NCA-EAOs Welcome Federal Democracy Charter, But Need Time To Examine The Finer Details: PPST Spokesperson Says

By Network Media Group
Friday, April 9, 2021

The Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CPRH), a parallel government established by lawmakers ousted during Burma’s military coup, announced a Federal Democracy Charter while annulling the 2008 Constitution. NMG interviewed Col Khun Okker, Pa-O leader and spokesperson of Peace Process Steering Team (PPST) for the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) signatories, for his insight on the matter.

Can you tell us what was discussed during the recent PPST meeting?

During our two day meeting, we came to a general agreement. There were some disagreements, but in the end, we arrived at a consensus on five points.

Can you discuss more about some of these points?

We called for an immediate halt of the killing of unarmed civilians and for all detainees to be released. Since February 1, we have demanded these things. We also welcomed CRPH’s statement.

I understand that the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) that signed the NCA support CRPH’s Federal Democracy Charter and the annulment of the controversial 2008 Constitution, but will it be enough to start to build a federal democratic union?

We have to appreciate their efforts with this undertaking. However, we still need to carefully examine some of the finer details in the charter and have more discussions among our members to decide if it is something we can accept.

What effect will scrapping the 2008 Constitution have on future politics in Burma?

The annulment of the constitution was something decided by CRPH. When the military council took over the country, after declaring a state of emergency, they claimed it was done according to the constitution. Essential, there are two sides with competing interests: the military council and CRPH at the other end of the spectrum. It is difficult to answer whether or not the 2008 Constitution is still active or if it has been dissolved because currently, the political landscape in our country is opaque. However, we do not accept the constitution and call for its outright removal so another one can be written and why we welcomed CRPH’s announcement. On the other hand, we must continue discussing how to write a new constitution to serve the interests of the future of our country.

Burma army launched airstrikes on Karen National Union (KNU) in Mutraw District and in other locations. CRPH supported KNU Brigade 5’s statement about the attacks while also saying the NCA is no longer valid. Can you comment on this?

After the ten EAOs signed the NCA, we were removed from the list of unlawful associations. When we became legal organizations, we become official partners in dialogue giving us legitimacy. As legal organizations, we participated in the peace process. Currently, the peace process is temporarily stopped. During this time, we will not continue political dialogue, but we will remain in the NCA while adhering to the ceasefire.

In the future, how will the EAOs move forward with peace negotiations?

In the short term, we will keep demanding that the military council stop killing and using violence against unarmed civilians. We cannot accept this. Looking into the future, we have to consider how much engagement we will have with the military council and whether or not to listen to China’s recommendations to resolve the current political impasse by involving more stakeholders in the dialogue.

CRPH announced plans to form a national unity government and a federal army. Can you comment on this?

This is something the EAOs have some experience with and also something we need to be patient and not overly eager about. In 2011, we established the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC). Then we tried to form a federal council from 2012-2013 under the leadership of UNFC. When talking about a federal army, many people think it’s just an army. However, we need political leadership like the UNFC to steer the federal army. Without it, having only one armed force is too dangerous. And without clear political policies and objectives it is risky. A federal army should only be formed under the guidance of a political body. Many people are discussing a federal army but where is the federal council? Who will command this army? According to my experience, we need to implement it step by step. We must form a council before establishing an army. The army must be controlled by the council.