Govt Asks UNFC to Sign ‘Deed of Commitment’ to Attend Union Peace Conference

By Lawi Weng 2 May 2017

RANGON—Government peace negotiators have asked ethnic bloc the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) to sign a “deed of commitment” to attend the upcoming Union Peace Conference on May 24.

A delegation from the government’s National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC) led by Dr. Tin Myo Win met with the UNFC’s Department for Political Negotiation (DPN) in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand last Friday for the fifth round of formal peace talks between the two sides.

“They asked us to attend the 21st Panglong peace conference at the meeting, but we replied that if we were invited as observers, we could not attend,” New Mon State Party (NMSP) central committee member Dr. Nai Shwe Thein, who attended the meeting, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.

“They even asked us to sign a ‘deed of commitment’ to attend,” he said, adding that government negotiators were keen to have all UNFC members sign the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).

Dr. Nai Shwe Thein said ethnic armed group leaders would discuss whether or not to sign the deed, but added that the NMSP had already agreed to follow the NCA principles that would have them attend the Union Peace Conference.

In his opening speech on Friday, 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.

“Politically, we made a lot of progress,” Dr. Tin Myo Win told The Irrawaddy on Friday, adding that they had discussed details concerning the DPN’s nine-point proposal.

DPN leaders asked the NRPC negotiators whether the government could fulfill any of the UNFC’s nine points in its proposal for signing the NCA, according to Dr. Nai Shwe Thein.

“We asked them at the meeting how many of the points they could accept. We even told them if they agreed to all nine points from our request, then, we would sign the NCA,” said Dr. Nai Shwe Thein.

In addition to attending the peace talks under the UNFC bloc, two of its members—the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and Shan State Progress Party (SSPP)—also took part in meetings led by the United Wa State Army (UWSA) in which armed groups based in northeastern Burma rejected the NCA and called for it to be replaced.

It was not clear from the meeting whether some of the active ethnic armed groups based in the region have abandoned the UNFC’s NCA position.