CHIANG MAI, Thailand—The Kayah State government and the Karenni National Progressive Party agreed to conduct regular monthly meetings to resolve issues related to regional peace and development during talks in Loikaw, the capital of Kayah State, in the presence of a Union-level delegation sent by the National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC).
On Monday, the KNPP, state government and Union-level governmental delegation discussed ways of keeping their negotiation channels open. The Union-level peace negotiators were led by U Khin Zaw Oo, the secretary of the Peace Commission. Also present were Kayah State Chief Minister L Phaung Sho and the Myanmar military’s Loikaw regional operations commander Brigadier General Myo Thant Naing. The KNPP delegation was led by its vice chairman, Khu Oo Reh.
“We agreed to hold effective monthly talks with the state government, which were suspended for about six months,” said Nei Neh Plo, the KNPP spokesman. The talks focused on cooperation in the development, health and education sectors at the state level.
The KNPP and the state government conducted six monthly meetings from April to October last year but the discussions were halted following disputes about the military’s additional deployment of troops in Kayah State, according to Nei Neh Plo.
He said they have been negotiating with the military on the issues, and thus it is hoped the continued monthly discussions with the state government, in which military delegates were included, would be able to help reduce the tensions.
These monthly meetings were first conducted last year after three KNPP soldiers and one civilian were allegedly murdered by Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, troops at the regional operations command based in Loikaw in December 2017. The Tatmadaw is conducting an inquiry but there have not been any results from the investigation so far. The area has also seen frequent disputes over territorial control and troop deployments, which local people see as a threat against them.
The KNPP signed its first bilateral ceasefire in March 1995, but it broke down after three months. It entered bilateral ceasefire agreements in March 2012 and has since entered negotiations for the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, but has yet to sign the pact. It was also a member of the now defunct United Nationalities Federal Council. Since two of its UNFC partners—the New Mon State Party and Lahu Democratic Union— signed the NCA in February 2018, the KNPP has entered into further negotiations with the Union government to be able to sign the NCA.
In March, they held formal talks in Naypyitaw with the NRPC and the military, and held three informal talks during the last six months, in November, January and early March, in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand.
The group will continue negotiations with the Union government’s peace negotiators on signing the NCA and further talks are likely to happen later this month.
“The KNPP will continue the discussions to move forward on the NCA path and will keep the negotiations open with the government,” said Nei Neh Plo.
U Hla Maung Shwe, an adviser to the government Peace Commission, who was at Monday’s meeting, told The Irrawaddy that the KNPP and the Union-level peace negotiators were able to “build trust” and said that trust needed to be kept up and expanded to the state level.
The NRPC continues to hold peace talks with the non-signatories of the NCA aimed at securing their participation in the formal political dialogue.
U Hla Maung Shwe said that during the current two-month extension of the military’s unilateral ceasefire in five military commands in Kachin and Shan states, their priority is on trust building between the EAOs and the government, including the military.