Ethnic Armed Groups Meet in China With Myanmar Peace Commission

The talks yield no agreements but represent a 'positive step forward,' one group's spokesman says.

Ta'ang National Liberation Army soldiers patrol a village in Myanmar's Shan state in a file photo.

Representatives of ethnic armies based along the China-Myanmar border met briefly with Myanmar government peace negotiators on Wednesday in a get-together described as positive but yielding little in the way of specific proposals, a spokesman for one of the militias told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

The meeting, held in Kunming in southern China’s Yunnan province, marked the first time that members of the government’s Union Peace Commission met with representatives of the Arakan Army (AA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

The three armies, which along with the Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/A) make up the Northern Alliance military coalition, have not yet signed the government’s 2015 nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) because of ongoing hostilities with the national army.

Representatives of the KIO/A and the United Wa State Army (UWSA), another armed group, were also present as observers, Myanmar news outlet The Irrawaddy said in a Sept. 5 report.

Representing the Myanmar government were Peace Commission vice chairman U Thein Zaw and secretary Khin Zaw Oo, The Irrawaddy said.

Speaking to RFA’s Myanmar Service, TNLA spokesman Brigadier General Ta Phone Kyaw said that Wednesday’s two-hour meeting, the first for government representatives and the armed groups attending, had left little time for detailed discussions, but was “positive, and a good step forward.”

Talks focused on why political discussions held earlier had ended, and how they could be started again, Ta Phone Kyaw said.

“Although we didn’t arrive at actual agreements during the meeting, we did say we would meet again in October. Both sides are now going to inform their higher-level leaders about what we discussed,” he said.

Representatives from Myanmar’s national army, which has refused to meet with nonsignatories to the NCA, were not present at Wednesday’s meeting, Ta Phone Kyaw said, adding “We must overcome these prohibitions by the government army against face-to-face talks.”

“If these groups are ignored in the peace process, we won’t have peace,” he said.

“And we won’t be able to change the country’s politics.”

Reported by Tin Aung Khine for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Richard Finney.