Govt to meet again with armed Kokang groups
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.