Myanmar Rebel Militias Request Split From Ethnic Armed Umbrella Organization

Three groups disagree with the government’s nationwide peace pact as the way forward in the country’s peace process.

Members of the central executive committee of Myanmar's United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) hold a meeting in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Jan. 23, 2017.

UPDATED at 9:37 A.M. on 2016-06-23

Three members of a Myanmar umbrella organization that represents ethnic armed groups that have not signed a nationwide peace agreement with the government want to split from the organization over a disagreement about the pact, the group’s chairman said on Tuesday.

Some members of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) have decided to stick with the government’s nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) as the country advances in its peace process, while others have not, objecting that the accord is not all-inclusive, said UNFC Vice Chairman Naing Han Thar at a news conference in Chaing Mai, Thailand.

The organization’s central executive committee will discuss and decide what to do about the request made by the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and Kachin Independence Organization/Kachin Independence Army (KIO/KIA) to leave the UNFC.

The three ethnic militias, which are still engaged in ongoing separatist conflicts with the Myanmar military, have not signed the NCA.

The committee will also discuss a request by the Chin National Front (CNF), Kachin National Organization (KNO), Kuki National Organization (Burma), Zomi Group, and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army to accept them as members.

UNFC chairman Lieutenant General N’Ban La said the country’s peace process cannot be achieved because the current NCA is not all-inclusive.

The "northern allies,” or Pangkham Allies—a group of seven ethnic armed militias that has formed a coalition led by the United Wa State Army (UWSA)—have made several unsuccessful attempts to join the UNFC as a unified force, he said. The alliance includes the KIA, TNLA, and MNDAA.

That’s why they had to form an alliance with the China-backed United Wa State Army (UWSA), Myanmar’s largest nonstate militia which has emerged as a key player in Myanmar’s peace process, he said.

“We have some groups that will work on the peace process according to the way of the NCA, and others that will not by allying with the Wa group,” said Naing Han Thar.

Policies were ignored

N’Ban La attended the second session of the government’s Panglong Conference, which brought government officials, the military and ethnic armed groups to the negotiating table in May, as a guest of the Chinese government’s delegation.

Though the delegates approved 37 of 41 points raised at the summit, the process was not all-inclusive because ethnic militias that have not signed the NCA were invited as observers rather than participants, N’Ban La said.

He also said the UNFC’s policies on federal union and security were ignored.

“The northern allies groups have to be united because we are discriminated against and pressured by the government and military,” N’Ban La said. “That’s why we dropped out of the UNFC.”

“The KIO’s policy is to participate in the peace process, but the peace process cannot be accomplished without the northern allies groups" he said. "That’s why KIO has to ally with the them [on this issue].”

Eight ethnic militias signed the NCA with the previous government in October 2015.

Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose national League for Democracy government has been in power for more than a year, is spearheading efforts to end the country’s long-running civil wars and forge peace.

The 21st-Century Panglong Conference, the first session of which was held in late August 2016, is her key initiative to bring warring factions to the negotiating table.

Reported by Aung Moe Myint for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.