Peace Talks to Continue After Union Day, Bypassing Ceasefire Goal

By Nyein Nyein 5 February 2015

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — The signing of a nationwide ceasefire agreement on Union Day is officially off the agenda, after further talks between the government and ethnic army representatives were postponed to the middle of February.

The government’s Union Peacemaking Working Committee and ethnic armed groups’ Nationwide Ceasefire Coordinating Team (NCCT) met in Chiang Mai, on Thursday afternoon, a week before the Feb. 12 date President Thein Sein has set for the signing of a nationwide ceasefire accord with the country’s rebel armies.

President’s Office minister Aung Min told The Irrawaddy that after Thursday’s meeting there had been no agreement on further talks on the draft ceasefire text before Union Day, a prerequisite of the NCCT for any possibility of a national peace accord.

Aung Min blamed the delay on the inability to bring all ethnic leaders to meet for discussions on account of numerous ethnic national days held over January and February.

“On our side, we have three parties in the Union Peacemaking Working Committee,” he said, referring to the President, the parliament and the Burma Army. “It is much easier to make agreements between us than with representatives of the 16 different ethnic groups.”

Nai Hong Sar, one of the leaders of the NCCT, said that while Thursday’s meeting canvassed the United Nationalities Federal Council’s proposals for a federal system of government, no decisions could be reached during the meeting.

“There has been no decision made yet for anything, including the next formal talks or the draft text of the ceasefire agreement,” he said.

Aung Min said that he remained “positive” on the progress of peace talks, saying that 122 points of disagreement in the ceasefire text had been reduced to just eight disagreements left for resolution. He noted that official invitations had been extended to each of the 16 ethnic armed groups for the government’s official Union Day commemoration.

The government peace negotiators also separately met leaders of the the Restoration Council of Shan State and will hold informal discussions with the Kachin Independence Organization on Friday.