What transpired between ethnic leaders and US delegation

by Phanida
Thursday, 05 November 2009 16:13

(Interview with Pu Cin Sian Thang and U Aye Thar Aung)

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – During their two-day visit to Burma, US Assistant Secretary of State, Kurt Campbell and Undersecretary Scot Marciel met Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, National League for Democracy (NLD) Party Central Executive Committee members, ethnic leaders and senior officials of the military regime including Prime Minister Gen. Thein Sein. They left Rangoon last evening.

Mizzima interviewed two ethnic leaders from Zomi and Rakhine ethnic communities, who also met the US diplomats.

Pu Cin Sian Thang (Zomi National Congress)

Q: How long was the meeting with the US delegates?

A: The meeting was scheduled for 1 p.m. but it was delayed and actually started at 2:30 p.m. It lasted for about one and-a half hours.

Q: How many ethnic leaders attended the meeting?

A: A total of 8 ethnic leaders, 4 US delegates and 2 from the US embassy attended the meeting. Among them were U Aye Thar Aung (Arakan League for Democracy – ALD), Nai Tun Thein (Mon National Democracy Party), Sai Saw Aung (Shan Nationalities League for Democracy – SNLD), U Shwe Ohn (Veteran Shan politician), U Myo Thant (Rohingya Organization) and U Sa Bwe Jung from Kachin state and Dr. Samontha and his wife Daw Rebecca from among the Kayan ethnics. I learnt that Daw Rebecca is not a member of any of these ethnic organizations.

Q: What issues did you raise with the US delegates?

A: We told them that we represent the ethnic people and we dislike the constitution. There are no provisions in the constitution which can guarantee ethnic rights. If you don’t believe what we are saying, here is the copy of the constitution and you can study it, we told them. They replied that they already have a copy of the constitution. The political prisoners have not yet been released till date. Political activists are being arrested. And then we told them these political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, U Khun Tun Oo and 1988 student leader Min Ko Naing should be released.

Q: Which provisions in the constitution did you point out to the US delegates?

A: According to Article 441, this constitution shall come into operation throughout the Union form the day the first session of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (People’s Parliament) is convened. So this forthcoming election is to make this constitution operational, not more than that. This is our first point. Secondly, in Fundamental Principles Chapter in Article 6 (f) which states The Union’s consistent objectives are ‘enabling the Defence Services to be able to participate in the national political leadership role of the State’. And then in ‘Transitory Provisions’, under Article 445, which bars from prosecution the members of the military regime ‘in respect of any act done in the execution of their respective duties’ by the newly constituted government. And then in Article 59(d), which states the President ‘shall be acquainted with the affairs of the Union such as political, administrative, economic and military’ which means the President shall be an ex-serviceman. The worst provision in this constitution is Article 413(d), which empowers the Union President to stage a coup if necessary. We drew the attention of the US delegation to these.

Q: Did you present the issues of other ceasefire and peace groups to the US delegates?

A: We told them the junta didn’t accept any points that were presented in the National Convention by these ceasefire and peace groups. Moreover the recent war against Kokang is a warning to all other ceasefire ethnic armed groups, which are still refusing to accept the junta’s offer of transforming their armies into the junta controlled ‘Border Guard Force’ (BGF). We presented these points to US delegates.

Q: Were you satisfied with the meeting?

A: At the meeting, the US delegates did not say anything about our presentations. But they only said that this was just the beginning and they would come back again. Despite the lack of significant words spoken by them in this meeting, I am optimistic as unprecedented events are happening now. I hope for something.

U Aye Thar Aung (Arakan League for Democracy)

Q: What did you say at the meeting with US delegates?

A: Firstly I told them we welcomed their visit but the meetings between US delegates and ethnic leaders, and the NLD cannot solve all the problems. For progress and development in politics, there must be cooperation and negotiation between the SPDC (junta), the NLD and ethnic people.

Q: What did other ethnic leaders say at the meeting?

A: U Sa Bwe Jung from Kachin State presented the nine-point negotiations between the ‘Kachin Independence Organization’ (KIO) and the SPDC including the last presentation made by KIO to the junta based on the Panlong Agreement. Some ethnic leaders from peace groups talked about their ceasefire and peace agreements with the junta and the current pressure by the regime to transform their armies into the BGF.

Nai Saw Aung from the Mon National Democracy Party and U Shwe Ohn just gave a letter to the US delegates.

Q: Were you satisfied with the meeting with US delegates?

A: I cannot say I’m pleased and satisfied with the meeting because whatsoever comes from the side of the US, the NLD and ethnic parties are trying to make concessions and accommodations. There will not be any progress in political dialogue unless there is political will from the junta’s side. The SPDC just wants to improve relations with the US and have sanctions imposed by US-led western countries lifted.

Q: Did the US delegates say anything regarding the meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi?

A: A US delegate said that Daw Suu conveyed her message to us through them saying that she was glad and pleased to hear of the meeting with US delegates and ethnic leaders.

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