Ethnic Alliance Pulls Out of Summit Due to Thingyan Holiday

By Nyein Nyein 11 April 2017

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — The ethnic alliance bloc United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) will not join the fourth summit of ethnic armed organizations, which takes place at the headquarters of the United Wa State Army (UWSA) in Panghsang this week.

Burma’s largest non-state armed group, the UWSA, will host the fourth summit since November 2015 for non-signatories of the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).

UNFC vice chairman Nai Hong Sar said they could not travel to the Wa Self-Administered Zone on April 13.

“We won’t be able to go if it is during the water festival [from April 13-16],” he said. “Also, we are going to have further meetings between our bloc after the holidays. ”

Earlier this month, Nai Hong Sar said representatives of the UNFC would visit the Wa region to talk with the UWSA.

U Kyi Myint, the secretary of the Mongla National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), said the summit is a follow up to February’s meeting in which the armed groups in the northeast of Burma agreed to form a Wa-led committee to negotiate with the government. They dismissed the NCA path, urging its replacement with a new agreement.

U Kyi Myint told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that his group, the UWSA and three members of the Northern Alliance—the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Arakan Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army—have listed their representatives for the formation of the political negotiation team.

The Wa and Mongla groups are still adamant they do not need to sign the NCA as they already had bilateral ceasefires with the government, adding they are ready for political dialogue.

Two UNFC members—the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP)—joined the Panghsang meeting in February, but the southern groups—the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP)—did not participate.

Earlier this month, the UNFC said it was united despite an alleged rift in the bloc as the comprising groups disagreed over signing the NCA and its role in the peace process.

The UNFC stresses that it remains on the NCA path and would sign the NCA when the government agrees to its terms.

The government plans to hold the second session of its 21st Century Panglong Conference in May.