CHIANG MAI, Thailand – Formal peace talks between the government and the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) have made progress, with the two sides agreeing to create a mechanism for further negotiations as well as discussing military affairs, negotiators said on Friday.
“We established a mechanism that would actually guarantee peace and sustain peace in [Kayah] State” before signing the NCA, said Shwe Myo Thant, the general secretary of the KNPP.
The government and KNPP met for formal talks for two days on April 26-27 in Loikaw, the capital of Kayah (Karenni) state, and agreed on the implementation of bilateral terms through regular discussions at the state level.
U Kyaw Tint Swe, minister of the Office of the State Counselor and vice chairman of the National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC), led the government delegation accompanied by Peace Commission chairman Dr. Tin Myo Win, along with commission members and advisers. The talks were also joined by Lieutenant-General Than Tun Oo, the commander of the Defense Ministry’s No. 2 Bureau of Special Operations; Kayah State chief minister L Paung Sho; and Kayah State Security and Border Affairs Minister Colonel Myint Wai.
The KNPP’s Peace Negotiation Committee was led by General Bee Htoo, who was accompanied by eight committee members. Absent was Khu Oo Reh, the KNPP’s vice chairman and its key peace negotiator, due to the ill health of his father.
According to a joint statement issued on Friday after the formal talks, the two sides “agreed to further talks so that the KNPP can sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement [NCA] as soon as possible.”
Both sides agreed to the creation of a local monitoring team, reestablishing liaison offices at both the state and Union levels, and regular negotiations at the state level on troop movements of both armed forces, according to the statement.
In his opening speech on Thursday, Gen Bee Htoo said that while the two sides have not yet been able to reach an understanding on signing the NCA, “It is important to keep peace in Karenni State.”
The KNPP signed its first bilateral ceasefire in March 1995, but it broke down after three months. It entered bilateral ceasefire agreements in 2012 and 2013, and has since entered negotiations for the nationwide ceasefire, but has yet to sign the pact. It was also a member of the now defunct United Nationalities Federal Council, but two of its UNFC partners – the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and Lahu Democratic Union (LDU) – signed the NCA in February.
The KNPP was believed to be reluctant to sign the NCA as three of its soldiers and one civilian were allegedly murdered by Tatmadaw troops at the regional operation command based in Loikaw in December.
The Tatmadaw is conducting an inquiry into the incident and the KNPP would continue to push for justice for the three slain KNPP soldiers, Shwe Myo Thant said.
He told The Irrawaddy that the negotiators “focused on constructive discussions and would continue to build momentum in trust-building. There was also progress in discussions of military affairs.”
“The formal talks were able to build further trust between the KNPP and the government,” echoed U Hla Maung Shwe, an adviser to the Peace Commission, referring to the talks on Thursday and Friday.
Although the KNPP has not yet committed to signing the NCA, U Hla Maung Shwe told The Irrawaddy on Friday that “We were able to explain the current process to the KNPP leaders. They accepted when we explained what the government can currently do best to implement the terms of the bilateral agreements. Also we will fully implement those things that the government can do.”
The government plans to convene the third session of the 21st-Century Panglong Peace Conference in late May, according to Dr. Tin Myo Win. In his closing remarks on Friday, he said he hoped the KNPP leaders would consider participating in the conference and signing the NCA pact by then.