Govt to meet again with armed Kokang groups

The Myanmar Times - - News - LUN MIN MANG lun­min­mang@mm­times.com SWAN YE HTUT swanye­htut@mm­times.com

THE govern­ment is plan­ning to meet with the three armed eth­nic groups from the Kokang re­gion that had been ex­cluded from last year’s so-called na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment, ac­cord­ing to govern­ment peace ne­go­tia­tor U Hla Maung Shwe.

The three groups have been fight­ing the Tat­madaw since Fe­bru­ary 2015.

“The govern­ment will meet with the groups this month, find­ing ways to in­clude them in the peace process,” he said.

In­di­vid­u­als in­volved in the peace process re­vealed that the govern­ment had met with the three groups – the Ta’ang Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army (TNLA), the Myan­mar Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance Army (MNDAA) and the Arakan Army – in a side­line meet­ing while it was ne­go­ti­at­ing with the Mongla armed group, also known as the Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance Army, and the United Wa State Army last month.

U Khat Htein Nang, a mem­ber of the first peace sub-com­mit­tee, said the govern­ment ne­go­tia­tor met with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the three armed eth­nic groups.

“Our dis­cus­sion in­cluded the sec­ond sub-com­mit­tee’s meet­ing with the United Na­tion­al­i­ties Fed­eral Coun­cil [UNFC] in Chi­ang Mai, with the Del­e­ga­tion for Po­lit­i­cal Ne­go­ti­a­tion, talks with the Wa and the Mongla, side­line talks with the TNLA and MNDAA, and prepa­ra­tion for talks with the eight sig­na­tory armed eth­nic groups,” he said.

Yes­ter­day was the open­ing of a three-day meet­ing at­tended by both peace sub-com­mit­tees of the govern­ment and the armed eth­nic groups that signed the na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment last year.

To­day’s meet­ing will be only be­tween the govern­ment’s sub­com­mit­tees and will in­clude State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

“We have al­ready dis­cussed in the NCA how we will pro­ceed to dis­cuss the po­lit­i­cal frame­work and how the dis­cus­sion was con­ducted in the past,” U Khat Htein Nang said. “The facts be­ing dis­cussed now in­volve re­view­ing those pre­vi­ous dis­cus­sions so that they be­come ef­fec­tive.”

Sources in­volved in the peace process said the Tat­madaw wants the three non-sig­na­tory eth­nic armed groups to is­sue state­ments declar­ing that they have sur­ren­dered their arms and vow­ing their com­mit­ment to par­tic­i­pate in the peace process. They must prom­ise not to en­gage in skir­mishes should they want to take part in the peace process, the Tat­madaw said.

How­ever, spe­cific talks about how this agree­ment would be ironed out have not been held.

Of the three al­lies, the MNDAA and the TNLA are mem­bers of the pow­er­ful UNFC eth­nic armed bloc.

Though the three al­lies have been pre­vi­ously seen to have close re­la­tion­ships with the eth­nic armed bloc, a rift in their re­la­tion­ship was ex­posed af­ter the groups called for their res­ig­na­tion from the bloc be­cause they weren’t re­ceiv­ing mil­i­tary as­sis­tance.

The three have also been re­port­edly build­ing firmer re­la­tion­ships with the two pow­er­ful north­ern play­ers – the Mongla and the Wa – with re­ports last month claim­ing that they could form a pow­er­ful north­ern al­liance.

A source in the peace process who asked not to be named said the govern­ment would ne­go­ti­ate with the three groups us­ing the Mongla and the Wa as me­di­a­tors be­cause those two groups are now viewed as more fa­mil­iar with the three al­lies than the UNFC.

The for­mer govern­ment and the Tat­madaw re­fused to in­clude the three al­lies in the peace process last year af­ter the fight­ing broke out in Fe­bru­ary.

A meet­ing be­tween the UNFC lead­er­ship and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is be­ing ar­ranged for the third week of July.

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