Three armed ethnic groups that did not sign a nationwide peace pact with the Myanmar government last year have decided to meet with a peace negotiator from the national military to discuss participating in the upcoming Panglong Peace Conference, an officer from one of the armies said Friday.
The Arakan Army (AA) along with its allies the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA)—the three remaining ethnic armies that have yet to agree to participate in the peace talks—are planning to meet with former Lieutenant General Khin Zaw Oo, a peace negotiator from the Myanmar army who is a member of the committee organizing the Panglong Peace Conference, said Lieutenant General Kyaw Han of the AA.
The three groups, which have been involved in skirmishes with the Myanmar military in the Kokang region of Shan state along the border with China, did not sign a nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) with the previous government last October.
Reuters reported on Friday that the Myanmar military is no longer requiring that the three armed ethnic groups disarm before joining the Panglong Peace Conference as it had previously, citing Khin Zaw Oo.
The AA would welcome the new civilian government’s offer to let it attend the Panglong Peace Conference later this month in Naypyidaw without first abandoning its arms, Kyaw Han said.
“We have received a message from our headquarters that Lieutenant General Khin Zaw Oo will meet with the AA, MNDAA and TNLA, but we haven’t heard anything yet from our headquarters about the news that the military will allow our three groups to attend the Panglong Conference without first laying down our arms,” he said.
The Myanmar military—a major stakeholder in the country’s peace process—has not issued an official announcement, he said.
“We have plans to meet with the military delegation anywhere we can meet them,” he said.
Previous invitation declined
In late April, the AA, MNDAA and TNLA declined an invitation from Khin Zaw Oo to hold informal peace discussions in Chaing Mai, Thailand.
Khin Zaw Oo had wanted to meet with the three groups in May along with leaders of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of nine ethnic armed groups that did not sign the NCA.
Eight armed ethnic groups signed the NCA with the previous government, but the military added some chapters and excluded several other organizations, Kyaw Han said.
“We didn’t sign the NCA because we had some disagreements over its framework,” he said. “If they want all groups to sign the NCA, then the framework should be reviewed.”
“If the military said all groups can attend the [Panglong] peace talks, then these negotiations will be very positive,” he said.
State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto national leader, has made peace and national reconciliation between Myanmar’s armed ethnic groups and the government military a priority of the country’s National League for Democracy (NLD) government.
She is leading the efforts to organize the 21st-Century Panglong Peace Conference, which takes its name from the original Panglong Conference in 1947 during which her father, General Aung San, granted autonomy to the Shan, Kachin, and Chin ethnic minorities before Myanmar gained its independence from colonial rule by Britain.
But Aung San’s assassination in July 1947 prevented the agreements made during the conference from being implemented, and many ethnic groups took up arms against the central government in wars that then continued for decades.
Reported by Nay Rein Kyaw for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.