On Burma’s national Independence Day on January 4th, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the chairwoman of the National League for Democracy (NLD), pledged in a speech that her party would find solutions to bring peace and establish a democratic federal system.
However, during the NLD’s election campaigns, the party remained largely silent about the peace talks and complex ethnic affairs. Despite this, ethnic Bamar and other ethnic nationalities across the country voted in huge numbers for the NLD, likely in the hope that the party would bring major change to the country. Now, after a landslide victory, the NLD and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi are faced with an enormous responsibility.
Because the NLD has been fighting for democracy and human rights since its inception, 27 years ago, the party is highly aware of the scale of the conflicts in the country. Also, members understand that there is no possibility for democracy to take root without peace. This new government knows well that it must pave a pathway to nationwide peace.
However, the new government has yet to have much contact with ethnic armed groups — regarding the peace process. Instead, it appears close with the Tatmadaw. If genuine peace were established in the country, the Tatmadaw’s influence over politics would decrease. So, the question is, what role would the Tatmadaw fill once peace is established?
The NLD and ethnic armed groups want to amend the 2008 Constitution. But the Tatmadaw seeks to maintain power and protect the constitution, and does not want to give up the opportunities it already enjoys through its guaranteed 25% of parliamentary seats and administration of key government ministries.
It is meaningless that the government has the signatures of only eight ethnic armed groups on its NCA and yet is starting the peace process. It is dishonest for the government to be holding peace talks with NCA signatories while its troops continue to attack other groups. Among only those eight groups and the government, genuine peace cannot be achieved.
Thus, when the NLD government decides to establish peace, it must hold talks with the Tatmadaw to negotiate a cessation to their aggressive and self-preserving policies. Discussions with the military are also needed to bring an end to attacks in Arakan, Kachin and Shan states. Only when Tatmadaw troops completely stop offensives and withdraw from the conflict-affected ethnic areas will the non-signatory ethnic armed groups sign the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA). After all ethnic armed groups throughout the country sign the NCA, then peace talks can truly begin.
When the NLD assumes leadership of the government, it must look into every issue and work hard to accomplish peace. At the same time, the NLD must progress forward [towards], at long last, the achievement of democracy.