China Facilitates Myanmar Junta and Ethnic Armies’ Talks

By The Irrawaddy 16 December 2021

The Myanmar junta’s peace negotiation committee met with representatives of six ethnic armed groups based in the country’s north in Mong La on Wednesday, with the help of China. Notably, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) did not participate.

The six EAOs are all members of the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC), led by the United Wa State Army (UWSA). Wednesday’s talks were joined by the UWSA, Mong La’s National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), Arakan Army (AA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Kokang’s Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army North (SSPP/SSA-N).

Lieutenant General Yar Pyae, the junta’s minister for the Union Government Office and the chairman of the junta’s National Solidarity and Peace Negotiation Committee, had met the EAOs on two earlier occasions since the coup. But this time the meeting was held as per “China’s reconciliation policy,” said a source close to the talks.

A representative from China was present at the meeting, the source said. China has been urging the northern groups and the junta to hold talks. During the latest visit to Myanmar by Chinese Special Envoy for Asian Affairs Sun Guoxiang in November, coup leader Min Aung Hlaing reportedly requested that he help facilitate talks between the northern-based EAOs and the junta.

The committee’s secretary, Lieutenant General Min Naung, and other members including former lieutenant general turned peace commissioner Khin Zaw Oo accompanied Lt-Gen Yar Pyae at the meeting.

The Irrawaddy has learned that the junta wants to resume its talks with the FPNCC members on the multilateral, bilateral and nationwide ceasefire agreements, which were discussed under the ousted National League for Democracy government. As the initial plan to hold further talks in February was postponed due to the Feb. 1 coup, the generals are eager to resume talks on the issues, according to the source.

The junta’s delegation said they want to listen to the EAOs’ desires and also to reduce military tensions with the MNDAA and TNLA on the ground. According to one source, a junta delegate urged the northern-based EAOs “not to be afraid of holding talks” with them so that the negotiations will become smoother, while talking to AA representatives in conciliatory tones.

The northern-based EAOs are not signatories to the NCA and did not sign bilateral ceasefire agreements with any previous governments since Myanmar’s peace process commenced in 2011. The FPNCC has rejected the NCA and demanded an alternative path to it.

One EAO representative also reiterated to the junta’s peace negotiation committee that “the NCA does not work.”

He said “the current conflict can only be resolved once the junta wants peace for sure, and it needs to show it.”

Additionally, the sources said, the junta’s delegation highlighted COVID-19 assistance and vaccination in the EAOs’ areas in Rakhine and Mon states.

The source said the KIA might be holding separate talks, as Kachin peace brokers from the Kachin Peace-Creation Group were reportedly in the area.

Since the Feb. 1 coup, fighting with junta troops has been reported in areas controlled by the KIA, MNDAA and TNLA, while Wa, Mong La and AA troops have not been involved in clashes.

An observer who spoke on condition of anonymity said the meeting was held “to maintain the status quo and did not even reach the level of talks for peace building.”

Other sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said the junta pushed for the talks as they are greatly concerned that the northern-based EAOs will stand together with the increasing number of People’s Defense Force groups.

Even as the junta’s men were holding the talks, regime offensives against MNDAA troops were intensifying. The MNDAA has urged the military to stop the offensives and aerial attacks against its forces.

Junta and MNDAA forces have clashed for territorial control for months in Shan State, with the former using artillery.

Ten times on Monday, junta fighter jets bombed MNDAA outposts in Mongkoe town in Muse Township on the Chinese border. The area has seen heavy fighting in recent months, an MNDAA spokesman said this week.

The spokesman added that the fighting is expected to intensify as the junta continues its troop deployments and surveillance via drones and helicopters.

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