Govt, Ethnic Reps Agree to Talks in Mid-March

By Nyein Nyein 2 March 2015

The government’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee will meet with the ethnics’ Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) in mid-March for the seventh round of official talks on an elusive nationwide ceasefire agreement.

Both sides have agreed to meet in Rangoon from March 16, according to ethnic and government negotiators.

Hla Maung Shwe, an advisor with the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Centre, and his technical team met with NCCT leaders from Feb. 27 to March 1 in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

He said that the informal discussions had focused on laying the groundwork for “successful negotiations” on a draft nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).

Dr Salai Lian H. Sakhong of the Chin National Front said that in addition to the NCA text, the NCCT would focus on “military affairs and the reduction of fighting in the north.”

The last formal discussions were held in September 2014. Subsequent informal meetings between the government and ethnic negotiators have yielded no concrete results.

On Union Day, Feb. 12, President Thein Sein presented ethnic leaders with a pledge reaffirming support for the nationwide ceasefire during a meeting in Naypyidaw. Leaders of the Karen National Union, the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, the Shan State Army-South and a small Karen splinter group signed the statement. All other NCCT groups present at the meeting declined, saying that the document failed to address outstanding issues.

Recent fierce fighting between Kokang rebel group the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Burma Army in Laukkai in the Kokang Special Region may also prove a barrier to ongoing negotiations.

Representatives from the MNDAA and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), which is fighting alongside the Kokang group, have been absent from recent informal talks with government representatives.

Five non-NCCT members have also been invited to join the meeting this month, which is scheduled to run for five days from March 16-20, Hla Maung Shwe said.

The NCCT also proposed to include international observers from five countries at the meeting, which the government has agreed upon, according to Dr Salai Lian H. Sakhong.