Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ethnic Ceasefire Groups Told to Sign Statement against Suu Kyi


The Irrawaddy's Thursday article on the junta's forcing ethnic ceasefire groups to denounce Aung San Suu Kyi. This comes on the heels of a statement made by Suu Kyi released via UN Special Envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari on November 8. In it, Suu Kyi said that it was imperative to consider ethnic perspectives in any discourse relating to national reconciliation. On November 10, twelve ethnic groups welcomed Suu Kyi's statement and called for a tripartite dialogue amongst the junta, political opposition forces, and ethnic minorities. The junta's move is an attempt to counter renewed internal support for the imprisoned Nobel Peace Laureate.

The junta has again relied on its age old policy of divide and conquer by manipulating ceasefire groups for its own aims. Again, it is surprising to note that while the SPDC refuses to engage in talks with registered political parties, such as the NLD, it has no qualms negotiating with armed insurgent groups. This demonstrates that the junta is much more responsive to violent threats than legally recognized, registered political forces. Incidentally, a news story on 80,000 IDPs in Karenni State HERE.

The Burmese government has coerced several ethnic ceasefire groups and other ethnic parties to sign a written statement saying Aung Suu San Kyi has no leadership role among ethnic nationalities, according to reliable sources.

State-run newspapers have recently run statements from several ethnic groups' which are critical of Suu Kyi. Observers say the statements are an effort to drive a wedge between pro-democracy groups and ethnic groups.

The United Wa State Army (UWSA), the Kachin Defense Army (KDA), the Kokant Army and the Shan State Army (North) met with government officials in Lashio in northern Shan State. Military officials called the leaders to sign a statement that was already written by unknown parties, sources close to the ceasefire groups told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

“Three days ago, the junta’s Minister of Culture, Brig-Gen Khin Aung Myint, arrived to Lashio. On November 12, officials of the North-East Regional Command told leaders of ceasefire groups to come to Lashio by November 13. Wa’s deputy chairman was among them. The leaders of four ceasefire groups met with minister Khin Aung Myint and the regional commander on November 14,” said the source.

“The military officials brought anti-Daw Aung San Suu Kyi statements, already written, to the meeting. Leaders of the groups were told to sign the statements,” the source said.

Two ceasefire groups, the UWSA and Kokant, did not sign the statements during the meeting, and the SSA told authorities that it would reply to their request by November 15. UWSA is said to have an estimated 20,000 troops which is the biggest ceasefire group.

Meanwhile, the state-run-press has published the statements of other ethnic groups.

The statements in The New Light of Myanmar said they welcomed the meeting between Suu Kyi and the liaison officer, ex-Maj-Gen Aung Kyi. The statements said Suu Kyi does not represent ethnic groups, referring to her statement on November 8, which was conveyed by UN envoy Ishmael Gambari.

In the statement, Suu Kyi said, “In this time of vital need for democratic solidarity and national unity, it is my duty to give constant and serious considerations to the interests and opinions of as broad a range of political organizations and forces as possible, in particular those of our ethnic nationality races.”

Nyan Win, a spokesperson of the Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, denied the allegations in junta newspapers that Suu Kyi claimed to represent ethnic groups.

“This kind of allegation is delaying ongoing dialogue and the national reconciliation process,” said Nyan Win.

On November 10, twelve ethnic parties based inside Burma issued statements that welcomed Suu Kyi’s November 8 statement and called for tripartite dialogue.

“We welcome dialogue between the ruling, pro- democracy forces led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and representatives of ethnic nationalities,” said the statement.

The exiled ethnic umbrella group, Ethnic Nationalities Council, also welcomed Suu Kyi's November 9 statement.