Key Players in Peace Process Steering Team Step Down

By Kyaw Kha 8 March 2019

CHIANG MAI—Karen National Union (KNU) Chairperson Gen. Mutu Say Poe and Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) Chairperson Yawd Serk have stepped down from their respective positions as chairperson and vice-chairperson of the Peace Process Steering Team (PPST), a group representing 10 ethnic armed group signatories of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).

The PPST held a series of meetings in Thailand’s Chiang Mai from Tuesday to Thursday this week.

A new chairperson and vice-chairperson will be elected formally at the next summit, though the two outgoing leaders delegated authority to KNU General Secretary Padoh Saw Ta Doh Moo and RCSS Deputy Chief of Staff Brig-Gen Pao Khay.

Negotiations with the government and military on moving Myanmar toward a federal and democratic system that guaranteed equality and self-determination for ethnic minorities had “deviated” from the path set out by the NCA, the delegates said at the meeting.

The leadership change is aimed at putting the process back on the right track and continuing peace talks with the government based on the common ground reached at the meeting, said Saw Ta Doh Moo.

RCSS Chairman Gen. Yawd Serk and Deputy Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Pao Khay. / Aung Moe Myint

“This is to replace [the PPST leadership] with younger generations who appear to be able to debate and negotiate more effectively,” Saw Ta Doh Moo said in a press conference on Thursday.

Delegates of the KNU and the RCSS, the two biggest groups among the 10 NCA signatories, said that the leadership change would not impact peace talks, though some delegates of the smaller signatory groups expressed concerns that there would be a negative impact on talks.

“We don’t think it will have an impact because our argument will be framed by policies and not on personality, so it won’t have an impact,” RCSS Second Secretary Col. Sai Ngin said at the press conference.

During the meeting, delegates discussed the current peace process framework, discussing ways to make it more inclusive, and tried to reach a consensus on a timeframe for future talks with the government and military.

The PPST summit is scheduled to be held on May 14 when a proposal will be submitted to change its name to the Peace Process Consultative Meeting as well as the formal election of the chairperson and the vice-chairperson.

The PPST was formed by eight original signatories of the NCA in 2017 in Thailand’s Chiang Mai in order to facilitate peace talks with the government and Tatmadaw.

The PPST suspended all formal meetings following arguments over the concept of “single army” and “non-secession from the Union” brought up at exclusive meetings between the government, Tatmadaw and NCA signatories last October in Naypyitaw.