The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Special Envoy on Myanmar will meet six ethnic armed organizations (EAO) during his latest visit to the country, all of whom attended the military regime’s recent peace talks that were boycotted by Myanmar’s major EAOS for being non-inclusive and a sham.
ASEAN envoy and Cambodia’s foreign minister Prak Sokhonn is set to arrive in Myanmar on Wednesday and will stay until July 3.
On Friday, he will meet the New Mon State Party, the Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army-Peace Council, the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, the Arakan Liberation Army, the Pa-O National Liberation Organization and the Lahu Democratic Union, the Peace Process Steering Committee (PPST) spokesperson Colonel Saw Kyaw Nyunt confirmed to The Irrawaddy. All six EAOs are signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.
The spokesperson said that the PPST, which aims to facilitate peace talks between EAOs and the government and Myanmar’s military, held a virtual meeting on June 28, during which the six EAOs agreed to send two representatives each to meet the special envoy collectively. However, none of the six EAOs is fighting the regime.
Myanmar’s major EAOs such as the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) didn’t accept coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s invitation to join peace talks in the capital Naypyitaw in May, dismissing the talks as a pretext in order to free up junta troops to launch offensives against the People’s Defense Forces (PDFs). The KIA and KNLA are fighting against the junta alongside the PDFs, whom the regime has denounced as terrorists.
Since last year’s coup, the Karen National Union [the KNLA’s political wing], the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and the Chin National Front [the political wing of the Chin National Army-CNA] have downgraded their involvement in the PPST. The CNA, like the KNLA, is fighting the junta.
Regarding the RCSS, Colonel Saw Kyaw Nyunt said: “I don’t know if they would meet the ASEAN envoy, because they did not attend the virtual meeting [of PPST members]. I don’t know if they would meet the ASEAN envoy separately.”
The Irrawaddy was unable to contact the RCSS for a comment.
The invitation to meet with the ASEAN special envoy is only for those groups who have held face-to-face talks with Min Aung Hlaing, said EAOs.
The United Wa State Army, the most powerful EAO in Myanmar, and the National Democratic Alliance Army, both based in eastern Myanmar’s Shan State, attended the May peace talks with the junta leader. But when asked by The Irrawaddy if they would meet the ASEAN special envoy, neither group gave an affirmative answer.
Even though the regime sent separate invitations to the six EAOS, they will all meet the ASEAN envoy collectively and will only discuss issues of common interest, according to PPST spokesperson Col. Saw Kyaw Nyunt.
The groups will also exchange views on how EAOs can assist in ASEAN’s delivery of humanitarian assistance to Myanmar civilians in need.
Prak Sokhonn made his first trip to Myanmar as ASEAN envoy in March, when he planned to meet EAOs but was forced to cancel the meeting, citing a packed schedule.
During his first visit, the special envoy urged Min Aung Hlaing to exercise restraint in junta military operations.