Head of Myanmar EAO’s Peace Negotiating Team Steps Down

By The Irrawaddy 8 July 2021

Ethnic Shan armed group leader General Yawd Serk stepped down Wednesday as head of the Peace Process Steering Team (PPST), a group of ten nationwide ceasefire signatories.

The PPST was formed in 2016 to negotiate with the ousted National League for Democracy government. It is comprised of ten ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) who signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).

Gen. Yawd Serk is also the chairman of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), a signatory to the NCA. He took the role as the PPST’s interim leader in March 2019, after the Karen National Union (KNU) leader General Saw Mutu Sae Poe stepped down.

He sent his resignation letter on June 29, saying that he needed to devote more time to the RCSS and Shan State affairs. His resignation was subsequently discussed at the PPST’s 17th regular meeting that started on July 1 and was held online.

The other nine EAOs on the PPST wanted Gen. Yawd Serk to stay on as leader until the second PPST summit, which is set to be held in either October or November. “We asked him to reconsider his decision, but we can’t deter him and we agreed to his resignation,” said a PPST member.

A source close to the RCSS told The Irrawaddy that that their chairman’s resignation as PPST leader is due to Shan State’s increasingly complex affairs.

On July 1, Gen. Yawd Serk said also that military conflicts between the various EAO’s in northern Shan State are increasing as a result of political tensions and are now impacting the politics of the whole country.

The General didn’t name which groups were fighting, but the RCSS and the rival Shan State Army-North, the armed wing of the Shan State Progress Party, have been clashing in northern Shan State since early this year. There has been fighting between the two EAO’s in Shan State’s Kehsi Township since last month.

A temporary committee of three PPST members: Nai Aung Min of the New Mon State Party, Colonel Sai Ngern of the RCSS and Khun Okkar, the patron of the Pa-O National Liberation Organization, will now lead the bloc until the October or November summit.

The first session of the 4th PPST summit was held on May 2019. The second session of that summit was postponed, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. EAO leaders have been holding talks online since the pandemic hit Myanmar in March 2020.

Relations between PPST members have been strained since the Myanmar military’s Feb. 1 coup, with some holding talks with the junta’s governing body, the State Administrative Council. PPST members the Arakan Liberation Party, the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army and the Karen National Liberation Army-Peace Council have all held talks with the military regime.

In early May, KNU chairman Saw Mutu Sae Poe said that the KNU would also continue political negotiations and uphold the principles of the NCA.

Khun Okkar recently told The Irrawaddy that the PPST would also continue on the NCA path, which is “to continue relations with both sides and maintain the status quo with the military”.

He added that PPST representatives have opened a communications channel with the military for the peace-building process and that they have had several informal talks since the coup.

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