashes were the result of a misunderstanding between low-level troopers, at the Myanmar Peace Centre on Saturday.

Aung Min confirmed the clashes between the SSPP/SSA and government troops on February 19 and 20. “It happened because of a misunderstanding between lower level troops. No fighting occurred yesterday or today. Similar incidents might happen in other countries. This will not disrupt the peace talks,” he said.

“A ceasefire is a firm foundation for peace, but we have much to discuss after ceasefires. It is difficult to hold talks while carrying weapons. Such an incident might happen between low-level troops because they are carrying weapons. This is a further issue to discuss. We are holding talks alternatively with armed ethnic groups,” Aung Min said.

Whatever the case, whether the Thein Sein headed, powerful, National Defense and Security Council (NDSC) dominated by the military or Thein Sein led Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) government is making the decision on the process of ongoing ethnic armed conflict is unknown. Some even speculate that the former strongman, General Than Shwe has his own shadow government in Naypyitaw and make all important decisions for Thein Sein regime.

The contributor is the General Secretary of Shan Democratic Union (SDU) – Editor

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