Ethnic Armed Groups Reject Myanmar Junta Chief’s Peace Talks

By The Irrawaddy 25 April 2022

Myanmar’s junta leader Min Aung Hlaing has invited the leaders of ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) for talks to end armed conflict in the country. Observers said only a few EAOs would attend. 

In his televised address on the junta’s mouthpiece Myawady TV on Friday, Min Aung Hlaing proposed face-to-face talks with EAO leaders. 

However, the invitation for peace talks excludes the country’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG) and its armed wing, the people’s defense forces (PDFs), as Min Aung Hlaing has previously refused to talk to either group. On Armed Forces Day last month, he vowed that the regime would crush the PDFs.

The Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), which is engaged in heavy fighting with junta troops in Kayah State, rejected the invitation. 

KNPP secretary Khu Daniel said: “It is very likely that we will not join the talks. The population is revolting against the junta. We have nothing to discuss after it has committed many arbitrary killings. There are clashes every day in Kayah State.” 

Padoh Saw Taw Nee, the Karen National Union’s (KNU) head of foreign affairs, said the regime must first withdraw its troops from Karen State and leave Myanmar’s politics before the KNU will hold talks. 

“There must also be justice. We called for transitional justice in previous talks that we attended. The military didn’t accept it then. But this time, there must be transitional justice. We can’t just forget that they killed so many. We must ensure justice and truth,” said Padoh Saw Taw Nee. 

Colonel Naw Bu, spokesman for the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), which is also fighting the regime, said the central executive committee of the KIA’s political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization, has not decided whether to attend peace talks, but he said dialogue with the regime was pointless. 

“They have held talks with the EAOs for more than 70 years and there were never good results. And there won’t be good results this time too,” he said.

The KIA has not attended talks with the regime since the 2021 coup and senior KIA figures have delivered addresses at the events organized by the NUG. 

Vice-chairman of the Chin National Front (CNF) Salai Lian Hmung Sakhong said the group condemns the regime and would not attend talks. 

“We will consider attending talks if Min Aung Hlaing and his regime admit it was wrong to have staged a coup and that they will honor the 2020 general election results and transfer power to the winning party and that they want us to help with the transfer of power. But even if they say so, will they keep their promise?” Salai Lian Hmung Sakhong said. 

“They must admit that they were wrong to kill civilians and destroy property and that they want to compensate. But if they want to bluff to maintain their grip on power, the ethnic armed revolutionary organizations and international community will not accept them,” he added. 

Any individual and organization that attends the peace talks will go down as national villains along with the regime, Salai Lian Hmung Sakhong said. 

“The National Ceasefire Agreement was signed between the government and EAOs and not between the military and EAOs. Min Aung Hlaing does not have the authority to implement a peace process. He has unlawfully seized power. He has seized power from the people and he has also seized peace,” he added. 

By proposing talks with the EAOs the regime is buying time to crush the PDFs, said observers. 

An analyst said: “It is unlikely that EAO leaders will accept his invitation and join the talks. The regime is under growing military pressures and if it does not have to fight the EAOs, it will halve its military pressures.

“But the problem is the EAOs and PDFs are not operating separately in Kachin, Chin, Karen, Karenni [Kayah] and Shan states. The regime is wrong to think of the EAOs and PDFs as separate forces. Its offer of talks is unlikely to succeed.” 

Some members of the Peace Process Steering Committee, whose leaders recently received honorary titles from the regime, are likely to join the talks, said analysts. 

Colonel Khun Okkar, the patron of the Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO), said the group’s committee will meet on Monday to discuss whether to meet the junta boss. 

By inviting EAOs for dialogue, the junta chief has admitted that he is losing, said Bo Nagar, the leader of the Myanmar Royal Dragon Army resistance group in Pale Township, Sagaing Region. 

“He has publicly admitted he is being defeated. He excluded PDFs from talks because he previously called for their annihilation. His statement means his defeat will come soon,” he said. 

He urged EAOs to reject the junta chief’s invitation and to continue fighting until the junta is defeated and all ethnic groups can enjoy political equality. 

“Then we will know it was worth taking up arms in the revolution,” said Bo Nagar. 

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