CHIANG MAI, Thailand – Aiming to consolidate their positions on common policies, around 100 politicians, ethnic armed group leaders and civil society members have joined a stakeholders’ consultation hosted by the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand this week.
The four-day meeting, held from Sept. 27-30, is to share concerns and exchange views on the current political circumstances in Myanmar.
“We will have experts to share experiences from the political dialogue process, the state and federal constitutions, and the reality and need for achieving peace. Then, based on these, we can form a collective view for a future plan,” said Nai Hong Sar, the chairman of the UNFC, who presided over the consultation on Wednesday.
In his opening remark, Nai Hong Sar urged his fellow ethnic representatives to “strongly stand together for a common policy” despite their differences, to reach their goal of building a genuine federal Union that guarantees ethnic autonomy, equality, and self-determination.
This year, the stakeholders’ consultation was joined by as many groups as last year, even though the Kachin Independence Organization left the bloc in June.
Representatives from the ethnic political parties alliance, United Nationalities Alliance; from the KIO; from the signatories of the nationwide ceasefire agreement including the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS); and civil society groups including the Women’s League of Burma, presented at the consultation.
Nai Hong Sar also highlighted in his speech the fact that he shared his views during the New Mon State Party’s (NMSP) meeting with State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Sept. 1 in Naypyitaw.
He explained that the State Counselor had asked the NMSP whether they had recommendations regarding the development of the peace process.
“We shared three things: the importance of having all inclusivity in the peace process, creating a strong political dialogue framework, and the implementation of the agreement step by step, as is said in the agreement. But Daw Aung San Suu Kyi did not provide her own views,” he said.
Having a strong political dialogue framework is one of the eight points proposed by the UNFC, and one which they have been negotiating with the government’s Peace Commission. They will hold the seventh round of formal talks in early October, as they had informal talks on Monday, Sept. 25.
Regarding implementation, Nai Hong Sar was referring to not being able to hold the ethnic national-level dialogues (ND) in many ethnic areas. The seven NDs were held between December 2016 and April this year in areas under the control of nationwide ceasefire agreement signatories. However in the territories of the RCSS and the Arakan Liberation Party, the scheduling of the ND was not allowed, because of disagreements with the authorities regarding the proposed venues and the security situation.
The UNFC chairman reiterated the importance of building trust between the ethnic armed organizations and the Tatmadaw.
“We told Daw Aung San Suu Kyi that trust must be stronger among us; we cannot build trust by force, which she also agreed with. But what we knew was she could not say anything to the Tatmadaw, which has been given high authority under the 2008 Constitution,” Nai Hong Sar said.