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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs    16 May 2012

The joke of the Nobel Peace Prize: After Obama, Thein Sein as a possible recipient

15 May 2012

 It may sound far-fetched when looking at Burma’s history, but some analysts are saying Burmese President Thein Sein is in a position to become a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize if he is successful in ending all ethnic conflicts and moving the country into the ranks of democratic nations.

The first mention of such a possibility came from an academic, Nicholas Farrelly, a research fellow at the Australian National University and co-founder of the New Mandala website.

Recently, he wrote:  “Myanmar deserves to be at peace with itself. President Thein is in charge. I guess there is a Nobel Peace Prize waiting for whoever manages to finally end Burma’s tragic history of civil war. The real question at this stage should be: is President Thein Sein up to the task? Millions of Myanmar citizens certainly hope so.”

Farrelly’s view was featured in a story in The Myanmar Times on Monday.

 “I think the message is now pretty clear: the war in Kachin State is the top priority,” Farrelly  told the newspaper. “The formation of the new negotiating team indicates that President U Thein Sein wants the war to end. His own credibility and leadership are now at stake.”

On Tuesday, Farrelly followed up on the issue on his website: “Before anyone asks, for the moment, at least, I don’t actually think President Thein Sein is in the running for a Nobel Prize. But I can foresee circumstances where that changes quite quickly… I could imagine a joint Nobel Peace Prize for any political leaders who can bring lasting peace to Burma. And that might include U Thein Sein.

“For now, we should be asking: What would such lasting peace look like? Who will take charge? And who else needs to be involved?”

Independent analyst Richard Horsey told the Myanmar Times the Kachin peace talks are fraught with difficulties. The Burmese military may not want to end hostilities while it is suffering significant casualties, while some Kachin leaders may not want to end lucretive business advantages, plus there is the natural mistrust founded on the decades-long civil war.

However, he said the KIA may be feeling uncomfortable about being the only major ethnic group not to strike a peace deal. It remains to be seen if the appointment of a new government negotiating team, directly linked to Thein Sein, can break the impasse.

“There was the wrong negotiating team. It wasn’t ready to offer the same terms to the Kachin it had offered to the Karen for example,” Horsey was quoted as saying, citing international monitors and codes of conduct for troops as examples.

Farrelly said: “Many still hold out hope for a new compact between Myanmar’s ethnic majority and the country’s many minority populations.

“Concessions and a genuine appetite for reconciliation will create the conditions for a new settlement. The Kachin will want to see the terms of their deal provide impetus for a wider ranging and much grander negotiation,” he said.

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