The Irrawaddy

KNPP, Government Hold Informal Talks on Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement

KNPP Vice Chairman Khu Oo Reh addresses reporters after the group’s informal meeting with government peace negotiators in Yangon on March 7. 

CHIANG MAI, Thailand – To mark the sixth anniversary of the signing of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP)’s first bilateral ceasefire agreement at the state level, the group met Wednesday with the government’s Peace Commission in Yangon to continue bilateral talks on signing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).

The talks were held at Yangon’s National Reconciliation and Peace Center.

On Feb. 13, two members of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) — the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Lahu Democratic Union (LDU) — signed the NCA. At that time, government spokesman U Zaw Htay said the Peace Commission would continue bilateral talks with the KNPP to ensure that the group remained part of the current peace process.

The KNPP’s signing of the NCA has been delayed, partly due to the extrajudicial killing of three of the group’s soldiers while in the custody of the Tatmadaw’s Loikaw Operation Command at Loikaw checkpoint in December.

Khu Oo Reh, the vice chairman of the KNPP and head of its Peace Implementation Committee, said the group seeks to remove “any obstacles to peace talks,” referring to the case of the murdered KNPP soldiers. “Thus, negotiations are the only possible way to overcome the impediment.”

Among the topics the KNPP seeks to raise in its discussions with the government is the implementation process for bilateral agreements signed with the state and union governments in 2012 and 2013 under then-President U Thein Sein.

Agreements on matters relating to liaison offices, joint ceasefire monitoring, troop deployment, and state development were reached but not implemented.

The KNPP has also followed the NCA discussions through its membership in the UNFC alliance.

After Wednesday’s meeting, Khu Oo Reh said the KNPP is keen to see the bilateral agreements implemented.

“The agreement principles are not understood on the ground, as the talks are happening at a high level, while officers at the state level only act on the orders of their superiors,” he said, adding that this made the participation of Kayah State executives crucial.

“We have proposed that formal talks with the government be held in Loikaw, the capital of Kayah [Karenni] State, not in Yangon,” said Khu Oo Reh, “so that state and Union government officials and Tatmadaw commanders can take part in the talks — both listening and discussing — and stay updated. This would facilitate the implementation of agreements and they won’t need to rely on go-betweens.”

While no date has been agreed, said KNPP Peace Implementation Committee spokesperson Nei Neh Plo, it is likely that formal discussions will be held before the third session of the 21st-Century Panglong Peace Conference, tentatively scheduled to convene in early May.

Nei Neh Plo told The Irrawaddy that although the two sides discussed the NCA and the wider peace process, no specific commitments were made.

He said discussions centered on finding ways to move the peace process forward, particularly regarding the eight-point principles the UNFC is currently negotiating with the government.