The 3 day Ethnic Conference organized by the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) that ended yesterday had overwhelmingly spurned the military-drawn and adopted 2008 constitution, following a 3-hour long debate.
Cover: Constitution of the Reputblic of the Union of Myanmar
One participant had called the 194-page composition drafted under the close guidance of the “retired” strongman Than Shwe as an attempt “to prolong the military dictatorship and keep the ethnic peoples under perpetual slavery.”
To a representative from the Women’s League of Burma (WLB), it is a “fearsome” document, as it was written by soldiers who uphold no respect for the womenfolks.
The resolution was to draft a new constitution, despite counsel from some that it would mark a head-on confrontation with the military.
The meeting was also like-minded on several other topics:
- Change, as one put it, is just “oil on the water’s surface.” The country is just “going through the motions” but change has yet to come
- A nationwide ceasefire agreement without adequate guarantees of a political dialogue and monitoring mechanisms is unacceptable
- After two years of ceasefire and peace talks, there is little trust between the two sides (“Documents captured in battles still call us ‘insurgents’ and stress ‘total annihilation,’” said a Shan State Army representative)
- The President’s 8 point guidelines for peace talks received a resounding rejection (“The government is out for negotiated surrender, not negotiated settlement,” said Dr Lian H.Sakhong)
The elephant in the room was whether the Working Group for Ethnic Coordination (WGEC), from which the UNFC had withdrawn in June, would be holding a rival “Ethnic Nationalities Conference”, as announced earlier on 11 July.
But as reported on 18 July by SHAN, the remaining WGEC members, particularly the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), upon receiving reports that the UNFC had already called for an “Ethnic Conference for Peace and Reconciliation”, said a parallel conference would only serve to confuse the people both at home and abroad. “We are not going to cut off our nose to spite our face,” said a participant.
An unconfirmed report said the WGEC may be planning to hold a conference inside Burma.
The UNFC organized conference was attended by 18 armed groups, including its 11 member organizations. Others are: United Wa State Party (UWSP), National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Karen Peace Council (KPC), Democratic Karen Benevolence Army (DKBA), Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) and Arakan Army (AA).