Myanmar Invites Three Previously Shunned Ethnic Armed Groups to Peace Talks

myanmar-tnla-spokesman-brigadier-general-ta-phone-kyaw-undated-photo.jpg Brigadier General Ta Phone Kyaw, spokesman of the Ta'ang National Liberation Army and its political wing the Palaung State Liberation Front, in an undated photo.

The Myanmar government has invited three ethnic armed groups previously denied permission by the army to attend the second session on Wednesday of de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s key peace initiative to end prolonged ethnic separatist civil wars in the country, a leader from one of the militias said.

Three ethnic armed groups, the Arakan Army (AA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), also known as the Kokang army, have now been invited to participate in the five-day second round of the 21st Century Panglong Conference, also known as the Union Peace Conference, in the capital Naypyidaw.

The three armed militias along with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) comprise the Northern Alliance, a coalition fighting Myanmar forces in northern Shan and Kachin states that carried out coordinated attacks on government and military targets in northern Shan state last November.

None of them signed a nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) with the government in October 2015.

“Some members of the Northern Alliance got the invitations earlier [than the others],” said Brigadier General Ta Phone Kyaw, spokesman of the TNLA and its political organization the Palaung State Liberation Front on Tuesday, adding that the AA, TNLA, and MNDAA were not initially invited to the summit by the government.

“But we received the invitations last night, though we are invited as ‘special guests,’” he said.

The AA, however, was only invited to attend the opening and closing ceremonies, he said.

Vice-Chairman 1 Brigadier Ta Gyote Gyar and Joint General Secretary 2 Major Ta Pan Hla will represent the TNLA at the peace talks, Ta Phone Kyaw said.

Aung Soe, a member of the government’s Peace Commission, said all ethnic armed groups that have not signed the NCA have been invited as special guests.

Ethnic militias arrive

Zaw Htay, director-general of the State Counselor’s Office, wrote on his Facebook page that the leaders of seven ethnic militias that have not signed the peace pact arrived in Naypyidaw on Tuesday by way of Kunming, capital of southwestern China’s Yunnan province.

They include the United Wa State Army—Myanmar’s largest nonstate militia—KIA, AA, MNDAA, TNLA, Shan State Army-North (SSA-N); and National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA-Mongla group).

However, the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), a coalition of armed groups that have not signed the NCA, decided at a meeting on Monday in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to decline the invitation to attend the peace talks that it received on May 19, said Nai Han Tha, vice chairman of the UNFC and chairman of the New Mon State Party (NMSP).

Instead, some UNFC members will attend the talks individually as “special guests”—observers rather than participants.

UNFC member the Karenni National Progressive Party will not participate in the conference, state media reported last week.

Eight armed militias that signed the NCA in 2015 will attend the meeting, however.

Leaders of the groups that attend the peace negotiations will deliver opening speeches as they did at the first Panglong Conference that began in late August 2016, according to the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar, quoting Khun Myint Tun, secretary of Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee and chairman of Pa-O National Liberation Organization.

An estimated 700 representatives at the summit will hold discussions and meetings on the following days and sign all approved items as a part of Union Agreement on the final day, the report said.

Aung San Suu Kyi is spearheading Myanmar’s efforts to hold the peace talks to end decades of civil war in Myanmar by fostering national reconciliation and peace among the country’s various armed ethnic groups and the government military.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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