Interview with Kyaw Htin Aung, Kayah (Karenni) State Peace observer

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“Actually, the peace process would become stronger with the ethnic armed KNPP if it includes people who have been trained and know well in peace and include in this remaining phase of current government and also in the third batch of the new government. Whatever we say the people’s government or the government elected by the people; in fact, the most important issues are that if it keeps assigning to only the military or retired military, it would not be able to make a stronger move for the state,” said Kyaw Htin Aung, Kayah (Karenni) State Peace observer.

Soe Htike Aung

Kyaw Htin Aung, Kayah (Karenni) State Peace observer

Question: In your observation, you mentioned there are violations and disrespect manner occurred during NLD government on bilateral agreements. So, could you tell us what went wrong? What did they violate the terms they signed?

Answer: Yes, The agreement to suspend large-scale projects included in the 20 agreements with KNPP on March 1, 2012. In fact, at the Union level of the first agreement signed on June 2012, it said in Agreement No. 6 that the large-scale project like the Ywar Thit project must be suspended. In fact, the people, the public and civil society organizations, Social groups must also be allowed to observe it. It must be displayed in a transparent manner. The same issue was added at the Union level for the second time negotiation. So the government have even allowed large-scale projects operated without any notice to the public. According to FPIC, it requires the prior informing and asking for the consent of local people to build a project. Instead of it, it has been approved by the Myanmar Investment Commission with the saying that the state government has no objection to doing so. That is why this is the first and second time the two sides have agreed on the union level, and it has been violated by the union government and we are moving towards a situation where there is no real transparency. This should not happen as it has been agreed at the union level so far, so we must respect it for long-lasting peace.

Question: They also agreed to clear land mines. What are they currently discussing? How is the situation?

Answer: During the current ceasefire period after the two sides have negotiated, it included the agreements to clear the land mines and repatriation of refugees. However, we believe that the confidence-building component is still weak. That’s why we have not seen either both sides working together or one side leading to clear mines. Besides, another issue is they still could not implement the dignified repatriation of our indigenous people who have fled to refugee camp in 1990s. The ethnic armed groups, on the other hand, do not last more than two years because their mines are abandoned mines. At most, some mines will last for three years. At the current eight-year agreement, the mines are said to be dead, but we have heard that some mines planted by the Tatmadaw are still disrupted until 2018. So, if some mines under the towers, some in forest trails, some in the camps are still alive, the livelihoods of our local people would still be shrinking because of the mines. If these issues are truly addressed, our people will be in a much safer state of mind in order to earn a living in the mountains. At the moment, there is still some concern about mental security due to the lack of systematic clean-up. However, since it already lasted for long time, some local people are travelling in some limited areas.

Question: At that time, did they agree in the agreement that the KNPP should withdraw from the illegal group?

Answer: They didn’t. It has not been revoked yet. It included in the claims discussed on March 1, 2012. In order to have really negotiation and real long-lasting peace and action, we need to abolish the illegal association defined by the junta. But so far, there is no announcement released by either the government or the military yet. At the moment, if the KNPP is kept as an illegal organization, those who really want to work for peace face a hurdle. This is because Section (17/1-17/2), which deals with illegal association, is punishable by up to two years in prison. However, no action has been taken against those who have been working for peace for eight years. In recognition of working for peace, although there is no lawsuits or legal action, if it is abolished, it will be more psychologically strong for those who are working for real peace. Only then will we be able to strengthen the networking. Otherwise, because it has not been revoked yet, it could lead to legal action, which in some cases could lead to a weakening of the peace process in some areas.

Question: As you said, the cooperation of regional development between the two groups is at moderate. What is going at moderate?

Answer: Yes, in terms of regional development, in the past, the limited brown or black areas are now well-informed and armed, and if it is unarmed in some place, it is able to move freely. We have seen there is more road and bridge construction done for the public after the 2012 ceasefire period. In terms of other regional development issues, the CSOs, INGOs, NGOs are now also able to enter and conduct their activities into the control areas. As a result, there are a little more of development work done in our area, and the networking and travelling to the respective villages also improving. After the ceasefire period of 2012, the development of the region has improved, as some government departments have recently added and provided service to some villages that have not never been reached.

Question: They agreed to meet regularly with the government at the state level. So, what you are talking about is without civilian representatives, the attendants are just the representatives from Admin Dpt, and military members, why are these things happening? How should it be?

Answer: In fact, at least one official from the state government should be involved. However, the Minister of Security and Border Affairs, who is said to be part of the state government, has been appointed. In addition, even if there is no other chief minister, there must be a minister. Although the ministers who were elected as the civilian representatives should be included in the meetings, only most of the ones who have changed their uniforms from the military and the secretary of state government, present in the meeting. So, we heard that it is just the (3) ministers meeting without civilian. Even now, they are told to meet regularly once a month, but only once every 3-4 months. Although they met once, only a small amount of development in the region could be discussed, not just in general, but weak negotiation capability for political and economic development for lasting peace. This is the lack of peace related knowledge, experience, and accountability of the members of the state government.

Question: Is it because they have no experience? Or is it because of the central control? Please share your perspectives.

Answer: Some issues are usually transferred to the NRPC union level. But in the real situation, some definitely should participate; both the civilian elected representatives and a minister should be included. In fact, the prime minister is the head of state. But now that more than four years have passed, he is only once in a place where he has no power to speak at the union level. In fact, in areas where he has to lead, he has weak responsibility and accountability, ask only other member to attend the meeting, so it is like playing volleyball (transferring case) at the union level. It is partly a good idea, but some parts cause bad idea. Because of that, both in the current and the third upcoming new government will only become stronger with the ethnic armed KNPP if it includes people who have been trained and well understand in peace. Actually, the peace process would become stronger with the ethnic armed KNPP if it includes people who have been trained and know well in peace and include in this remaining phase of current government and also in the third batch of the new government. Whatever we say the people’s government or the government elected by the people; in fact, the most important issues are that if it keeps assigning to only the military or retired military, it would not be able to make a stronger move for the state

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“Actually, the peace process would become stronger with the ethnic armed KNPP if it includes people who have been trained and know well in peace and include in this remaining phase of current government and also in the third batch of the new government. Whatever we say the people’s government or the government elected by the people; in fact, the most important issues are that if it keeps assigning to only the military or retired military, it would not be able to make a stronger move for the state,” said Kyaw Htin Aung, Kayah (Karenni) State Peace observer.

Soe Htike Aung

Kyaw Htin Aung, Kayah (Karenni) State Peace observer

Question: In your observation, you mentioned there are violations and disrespect manner occurred during NLD government on bilateral agreements. So, could you tell us what went wrong? What did they violate the terms they signed?

Answer: Yes, The agreement to suspend large-scale projects included in the 20 agreements with KNPP on March 1, 2012. In fact, at the Union level of the first agreement signed on June 2012, it said in Agreement No. 6 that the large-scale project like the Ywar Thit project must be suspended. In fact, the people, the public and civil society organizations, Social groups must also be allowed to observe it. It must be displayed in a transparent manner. The same issue was added at the Union level for the second time negotiation. So the government have even allowed large-scale projects operated without any notice to the public. According to FPIC, it requires the prior informing and asking for the consent of local people to build a project. Instead of it, it has been approved by the Myanmar Investment Commission with the saying that the state government has no objection to doing so. That is why this is the first and second time the two sides have agreed on the union level, and it has been violated by the union government and we are moving towards a situation where there is no real transparency. This should not happen as it has been agreed at the union level so far, so we must respect it for long-lasting peace.

Question: They also agreed to clear land mines. What are they currently discussing? How is the situation?

Answer: During the current ceasefire period after the two sides have negotiated, it included the agreements to clear the land mines and repatriation of refugees. However, we believe that the confidence-building component is still weak. That’s why we have not seen either both sides working together or one side leading to clear mines. Besides, another issue is they still could not implement the dignified repatriation of our indigenous people who have fled to refugee camp in 1990s. The ethnic armed groups, on the other hand, do not last more than two years because their mines are abandoned mines. At most, some mines will last for three years. At the current eight-year agreement, the mines are said to be dead, but we have heard that some mines planted by the Tatmadaw are still disrupted until 2018. So, if some mines under the towers, some in forest trails, some in the camps are still alive, the livelihoods of our local people would still be shrinking because of the mines. If these issues are truly addressed, our people will be in a much safer state of mind in order to earn a living in the mountains. At the moment, there is still some concern about mental security due to the lack of systematic clean-up. However, since it already lasted for long time, some local people are travelling in some limited areas.

Question: At that time, did they agree in the agreement that the KNPP should withdraw from the illegal group?

Answer: They didn’t. It has not been revoked yet. It included in the claims discussed on March 1, 2012. In order to have really negotiation and real long-lasting peace and action, we need to abolish the illegal association defined by the junta. But so far, there is no announcement released by either the government or the military yet. At the moment, if the KNPP is kept as an illegal organization, those who really want to work for peace face a hurdle. This is because Section (17/1-17/2), which deals with illegal association, is punishable by up to two years in prison. However, no action has been taken against those who have been working for peace for eight years. In recognition of working for peace, although there is no lawsuits or legal action, if it is abolished, it will be more psychologically strong for those who are working for real peace. Only then will we be able to strengthen the networking. Otherwise, because it has not been revoked yet, it could lead to legal action, which in some cases could lead to a weakening of the peace process in some areas.

Question: As you said, the cooperation of regional development between the two groups is at moderate. What is going at moderate?

Answer: Yes, in terms of regional development, in the past, the limited brown or black areas are now well-informed and armed, and if it is unarmed in some place, it is able to move freely. We have seen there is more road and bridge construction done for the public after the 2012 ceasefire period. In terms of other regional development issues, the CSOs, INGOs, NGOs are now also able to enter and conduct their activities into the control areas. As a result, there are a little more of development work done in our area, and the networking and travelling to the respective villages also improving. After the ceasefire period of 2012, the development of the region has improved, as some government departments have recently added and provided service to some villages that have not never been reached.

Question: They agreed to meet regularly with the government at the state level. So, what you are talking about is without civilian representatives, the attendants are just the representatives from Admin Dpt, and military members, why are these things happening? How should it be?

Answer: In fact, at least one official from the state government should be involved. However, the Minister of Security and Border Affairs, who is said to be part of the state government, has been appointed. In addition, even if there is no other chief minister, there must be a minister. Although the ministers who were elected as the civilian representatives should be included in the meetings, only most of the ones who have changed their uniforms from the military and the secretary of state government, present in the meeting. So, we heard that it is just the (3) ministers meeting without civilian. Even now, they are told to meet regularly once a month, but only once every 3-4 months. Although they met once, only a small amount of development in the region could be discussed, not just in general, but weak negotiation capability for political and economic development for lasting peace. This is the lack of peace related knowledge, experience, and accountability of the members of the state government.

Question: Is it because they have no experience? Or is it because of the central control? Please share your perspectives.

Answer: Some issues are usually transferred to the NRPC union level. But in the real situation, some definitely should participate; both the civilian elected representatives and a minister should be included. In fact, the prime minister is the head of state. But now that more than four years have passed, he is only once in a place where he has no power to speak at the union level. In fact, in areas where he has to lead, he has weak responsibility and accountability, ask only other member to attend the meeting, so it is like playing volleyball (transferring case) at the union level. It is partly a good idea, but some parts cause bad idea. Because of that, both in the current and the third upcoming new government will only become stronger with the ethnic armed KNPP if it includes people who have been trained and well understand in peace. Actually, the peace process would become stronger with the ethnic armed KNPP if it includes people who have been trained and know well in peace and include in this remaining phase of current government and also in the third batch of the new government. Whatever we say the people’s government or the government elected by the people; in fact, the most important issues are that if it keeps assigning to only the military or retired military, it would not be able to make a stronger move for the state

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