Govt Peace Delegation Asks Ethnic Groups to Disarm

By Saw Yan Naing & Lawi Weng 21 June 2016

RANGOON — A Burmese government peace delegation led by Dr. Tin Myo Win has told three ethnic armed groups of the Arakan, Palaung and Kokang ethnicities not to attack the Burma Army and to disarm so that they will be invited to join the upcoming peace conference, sources say.

The peace delegation said that Burma Army chief Gen Min Aung Hlaing would give the “green light” to the three groups to join peace talks and perhaps sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) if they disarm, said a leader of a Palaung [Ta’ang] armed group, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

Tar Bong Kyaw, general secretary of the TNLA who was not present at the meeting with Tin Myo Win, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, “I got information that they [the delegation] want us to release a statement on disarming and cessation of attacks on Burma Army troops. Then Gen Min Aung Hlaing will give the green light [for us attending meetings].”

He was unable to provide additional details on the discussions over the weekend.

The Burmese government’s peace delegation met with leaders of the three ethnic armed groups during its trip to Shan State to talk with ethnic Wa and Mongla armies. They held informal, separate meetings with the TNLA, the Arakan Army (AA) and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) in Mongla town, Shan State.

The three groups were excluded by the previous government from signing last year’s NCA—a pact signed by eight non-state armed groups and the former government—and they are still at war with the Burma Army in Shan State.

On May 13, Lt-Gen Mya Tun Oo said at a press conference in Naypyidaw that the MNDAA, TNLA and AA have no option but to disarm. The Burma Army would not negotiate peace with them if they failed to do so, said the general.

The three NCA non-signatories are members of an alliance of ethnic armed groups, the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), but recently have said that they would withdraw from the group. It has been reported that the three groups are trying to ally with the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), a Mongla ethnic army.

Sources on the China-Burma border told The Irrawaddy that members of the delegation who are army officials asked the UWSA to withdraw from its bases on the Thai border.

In May, Thai military officials asked their Burma Army counterparts to help convince the UWSA to withdraw its bases on the Thai-Burma border, claiming some were on Thai territory.

The UWSA said they could not move their military outposts because they had been based there for many years, according to the sources, who requested to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the meetings.

Sources familiar with the matter also said the UWSA told the government delegation to include the three NCA non-signatories in peace talks and meetings in order to achieve the goals of the NCA.

The government delegation, led by Dr. Tin Myo Win, is responsible for dealing with ethnic armed groups that have not signed the NCA. It is one of two groups that are laying the foundation for the 21st Century Panglong Conference, which is expected to be held next month.

Another sub-committee is led by Burma Army Lt-Gen Yar Pyae and is responsible for handling the eight non-state armed groups that have already signed the NCA.

In 1947, Gen Aung San, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, convened a meeting of several ethnic groups in Panglong, Shan State that resulted in an inter-ethnic peace pact.

Kyaw Kha also contributed to this story.