All-Inclusive Pact Proves Elusive as Latest Peace Talks Close

By Nyein Nyein & Nang Seng Nom 7 August 2015

RANGOON — Senior leaders of five ethnic armed groups will soon reconvene with government negotiators, representatives said, following the lackluster close of the latest round of peace talks on Friday.

The ninth round of discussions, which have unfolded over more than 18 months and aim to secure a nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA), ended without agreement on inclusion for armed groups that are not recognized by the government.

Pu Zing Cung, a member of the ethnic negotiating block known as the Senior Delegation, told reporters after the talks that the issue of inclusion was the last remaining point of contention between ethnic leaders and government peace brokers.

“We came to express our stance that all of our 17 members are to participate as signatories,” Pu Zing Cung said. “We will not compromise this for the sake of the NCA.”

The two-day talks made some progress on the other remaining issues: security sector integration and whether international observers would be permitted to serve as signatories to the pact.

According to delegation spokesman Nai Hong Sar, the five groups who will attend the next round of talks in Naypyidaw will be the Karen National Union (KNU); Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP); Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA); New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).

Representatives of the five selected groups will meet “soon” with the government’s negotiating team, the Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC) at an as yet undisclosed date, the spokesman said.

“Neither the UPWC or the [ethnic] delegates could reach an agreement at this meeting, so their respective leaders will meet to find a way to approach [the issue]. It is up to the government to implement all inclusiveness,” Nai Hong Sar said.

The government and the Burma Army currently do not accept almost one third of the ethnic groups involved in the peace process and accepted into the country’s ethnic alliance.

Three of the six groups—the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Arakan Army—proposed an independent peace deal with the government on Wednesday, after months of deadly conflict in eastern Burma’s Kokang Region and northern Shan State.

The remaining three—the Lahu Democratic Union, the Wa National Organization and the Arakan National Council—were deemed by the government not to have sizeable enough armies to warrant designation as combatants.

Hla Maung Shwe of the Myanmar Peace Center, an internationally supported technical support team viewed as partial to the government, said he expected to see an accord reached before a November general election.