Govt, Ethnic Rebels Form New Committee to Push Peace Talks Forward

By Nyein Nyein 10 March 2014

The Burmese government, the military and leaders of armed ethnic groups have agreed to form a joint committee that will work on drafting the text for a nationwide ceasefire accord.

In a statement released on Monday, the ethnic groups’ Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) and the government’s Union Peace Working Committee announced that a joint committee would be formed, with an equal number of members provided by the government and ethnic groups.

The agreement followed two days of meetings in Rangoon between the NCCT delegation led by Nai Hong Sar and the government’s peace team led by Minister Aung Min.

The 18 committee members are yet to be selected, but will include nine ethnic leaders, while on the government side members will include three military commanders, three parliamentarians and three cabinet officials, said Hla Maung Shwe of the Myanmar Peace Center, an influential group of government advisors.

“We will have three representatives from Parliament, from the Tatmadaw leaders and from the government,” he said.

Hla Maung Shwe said before the ethnic groups and the government team had come up with their own draft texts for a nationwide ceasefire accord, adding that the new joint committee would now attempt to write a single draft text.

NCCT chairman Nai Hong Sar said the new joint committee planned to “implement both sides’ views while drafting a single principle for a nationwide ceasefire agreement.”

Nine ethnic representatives for the new committee will be selected during a NCCT meeting in March 19-20 in Thailand, he added. The NCCT represents 16 ethnic armed groups.

The new committee will meet again in late March to begin negotiations on the text of a nationwide ceasefire, said Hla Maung Shwe. Once such a preliminary agreement is reached, the long-planned, high-level nationwide ceasefire talks in the Karen State capital Hpa-an can go ahead, he added.

The last such high-level talks took place in Myitkyina, Kachin State, in November. The government has since repeatedly announced that a nationwide ceasefire accord could be signed in Hpa-an within weeks, but the sides have been forced to reschedule these talks twice due to a lack of agreement.

NCCT chairman Nai Hong Sar said, however, said it was unclear how long it would take for the new committee to produce a draft nationwide ceasefire agreement.

He said that several other ethic armed groups not represented in the NCCT, such as the Shan State Army South and the United Wa State Army, would be invited to attend the new committee’s meetings.

“We would meet with them before the final meeting … so that their concerns could also be raised,” added Nai Hong Sar.