Connecting those actively working in the peace process with the general public is an important first step to helping more people participate in the critical process of moving Myanmar towards an inclusive peace. With the support of Joint Peace Fund (JPF), the Burma News International (BNI) is organizing “Peace Dialogue” across several States to do just this.
U Nyo Min, Managing Director of the Burma News International (BNI), said creating dialogue events was a key way to build participation in the process. “We’re convening Peace Dialogues to create common ground between ordinary citizens who don’t have an understanding of the on-going peace process, and the stakeholders who are actually involved in it. So then, ordinary citizens have a chance of taking part in the peace process,” he said.
Mon State Peace Dialogue
BNI recently held a ‘Peace Dialogue’ in Mon State, a capital city, Mawlamyine on the 30 January which assembled 30 participants from different organizations including the Mon State Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee (JMC-S), Mon political parties, CSOs, Mon women’s network and local media.
The event gave its participants an opportunity to raise key local points of concern around the peace process including: JMC-S mechanism; landmines issues; and how current developments in the peace process affect people in Mon State.
Htu Sam Zahkung, from BNI who was facilitating said that discussing these local issues benefited both the public and the peace process stakeholders present. “These peace dialogues are creating a direct channel between the community-level public and stakeholders so that they can discuss ways of strengthening the peace process at the State-level. It also provides an opportunity for community members to understand better the difficulties and struggles peace process stakeholders are facing,” she said.
“These peace dialogues are creating a direct channel between the community-level public and stakeholders so that they can discuss ways of strengthening the peace process at the State-level. It also provides an opportunity for community members to understand better the difficulties and struggles peace process stakeholders are facing.”
The Peace Dialogue in Mawlamyine also discussed the deadlocks in the current peace process; China’s role in Myanmar’s peace process; and the importance of roles and responsibilities of the JMC-S and UPDJC level, and how these two mechanisms could cooperate to support the peace process more constructively.
The deadlocks in the current peace process caused the most concern amongst participants, said Min Aung Htoo, a coordinator of the Mon State CSOs network, who is also a technical assistant team member of the New Mon State Party.
“Lack of mutual understanding is the major cause of the conflict. An opportunity like this informal peace dialogue where we were are able to start understanding one another better and hearing each others’ opinions is a great way to help support the formal peace process,” he said.
Taunggyi Peace Dialogue
BNI held a similar Peace Dialogue in Taunggyi, southern Shan State in October which gathered 39 participants from different stakeholder groups including, State-level Members of Parliament, CSOs, political parties, members of Pa-Oh National Liberation Army, youth networks and local journalists.
At the Taunggyi ‘Peace Dialogue’, the participants raised questions to the gathered stakeholders regarding the hurdles faced over holding a national dialogue at Shan State level. U Nyi Nyi Moe, from the CSO New Generation, said the event was highlighting how people power was needed to move Myanmar’s peace process forward. “Myanmar’s peace process should have a people-centered approach. The peace process stakeholders need to hear people’s views about the peace process,” he said.
Sai Lynn Myat, a State MP told participants: “Mutual respect plays a crucial role in Myanmar’s peace process and peace dialogues. Without having mutual respect, the peace process can’t move forward. We need to build mutual trust and respect within the stakeholders,” he said.
BNI also has successfully held ‘Peace Dialogues’ in Loikaw, Kayah State which gathered 34 participants in total. These have included the political parties, civil society organizations, Joint Monitoring Committee-State members, Member of Parliaments, Women’s group, youth networks, grassroot level public, and persons with disabilities. BNI’s next Peace Dialogue will take place in Hpa’An, Kayin State in mid-March.