How the peace talks were thrown out of kilter by a swap in groups attending
Last week, hundreds of representatives from Myanmar’s ethnic insurgent groups gathered in the capital for talks aimed at reviving Aung San Suu Kyi’s peace process after months of heavy fighting in Shan State.
In what was an unforeseen occurrence, the groups that had been expected to attend - the Karenni National Progress Party (KNPP), the New Mon State Party (NMSP), the Lahu Democratic Union and the Arakan National Council. All member of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) - were absent, while those who were not expected to participate, members of the Northern Alliance, which has been fighting in Shan State, did. The Northern Alliance comprised of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and the Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP) the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MDNAA) and the Arakan Army (AA) decided to participate after the last-minute intervention of China. The conflicting positions of the two ethnic blocs, the UNFC and Northern Alliance, further exemplifies the contradictions in the nature of the ethnic conflict in the country and highlights the difficulties that remain in solving ethnic issues in the country. Also in attendance were those groups that had signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), including the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS).
All of the groups have differing objectives and views on how to move the peace process forward, this combined with what the Government and the Myanmar Military wants also adds to an increasingly confusing milieu.
That said, however, any steps taken that could see peace restored to ethnic states ravaged by decades of conflict must be a positive move.