Burma Army Chief Calls for Peace Talks Without ‘International Pressure’
By The Irrawaddy 10 January 2017
RANGOON –In a Tuesday meeting in Naypyidaw, Burma Army chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing told Sun Guoxiang, of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that demanding rights through armed revolution would not succeed under the mandates of Burma’s democratic transition.
Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s statement comes after members of the ethnic armed group coalition the Northern Alliance asked China to provide witnesses to peace talks with the Burma Army in Kunming, Yunnan Province. Yetin Tuesday’s meeting, the senior general emphasized the importance of participating in peace talks without “international pressure.”
The military chief’s comments to the Special Envoy of Asian Affairs are not his first provocative statement of 2017. On Jan. 4, at the commemoration of Burma’s independence from Britain 69 years ago, Min Aung Hlaing referred to some ethnic armed group leaders as “narrow-minded” in their approach to peace.
The Irrawaddy could not reach the Northern Alliance’s spokesperson to respond to the military chief’s comments on Tuesday.
On Nov. 20, the four member groups of the Northern Alliance—the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Arakan Army (AA)—launched a joint offensive against the Burma Army in northern Shan State, targeting bases in Muse, Kutkai and Namkham townships, near the Chinese border.
Later that month, the Chinese foreign ministry invited government peacemakers and representatives from the four armed groups to Kunming to re-start peace talks. The meetings collapsed early on, with the Northern Alliance asking that the Chinese government and UWSA act as witnesses to the discussions.
The Northern Alliance forces retreated from Muse Township’s Mong Ko area following air strikes by the Burmese air force in the first week of December.
Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing said in Tuesday’s statement that army peace efforts have increased in recent years, highlighting how eight—of the country’s more than 20—ethnic armed groups signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) under the previous, military-backed government in 2015. He added that the Burma Army would continue to try to bring remaining non-signatories to the table to endorse the NCA, but clarified that in MNDAA and TNLA strongholds, the next step would be political talks.