Myanmar’s chief peace negotiator led a government peace-making delegation on Monday in meeting with an alliance of armed ethnic groups that did not sign last year’s nationwide cease-fire agreement to try to persuade them to join the accord.
Aung Min, minister of the president’s office, and members of the Union Peacemaking Working Committee (UPWC) met with leaders of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of armed ethnic groups, at the end of the UNFC’s meeting in Chiang Mai, Thailand, which began on Feb. 18.
The UPWC is trying to get UNFC members to sign the government’s nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA), which it inked last October with eight other armed ethnic groups, before a new government led by the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) takes power on April 1.
The UNFC, which now includes nine non-signatories to the peace pact, maintains that a peace agreement with the government to end decades of civil wars within the country should include all armed ethnic groups.
But the current government under the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has sought to meet individually with certain armed ethnic groups rather than negotiate with the UNFC.
UNFC leaders told Aung Min that they are firmly sticking to their all-inclusive policy for any future peace negotiations, Kho Oo Reh, UNFC general secretary and vice chairman of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“In our country, there are many ethnic groups, and thus many armed ethnic groups, and the sources of the armed conflicts are so diverse and different,” Kho Oo Reh said.
“You can’t build peace with a single order or command without understanding the root causes of each group,” he said. “It will take time to solve those problems and to seek peace from it.”
The UNFC did not sign the (NCA) last October because it objected to the government’s exclusion of certain armed ethnic groups and disagreed with the political dialogue framework drafted by the signatories.
When asked whether he anticipated the signing of a peace deal with any UNFC members before the end of the current term of the Union Solidarity and Development Party-led (USDP) government, Aung Min said, “We are still trying, and the door is not closed for that.”
The incoming NLD-led government has made national reconciliation and lasting peace one of its main goals.
Hostilities in Shan state
During the meeting, the UNFC also discussed the recent military clashes between the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA-S) and ethnic Palaung/Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in northern Myanmar’s Shan state. The TNLA is a member of the UNFC.
Aung Min and the UPWC also met with (RCSS/SSA) leaders on Monday to discuss the fighting, which began in late November but flared up again earlier this month. It has forced thousands of residents of Kyaukme and Namhkam townships to flee their homes and seek shelter in other villages.
During its meeting in Thailand, the UNFC created two groups dedicated to working on resolving the ongoing hostilities in Shan state and negotiating peace with the incoming NLD government, the online journal The Irrawaddy reported.
The nine UNFC members include the Arakan National Council (ANC), Kachin Independence Organization/ Kachin Independence Army (KIO/KIA), Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), Lahu Democratic Union (LDU), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance (MNDAA), New Mon State Party (NMSP), Palaung State Liberation Front/Ta’ang National Liberation Army (PSLF/TNLA), Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) and Wa National Organization (WNO).
Reported by Aung Moe Myint and Thiha Tun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Kyaw Min Htun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.