Ethnic Armed Groups Look to Bring Peace Talks to Their Turf

By Moe Myint 10 June 2016

RANGOON — Three ethnic armed groups—the Arakan Army (AA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA)—have called on the national government’s new peace envoy to convene initial peace talks in the remote areas under ethnic control, said Col. Nyo Twan Awng of the AA.

Although a meeting date has not yet been set, it is likely to take place in the next week. The three groups have suggested three options for the meeting location: in Panghsang , the capital of the Wa Special Region in northeastern Shan State; the Mongla area, in the eastern part of Shan State; or Ruili, a Sino-Burmese border town. However, a government representative said that meeting in Ruili would be impossible.

“Perhaps we could meet in the Mongla or in the Wa region, since we’ve already requested that Wa and Mongla help host the meeting. But first the government wants to hold an informal meeting with two representatives from each armed group,” Col. Nyo Twan Awng said.

Zaw Htay, spokesperson for the President Office’s, confirmed to The Irrawaddy over the phone that the government’s peace body will meet with the three armed groups but he declined to offer any details.

Col. Nyo Twan Awng said that the groups—who were excluded by the previous government from signing a 2015 “nationwide” ceasefire agreement (NCA)—are willing to collaborate with the National League for Democracy (NLD)-led peace committee and subcommittee.

However, he also cautioned that if the new government is serious about facilitating peace and national reconciliation, certain policies on the part of the Burma Army’s commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing, should be reviewed. He pointed out that some powerful ethnic armed groups hesitated to sign off on the NCA under former President Thein Sein’s government because the Burma Army aggressively pushed a disarmament policy for ethnic armed groups.
Col. Nyo Twan Awng claimed that the AA, MNDAA and TNLA have found common ground by consistently working together as a dual political and military alliance and that they already agree on some points of the NCA, whose negotiation process they were a part of.

While the new government has taken steps to reinvigorate Burma’s peace process, even since the NLD took the mantle of political leadership in April fighting has continued in ethnic regions, particularly in Arakan, Kachin and Shan states. On Sunday, for instance, AA and Burma Army troops reportedly clashed in Arakan State’s Rathedaung Township.

Col. Nyo Twan Awng confirmed that more fighting between the two camps erupted on Thursday near Nwar Yon Taung village in Buthidaung Township. It reportedly took 20 minutes for the fighting to cease, and at least three soldiers were wounded.

“Fighting will intensify if the government army continues its operations,” he said.