KNPP, Govt Peace Talks Achieve Monitoring Committee Agreement

By Saw Yan Naing 20 June 2013

Ethnic Karenni rebels and the Burmese government’s delegation concluded union-level peace talks on Thursday in Loikaw, where they agreed to found a 10-member “joint monitoring committee” to watch over the ongoing peace process, among other accords.

Both the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) and the government delegation expressed optimism concerning the peace talks, which resulted in a specific plan that the two sides had failed achieve in previous negotiations.

“We have implemented the forming of the monitoring committee. It is a good thing,” said Hla Maung Shwe, a leading member of the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) and an attendee of the two-day talks. “In the past we didn’t make it, but agreed only in principle.”

According to a joint statement released on Thursday after the meeting, the monitoring committee will be made up of two representatives from both the government and the KNPP, as well as six respected civilian community leaders. Its job will be to coordinate with civil society organizations, NGOs and individuals to negotiate and implement their respective missions on the ground in Karenni State.

The delegations from both parties agreed to cooperate on achieving a nationwide ceasefire accord and establishing an inclusive political dialogue involving all of Burma’s ethnic armed groups. They also agreed to continue discussions over military affairs in future meetings.

The two parties agreed to make sure that no more fighting—like the clashes that broke out in March last year between the government and KNPP troops—takes place again, in accordance with the ceasefire agreement between the two parties.

According to the statement, the KNPP called on the Burmese government to allow public assessment, transparency and accountability if Naypyidaw wants to undertake major business projects in Karenni State. They also agreed that the clearance of land mines would have to be carried out before internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region can be resettled. The two parties will also work together on implementing an IDP resettlement pilot project.

KNPP leaders and the government peace delegation also plan to attend a ceremony in honor of Karenni National Day, which will be held in Loikaw, the state capital, on Friday.

Minister Aung Min of the President’s Office, Energy Minister Than Htay and Karenni State’s Chief Minister Khin Maung Oo, as well as high-ranking Burmese military officials, were also present at the meeting.

Maj-Gen Aung Than Htut, who is chief of the Bureau of Special Operations-2, said in the meeting: “As we are the armed forces of the unio, to protect the union, I deeply want to speak out that we will protect any national ethnicities who live in any region in the union.

“I never thought that Kayah [Karenni] State would be peaceful. It is like a dream as it [peace] now exists,” he added.

The KNPP and the government peace team also agreed to form a technical team in order to implement the agreements reached during this week’s talks.

Aung Min addressed some of the broader goals being pursued by many of Burma’s ethnic armed rebels.

“Ethnic groups call for equal rights, autonomy and self-determination. In some way, it is sort of a federal system. And the president is preparing to give a speech regarding the federal issue soon.”

“We want the future plan of the president to be achieved,” said Khun Oo Reh, deputy chairman of the KNPP. “In accordance with the president’s plan, we will cooperate in a positive way to negotiate and find a solution to the problem.”

In a private meeting on Wednesday, the government officials and KNPP leaders “talked about military affairs and humanitarian assistance to the Karenni internally displaced persons [IDPs],” Hla Maung Shwe of the MPC said.

Some independent observers including an official from the US Embassy, Erin Webster-Main, 10 religious leaders and several members of Parliament were also presented at the peace talks in Loikaw.

The meeting between the government peace delegation and the KNPP leaders is the third round of official peace talks. The two sides held their first official talks in March 2012, when they signed a ceasefire agreement. They met again in June 2012.