China Envoy Expects ‘All Armed Groups’ to Attend Union Peace Conference

By Kyaw Kha 29 July 2016

MAI JA YANG, Kachin State — China’s Special Envoy on Asian Affairs Sun Guoxiang, who has attended the Mai Ja Yang summit of ethnic armed groups in Kachin State as an observer, said that China backed “all the forces that support internal peace in Burma.”

“We expect that all ethnic armed groups will join the 21st Century Panglong Conference,” he told The Irrawaddy on Friday, when asked about China’s stance on “inclusion” at the Union Peace Conference scheduled for late August, where a deal on federalism is hoped for to resolve half a century of civil conflict in Burma.

“There may be different views about internal peace, but this is quite natural,” he said.

“It is crucial for Burma to achieve internal peace,” he said, citing the “payoff” the country would receive. “We hope all the stakeholders will continue to strive for peace.”

He did not address The Irrawaddy’s question on what Beijing would do to persuade armed groups to attend the Union Peace Conference—particularly those groups based along the China-Burma border.

These groups include the United Wa State Army (UWSA), acknowledged as the largest non-state armed group in Burma; the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), generally reckoned as the second largest; the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N); the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA); the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA); and the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), better known as the Mongla Group.

None of these groups were party to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement reached between the previous government and eight ethnic armed groups in October last year, and the Burma Army has been in active conflict over the past 18 months with all but the UWSA and the NDAA.

The special envoy left the five-day Mai Ja Yang summit on Friday for China, having attended the first four days, starting on Monday.