CHIANG MAI, Thailand – The government held the fifth round of formal peace talks with the United Nationalities Federal Council’s (UNFC) delegation for political negotiation (DPN) in northern Thailand on Friday.
The bloc members discussed the signing of the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA), in the follow-up to a March 3 meeting in Rangoon, where the negotiators agreed “in principle” to the DPN’s nine-point proposal that would precede the signing of the accord. They also discussed their positions on joining the upcoming session of the Union Peace Conference on May 24.
The government’s delegation was led by Peace Commission chairman Dr. Tin Myo Win and accompanied by the commission’s secretary U Khin Zaw Oo, its adviser U Aung Kyi, and member U Aung Soe—who is also a Lower House lawmaker—and supporting staff.
The DPN’s delegation was led by its head Khu Oo Reh, who is the secretary of the UNFC, and the vice chair of the Karenni Nationalities Progressive Party (KNPP). He was accompanied by representatives of all of the DPN’s six other members organizations, including the Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/KIA) and the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army-North (SSPP/SSA-N).
Leaders of both delegations highlighted in their opening remarks the need to adopt a “people first” approach in order to end decades of civil war and to build trust.
In his opening speech, Dr. Tin Myo Win emphasized the need to reach a solution through negotiation, in order to fulfill the public’s expectations in building peace and federalism.
After the meeting, he said, “both sides have built further trust.”
“Politically, we made a lot of progress,” Dr. Tin Myo Win told The Irrawaddy, adding that they had discussed details concerning the DPN’s nine-point proposal.
Friday’s meeting is “a step toward the next meetings,” said Khu Oo Reh after their talk.
But neither side revealed details of discussions on any changes to the nine-points proposal. Khu Oo Reh had also remarked in his opening speech that morning that the DPN does not have a mandate to decide or agree to any terms during the meeting.
There still needs to be a negotiation in order to reach a common agreement from their previous meeting in March, he explained.
“One must not look for the benefit of an organization, but serve for the sake of the people—for them to live in a peaceful environment,” Khu Oo Reh said.
In addition to attending the peace talks under the UNFC bloc, two of its members—the KIO and SSPP—also took part in meetings led by the United Wa State Army (UWSA) twice in February and April in Panghsang, the Wa Self-Administered Division. In the talks, armed groups based in northeastern Burma rejected the NCA and called for it to be replaced with a new pact.
It was not clear whether the active ethnic armed groups based in the region have abandoned the UNFC’s position to follow the NCA path, and the UNFC members reaffirmed that they will go along with the DPN’s terms.