Burma’s Ethnic Armed Groups Want Thein Sein in Peace Talks

By Saw Yan Naing 11 September 2014

CHIANG MAI — The leaders of Burma’s ethnic armed groups want President Thein Sein to get involved in peace talks, as negotiations toward a nationwide ceasefire deal continue.

Members of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), which includes representatives of 16 rebel groups, are holding discussions this week in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, about the current draft of the long-awaited nationwide ceasefire agreement.

Following the meeting, NCCT leaders will meet with the Burmese government delegation, the Union Peacemaking Working Committee (UPWC), on Sept. 22 in Rangoon, where they will present their latest draft of the agreement.

Salai Lian Hmong Sakhong, a leading member of the NCCT and leader the Chin National Front, told The Irrawaddy that a new demand of the ethnic leaders was the formation of a “joint committee for union peace negotiation” after the ceasefire agreement is signed. The committee, which would oversee political dialogue following the ceasefire, would include high-ranking government officials including Thein Sein.

However, Lian Hmong Sakhong admitted that government negotiators were not keen on the idea.

“What we observe is that they don’t really want to put the president at the same level as us. So, we have to negotiate on that very seriously,” he said.

“If they want to end the six-decade-long problem, a body led by key heads is necessary. Without that kind of body, we can do nothing. They need to think about it seriously.”

He added that Kachin Independence Army Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Gun Maw would oversee the committee, and two other joint bodies, from the rebel side.

The ethnic alliance will also demand the formation of a working committee on military-related issues, and another committee to draw up of a code of conduct for the ceasefire.

“It is very dependent on them [the government]. If they agree with what we demand, [there’s no reason] why we can’t sign a nationwide ceasefire agreement,” Lian Hmong Sakhong said.

He said that Saw Tah Doh Moo, who is a central executive committee of the Karen National Union (KNU), will be in charge of the code-of-conduct working committee, and Maj. Saw Lo Loh of the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) will be in charge of the “joint monitoring” committee.”

Thein Sein’s government has been pushing to sign a nationwide ceasefire rapidly, but numerous deadlines have already been passed.

Saw Tah Doh Moo told The Irrawaddy that the rebels’ latest additional proposals were to ensure joint leadership after the nationwide ceasefire agreement, or NCA, is signed.

“We believe that ceasefire-related talks, political dialogue and other implementations of the peace process will happen post-NCA. So, it is necessary to set up a mechanism to work in parallel cooperation manner,” said Tah Doh Moo.