Ethnic Leaders and Women Brief Politicians on Peace Talks

By Nyein Nyein 7 July 2014

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Ethnic political parties from Burma met with ethnic leaders and Burmese women activists in Thailand on Monday to discuss the latest developments in the peace process.

Twenty-three party leaders—representing the Mon, Karen, Chin, Kachin, Kayah, Tailai (Red Shan) and Burman ethnic groups—met with members of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), which represents ethnic armed groups in ceasefire talks, in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai.

“We shared our views on the peace process, mainly discussing the NCCT’s task, federalism, how we find ways to overcome challenges, and how to have politicians and parliamentarians participate in the process,” said NCCT leader Pado Kwe Htoo Win.

Last week, NCCT leaders decided that they would hold a third conference of ethnic armed leaders at the end of this month in Laiza, Kachin State, before meeting with the government’s negotiation team.

Hkyet Hting Nan, chairman of the Unity and Democracy Party (UDP) of Kachin State, and an Upper House lawmaker, said he appreciated the NCCT’s efforts to draft a single text of a nationwide ceasefire agreement.

“They have worked hard on this, day and night,” he said.

Amid ongoing disagreements over certain words in the text, including “federalism,” the Kachin lawmaker said, “What’s most important is practicing genuine federalism in reality, regardless of whether we use this word or not.”

Activists highlighted the need for negotiators to consider the wellbeing of women in conflict zones.

“It is important that we remember to raise the issue of women, who play a vital role in society but have suffered most in the conflict and have been left out of decision-making,” the Kachin lawmaker said.

Tin Tin Nyo, secretary of the Women’s League of Burma (WLB), an umbrella group of Burmese women’s organizations, said women required greater legal protections, referring to the issue of gender violence in conflict zones.

“Some leaders have even told us to forgive the perpetrators—army soldiers, in our country’s case—but what we would like to say is it is not right to ignore the truth when we are in the peace building stage,” she said.

The politicians arrived in Thailand last week to attend a workshop in Bangkok about federalism policies, electoral systems and the peace process in Burma.

They represented the UDP (Kachin State), the Chin Progressive Party, the Kachin State Democracy Party (KSDP), the Tailai Nationalities Development Party, the Karen People’s Party, the Mon National Party, the National Democratic Force, the Democracy and Peace Party, the National Unity Party, the Democratic Party (Burma), the Arakan National Party and the Kayah National Race Democracy Party.