Yearender: Myanmar's peace process expected to move forward in new year

Xinhua, December 25, 2020

The peace process in Myanmar is expected to move forward in 2021 after the general elections held in November this year gave the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party a new mandate to rule the country.

The quinquennial general elections were held across Myanmar on Nov. 8 and the ruling NLD secured more than enough parliamentary seats needed for its next five-year term.

This year's multi-party general elections were the third of its kind held in accordance with Constitution. The next parliamentary session is scheduled to open in the first week of February 2021.

With a new term of the NLD government, it is expected that more productive political dialogues will be seen between the government, military, armed ethnic groups and relevant figures to reinvigorate the peace process in the Southeast Asian country.

Following the elections, the military formed the Peace Talks Committee to continue talks with National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) signatories and armed ethnic groups to facilitate the peace process. The committee would also work to increase dialogues with non-signatories towards achieving a lasting peace in Myanmar.

Meanwhile, the NLD also set up a committee for talks with ethnic political parties this month, Myo Nyunt, NLD's central executive committee member, told Xinhua.

The ruling party sent an open letter to 48 ethnic political parties on Nov. 12, pledging to prioritize demands of ethnic groups in its consideration in the future as it has similar goals with the parties.

It said in the letter that it will continue the work to establish a democratic federal union while urging joint efforts from the ethnic political parties.

In August this year, peace makers signed Union Accord III, which included matters on the NCA and principle guidelines for establishing a democratic federal union.

So far, 10 armed ethnic groups have signed the NCA with the government since it was initiated in October 2015. After that, peace conferences were held in August 2016, May 2017, July 2018 and August 2020.

Three programs for peace have been announced, on national reconciliation and internal peace, democratic transition and establishment of a federal union, and implementation of the program for amending Constitution.

State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, in her capacity as chair of the National Reconciliation and Peace Center, unveiled the three programs to boost peace process on the fifth anniversary of the NCA signing in October.

On the same occasion, Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services Sen-Gen Min Aung Hlaing pledged that the military would work together with people in establishing a united and strong union based on democracy and federal system in line with what the Myanmar people want.

Meanwhile, armed ethnic groups participating in the ceasefire agreement stressed their stance to uphold the all-inclusive principle in peace process, and expressed belief that building mutual trust through political dialogues could bring a positive outcome for the peace process.

Myo Nyunt said that they expect more significant improvements in the peace process in the post-2020 period, compared to the previous five-year government term.

"Sustainable peace is what we want and we believe that there will be positive outcomes along the journey of peace process in the future as we have managed to signed three parts of the Union Accord after holding peace conferences for four times," he said, who also called on people from all walks of life in Myanmar to contribute to the peace process.

Saw Mra Yarzar Lin, deputy leader of Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), an NCA participant, said, "We strongly believe that adoption of federal system is needed to end internal conflicts which started in the country since its gaining independence in 1948."

The ALP's deputy leader said, "It is important to convince and bring the non-signatories to the political negotiation table to join the NCA as it is not enough only with the 10 signatories for the peace process to make progress."

She said the party, along with other armed ethnic groups, will work with the government to push the peace process, and it is confident that progress will be made under the next term of the NLD government.

"Close collaboration between the government, military and ethnic armed groups can help consolidate the peace process," said U Khin Maung Lynn, joint secretary of Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies (MISIS).

The peace process is expected to move forward under the new term of the NLD government as the election outcomes showed the trust and confidence by the Myanmar people including ethnic groups, the political expert said.