Eth­nic armed groups dis­cuss ‘sta­bil­is­ing’ peace ne­go­ti­a­tions

The Myanmar Times - - News - LUN MIN MANG lun­min­mang@mm­

A FIVE-DAY meet­ing in­volv­ing mem­bers of sig­na­to­ries and non-sig­na­to­ries to the na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment (NCA) kicked off yes­ter­day in Chi­ang Mai, Thai­land.

On Septem­ber 25, a United Na­tion­al­i­ties Fed­eral Coun­cil del­e­ga­tion met with gov­ern­ment ne­go­tia­tors in Chi­ang Mai to dis­cuss pre­con­di­tions for fu­ture steps in Myan­mar’s peace process. The UNFC, whose mem­bers are now meet­ing with cease­fire sig­na­to­ries this week in Thai­land, is an al­liance of seven eth­nic armed groups that have not yet signed the NCA.

Strength­en­ing the NCA and “sta­bil­is­ing” po­lit­i­cal ne­go­ti­a­tions are the main con­cerns of the Del­e­ga­tion for Po­lit­i­cal Ne­go­ti­a­tion, a bar­gain­ing body of the UNFC, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment peace team aide U Min Zaw Oo.

He said the eth­nic armed or­gan­i­sa­tions and the gov­ern­ment shared a vi­sion for the fu­ture of the coun­try’s peace process, and that dif­fer­ences were largely on mat­ters of ap­proach.

Prior to the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence’s con­clu­sion ear­lier this month, the UNFC de­manded that the gov­ern­ment con­sider an eight-point pro­posal the coali­tion had put for­ward, which it said would ac­cel­er­ate its de­ci­sion to more fully com­mit to the Na­tional League for Democ­ra­cyled peace process.

“Strength­en­ing the cease­fire agree­ment and sta­bly hold­ing the po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue are the main pur­poses of their de­mands. The gov­ern­ment too has the same per­spec­tive,” U Min Zaw Oo said.

Lead­ers of the UNFC pre­vi­ously told The Myan­mar Times that they would first like to ne­go­ti­ate the eight-point pro­posal be­fore tak­ing the im­por­tant step of sign­ing the NCA. UNFC lead­ers, how­ever, have said meet­ing the pro­posal’s de­mands was not a “must do” to se­cure their sig­na­tures.

Among other pro­posal terms, the eth­nic bloc is seek­ing a bi­lat­eral dec­la­ra­tion of a gen­uine na­tion­wide cease­fire by the gov­ern­ment and eth­nic armed groups; a com­mit­ment to in­clud­ing all eth­nic armed or­gan­i­sa­tions in the peace pro­cesses; and the in­clu­sion of in­ter­na­tional ob­servers in the NCA’s joint-mon­i­tor­ing mech­a­nism.

Asked how many of the UNFC’s pro­pos­als the gov­ern­ment would likely agree to, U Min Zaw Oo did not of­fer specifics.

“We have the same goal in the peace process, which is more im­por­tant than whether or not we agree on the pro­pos­als,” he said.

The gov­ern­ment in­vited the UNFC to par­tic­i­pate in a meet­ing to re­view the po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue frame­work in mid-Septem­ber, but the coun­cil opted not to join, with its lead­ers say­ing they were busy with other com­mit­ments.

Mem­bers of the UNFC were not avail­able for com­ment yes­ter­day.

Though most NCA non-sig­na­to­ries were al­lowed to at­tend the Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence, their full par­tic­i­pa­tion in the po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue to come will re­quire that they sign the NCA.

The gov­ern­ment has ac­tively courted UNFC mem­bers and some groups out­side the al­liance that have also with­held their sig­na­tures, such as the pow­er­ful United Wa State Army, but firm com­mit­ments to join the ac­cord have proven elu­sive.

Faith in the NLD’s stated pledge to an in­clu­sive ap­proach to the peace process was dealt a blow when three groups that had acted in con­cert dur­ing fight­ing last year in north­ern Shan State – the Ta’ang Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army, the Myan­mar Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance Army and the Arakan Army – were shut out of the Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence.

The con­fer­ence was largely a sym­bolic af­fair, with few mat­ters of con­tention or sub­stance up for dis­cus­sion. The gov­ern­ment has said it wants to hold a sim­i­lar event in less than six months’ time, with a se­ries of “na­tional-level dia­logues” in the in­terim.

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