Ex-Top Peace Envoy Invites Previously Shunned Armed Groups for Talks

By Lawi Weng 22 April 2016

RANGOON — Three ethnic armed groups that have been actively fighting against the Burma Army in northern Shan and western Arakan states have agreed to meet a former Burmese government peace delegation in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai next month, according to a leader from one of the groups.

Aung Min, the previous government’s chief peace negotiator, reached out to the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Arakan Army and the Kokang rebel group known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Mai Aike Kyaw, a spokesperson for the TNLA, told The Irrawaddy on Friday.

The former government representative recently formed the Aung Min Peace Foundation, and contacted the groups through the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), a coalition of opposition groups representing various ethnicities in Burma. Former army Lieutenant General Khin Zaw Oo will represent the Burma Army at the informal talks, according to Mai Aike Kyaw.

“This meeting is with the U Aung Min Peace Foundation,” the TNLA spokesperson said. “It is not with the new government. We will meet with them early next month.”

Leaders of the TNLA will have a meeting soon to prepare for their discussions with the former peace broker.

“It is too early to tell what we will talk with them about,” the TNLA’s Mai Aike Kyaw said.

The Burma Army and the former peace delegation had refused to meet these three groups in the past, demanding that they first lay down arms before any consideration was given to their joining a so-called Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement process, which suspended hostilities last October between the Burma Army and eight former UNFC member groups. The TNLA, Arakan Army and MNDAA continue to fight against Burma Army forces that they say are attempting to exert greater control in their home regions.

The UNFC expects to meet with the new government soon and they recently hosted three days of discussions to prepare for future talks.