Peace process snags as UNFC sits out frame­work meet­ing

The Myanmar Times - - News - LUN MIN MANG lun­min­mang@mm­times.com

IN a snub to the gov­ern­ment’s peace process, the largest al­liance of eth­nic armed groups is sit­ting out a two-day meet­ing that will lay the ground­work for the up­com­ing po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue.

The United Na­tion­al­i­ties Fed­eral Coun­cil con­firmed yes­ter­day that it would not at­tend the meet­ing, which will start to­mor­row, due to a “busy sched­ule”.

“We al­ready have meet­ings on those days. That’s why we will not be able to at­tend,” said Khu Oo Reh, leader of the UNFC’s Del­e­ga­tion for Po­lit­i­cal Ne­go­ti­a­tion.

But an­a­lysts sug­gested the bloc’s ab­sence has more to do with a stale­mate. The gov­ern­ment has yet to com­mit to eight points pre­vi­ously out­lined by the pow­er­ful al­liance of seven armed eth­nic groups.

The UNCF’s de­mands, which were laid out in meet­ings with gov­ern­ment ne­go­tia­tors in June and Au­gust, in­clude the bi­lat­eral dec­la­ra­tion of a truly na­tion­wide cease­fire by the gov­ern­ment and armed eth­nic or­gan­i­sa­tions, the com­mit­ment to in­clud­ing all armed eth­nic or­gan­i­sa­tions in the peace pro­cesses, and the in­clu­sion of in­ter­na­tional ob­servers in the joint-mon­i­tor­ing mech­a­nism.

The gov­ern­ment did not re­spond to the de­mands prior to last month’s 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence, but the UNFC de­cided to at­tend the land­mark gath­er­ing in the cap­i­tal any­way as a show of sup­port for the new demo­crat­i­cally elected gov­ern­ment, bloc mem­bers said.

U Than Soe Naing, a po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor, said the gov­ern­ment should take the UNFC’s points into ac­count if it ex­pects a smooth con­tin­u­a­tion of the peace and na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion process.

“I think the UNFC want to first sort out the points they de­manded in pre­vi­ous meet­ings [be­fore agree­ing to fur­ther talks]. Ad­dress­ing these points will ease other ne­go­ti­a­tions,” he said.

In the last week of Au­gust, gov­ern­ment ne­go­tia­tors, po­lit­i­cal par­ties and del­e­gates rep­re­sen­tat­ing both sig­na­to­ries and non-sig­na­to­ries to last year’s cease­fire agree­ment hit a ma­jor stum­bling block at a re­view meet­ing for the po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue. The points of con­tention con­cerned who would be rep­re­sented and who would re­tain de­ci­sion-mak­ing power. The meet­ing con­cluded with­out a res­o­lu­tion to the dis­agree­ment.

Sai Kyaw Nyunt of the Shan Na­tion­al­i­ties League for Democ­racy said the gov­ern­ment will need the UNFC be­hind it if it ex­pects to press ahead in solv­ing a decades-old civil war.

“The pur­pose of the re­view meet­ing is to in­clude the UNFC in the af­ter­math of the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence. I don’t know how the gov­ern­ment will deal with the mat­ter,” he said.

The Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence, the gov­ern­ment’s first ma­jor foray into the peace process, was also rid­dled with prob­lems of in­clu­siv­ity and ma­jor ab­sences. Though hailed by State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as a land­mark event, the con­fer­ence pro­duced no agree­ments, and largely fol­lowed in the shadow of the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion’s peace process.

Three ma­jor groups cur­rently en­gaged in fight­ing the Tat­madaw in north­ern Shan State, the North­ern Al­liance – the Kokang, Ta’ang and Arakan armed eth­nic groups – were no­tably miss­ing from Pan­g­long af­ter they failed to reach an agree­ment with the gov­ern­ment over pre­con­di­tions.

Af­ter a meet­ing last week in Chi­ang Mai, the UNFC re­leased a state­ment con­grat­u­lat­ing the gov­ern­ment for suc­cess­fully hold­ing the 21stcen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence, but also noted that the gov­ern­ment still has more work to do, and must in­clude all armed eth­nic groups” in the peace process.

“Dur­ing the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence, we ob­served that the gov­ern­ment can­not seem to man­age the peace process in­de­pen­dently of the Tat­madaw,” said Khu Oo Reh.

And lit­tle progress ap­pears to have been made since then on the in­clu­siv­ity front.

Tar Aik Kyaw, a com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer for the Ta’ang Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army, said de­spite his group’s de­sire to re­sume peace ne­go­ti­a­tions, he and his al­lies have yet to re­ceive an of­fi­cial in­vite.

When asked what the gov­ern­ment’s peace com­mis­sion is do­ing to re­sume ne­go­ti­a­tions with the three groups com­pris­ing the North­ern Al­liance, U Aung Kyi, leader of the ad­vi­sory team, said he had no knowl­edge of the mat­ter.

“Since the peace process is a longterm task, I hope these groups will be able to join in the fu­ture,” he said.

‘We ob­served that the gov­ern­ment can­not seem to man­age the peace process in­de­pen­dently of the Tat­madaw.’

Khu Oo Reh UNFC

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