The Irrawaddy

Ethnic Armed Leaders to Meet State Counselor, Army Chief in Hope of Peace Process Breakthrough

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NAYPYITAW — Key leaders of seven ethnic armed groups based along Myanmar’s northern border will meet State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar Army Chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing, spokesperson of the President’s Office U Zaw Htay told reporters on Monday in Naypyitaw.

The government is negotiating for decision makers from these groups to come and talk with government leaders in the hope of a breakthrough, he said.

Vice Presidents of the United Wa State Army (UWSA) Bao You Xiang and Zhao Guo An, General Say Htin of the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army(SSPP/SSA), Khu Oo Reh of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), General Gun Maw of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and key leaders of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and Arakan Army (AA) will reportedly come for talks.

The Chinese government has brokered the talks and also arranged a flight for the ethnic delegation. The Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC), which comprises the seven ethnic armed groups, will release a statement about the meeting, according to sources close to the groups.

“I am sure key leaders will come for talks,” said U Maung Maung Soe, an ethnic affairs analyst.

According to sources close to the government, the State Counselor is likely to hold two separate talks—one with a delegation from the UWSA, KIO, SSPP and NDAA, and another with the MNDAA, AA and TNLA.

The army chief is likely to hold three separate talks—one with the UWSA, NDAA and SSPP, the second with the KIO alone, and the third with the MNDAA, AA and TNLA.

“We have requested that decision makers of those groups come because we want to hold direct talks. The State Counselor and Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services will meet them if key leaders come,” said U Zaw Htay.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi met leaders of those seven ethnic armed groups in May last year. The meeting, however, focused on building ties rather than the details of the peace process.

After a lengthy delay, the third round of the 21st Century Panglong Conference will be held from July 11 to 16 in Naypyitaw. However, there are questions about the sincerity of the conference as topics regarding self-determination and equality are barred from discussion.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.