23 Dec 2017

    Learning to share: Euro-Burma Office (EBO) 20th anniversary reception

    (11 December 2017)

    Every man is my superior in some way
    In that I learn from him.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

    ebo 20th anniversary1EBO and PI members at the 20th anniversary reception, 11 December 2017. (Photo:PI)

    On the surface, it was going to be just another birthday party. What drew (and did not draw) people to attend the event was HarnYawnghwe, the EBO’s executive director, who early this year had been, in effect, served with a persona non grata status by the Aung San Suu Kyi government.

    However, thanks to the presence of and impromptu speeches made by two invited guests, the somewhat somber mood of the party had miraculously transformed into a pleasant one.

    And this is a story I would like to remember and share with you.

    To settle an argument
    Think of what is right
    Not who is right

    www.livelifehappy.com

    ebo 20th anniversary2Guests at the reception, 11 December 2017. (Photo:PI)

    It takes me 40 minutes to get to Holiday Garden Hotel where the reception is due to begin at 18:30. The road is thick with automobiles coming from all over Thailand.

    About 60 people are gathering at the hotel’s 12th floor. Among them are:

    • Chris Lewa
      - Arakan Project
    • Nai Hong Sa
      - New Mon State Party (NMSP)
      - United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC)
    • Nai Ong Ma-nge
      - New Mon State Party (NMSP)
      - United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC)
    • HkunOkker
      - PaO National Liberation Organization (PNLO)
      - Peace Process Steering Team (PPST)
    • Sai Ngeun
      - Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA)
      - Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC)

    ebo 20th anniversary3Paul Keenan introducing his new book, “Realizing Peace in Myanmar,” 11 December 2017. (Photo:PI)

    Paul Keenan opens the party with the launch of his new book, “Realizing Peace in Myanmar,” which covers the country’s struggle for peace during the past two years.

    ebo 20th anniversary4PowerPoint presentation by HarnYawnghwe. (Photo:PI)

    HarnYawnghwe, who is known by Shans as Sao Harn (Lord Harn), then takes the floor to deliver his power point presentation:

    1963 - Went into exile in Thailand
    1969 - Moved to Canada
    1986 - With Bangkok Bank
    1988 - Co-organized the 1988 demonstrations in Canada “It was winter and the temperature was below zero degree. So we could scarely open our mouth to speak.”)
    1990 - Associates to Develop Democratic Burma (ADDB) founded. “To become a member, you only need to pay a $100 registration fee.”
    1990-2003 - Working with the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) in exile, led by DrSein Win
    1996-2002 - Director, helped Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), based in Norway to become a professional media organization
    1997 - Founded Euro Burma Office (EBO) in Brussels

    “We need an armed struggle for defense, but armed struggle is not the solution. Political dialogue is. But how do we initiate it? Through pressure, persuasion and capacity building”

    1998-2008 - National Reconciliation Program (NRP) launched
    2000 - Reached out to Rohingyas (regarding them as a humanitarian issue)
    - Support for Civil Society
    - State Constitution drafting process
    2011 - Invited by U Aung Min to assist in the peace process launched by President TheinSein on 18 August 2011
    2015 - Helped draft the Deed of Commitment (DoC) which promised a federal union, broke the deadlock and opened the way to the completion of the NCA draft

    “Many still misunderstand the NCA. That if you sign it, it means you have agreed to surrender. And that you have accepted the 2008 constitution. Neither is true.”

    ebo 20th anniversary5Operations director Victor Biaklian reporting on EBO programs. (Photo:PI)

    Victor Biak Lian, the EBO’s operations director, then takes up from Harn:

    • We had initially planned to throw the party in Yangon
    • EBO is committed to peace
    • EBO works for coordination and unity, not for division
    • Apart from what Harn has mentioned, the EBO is also supporting the liaison offices of the EAOs, provided more than 150 trainings on federalism, and organized Common Spaces for consensus building among stakeholders

    Invited guests are then called upon to offer short remarks. It is then the atmosphere of the party changes.

    ebo 20th anniversary6Guest speaker Nai Hong Sa. (Photo:PI)

    Nai Hong Sa

    Following the 1988 uprisings, students and politicians began to take refuge along the Thai border. The ABSDF and the NCGUB that were formed there received support from the international community. But the ethnic resistance movements were passed over.

    Only after the NRP was formed with the initiative from EBO, we were able to hold seminars, workshops and conferences on a wide scale. State Constitutions were drafted. Two drafts of the federal union constitution were produced. The EBO had also assisted the ethnic and democratic parties contesting the 2010 elections. It also had a hand in producing the first draft of the NCA (known then as Comprehensive Union Peace and Ceasefire Agreement, or CUPCA). The EBO’s contribution have been incalculable. So I urge you not to give up until peace is achieved.

    ebo 20th anniversary7Guest speaker HkunOkker. (Photo:PI)

    Hkun Okker

    When we were negotiating for the NCA, we had demanded that the Framework for Political Dialogue (FPD) be drafted and approved within 60 days after the NCA signing to be ready for political dialogues that must take place within 30 days afterward.

    The EBO knew, as we did, that the FPD could not be finished within 60 days, so soon after the completion of the NCA draft in March, it began to organize FPD workshops which involved stakeholders from the government, military, parliament, political parties and EAOs to produce the first draft of the FPD. Which had enabled us to finish and approve the draft within the deadline.

    Without the EBO’s contribution, we wouldn’t have made it.

    It is a great evening. I’m also invited to share with them some of my thoughts. But my head is so full of thoughts that I decide it will be better not to say anything.

    The least I can say will be how Sao Harn, with the patience ofJob, has been able to withstand all the attacks, both ill-intentioned and well-intentioned, staged by his foes and friends alike. The greatest miracle is that he is still alive, kicking and keeping his cool despite the relentless onslaughts.

    I manage to hold out until 22:00. Then I take my leave. As I have to attend another meeting in Chiang Saen at the Golden Triangle tomorrow.

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