Burma Army Reveals Concerns Over Ethnic Summit

By Nyein Nyein 21 July 2016

RANGOON – The Tatmadaw expressed concern over the upcoming Mai Ja Yang peace summit in Kachin State during a press conference on Wednesday in Rangoon, saying that the meeting could negatively impact the Union Peace Conference, which is slated to convene in late August.

Army spokesman and chief of military security affairs Lt-Gen Mya Tun Oo reiterated the Tatmadaw’s—the Burmese term for the national army—intention to cooperate with the civilian-led National League for Democracy (NLD) government, but said the best results for the peace process would stem from open and honest discussion at the Union conference.

Reaching a common perspective amongst the different groups is already a challenge, he said.

“In a meeting, many agreements are reached. Then restraints are imposed…and making efforts to move things forward will get harder,” Mya Tun Oo said, reportedly emphasizing the concerns of army chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing. “Thus, if possible, [the Burma Army] does not want the Mai Ja Yang meeting to happen. We don’t want any more territorial claims or forming of alliances,” adding that, the military would

The ethnic armed groups have said that the Mai Ja Yang summit will be held next week, from July 26-29, and will serve as a plenary discussion for the upcoming Union Peace Conference, as well as a forum to identify common perspectives on federal and state constitutions, security and defense and the country’s political dialogue framework.

Padoh Kwe Htoo Win, secretary of the Karen National Union (KNU) and a vice chairman of the ethnic armed organizations’ (EAOs) Summit Plenary Convening Committee for Mai Ja Yang, told The Irrawaddy that the summit itself “is not an action that would damage the upcoming peace conference, but, rather, it will be a supportive action for peace building.”

He added that he hopes there will not be any objections from the Burma Army, as the military has pledged to collaborate with the NLD government concerning the country’s peace process. Padoh Kwe Htoo Win pointed out that both the State Counselor—Aung San Suu Kyi—and army chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing were informed of the summit when they met in June with the leaders of eight signatory groups to 2015’s nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).

The first EAO summit in Laiza, Kachin State, in 2013 moved the country toward the drafting of the NCA by the ethnic Nationwide Ceasefire Coordinating Team and the government, Padoh Kwe Htoo Win pointed out; the previous government had allowed for this gathering to take place. The second eight-day EAO summit was held in the KNU-controlled Law Khee Lar region of Karen State in June 2015.

The KNU was among the eight signatories of NCA last October. NCA non-signatory groups are continuing talks with the government regarding all-inclusive participation in the peace process. The senior leaders of one bloc of non-signatory armed groups—the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC)—met with Aung San Suu Kyi on Sunday in Rangoon to discuss further collaboration toward building a federal union, as well as participation in the political dialogue framework review and the peace conference.

One demand from non-signatories to the NCA is for a unilateral ceasefire to be jointly announced by the government, the Burma Army and ethnic armed groups before resuming peace talks in Naypyidaw in August. To this end, the government and UNFC delegations met again for talks in Chiang Mai, Thailand on Wednesday.

“Making unilateral ceasefires is easy, but the implementation is difficult if we do not have trust in each other and can not manage to agree on the NCA pact,” said Padoh Kwe Htoo Win.