CHIANG MAI, Thailand – A government peace delegation led by Border Affairs Minister Lt-Gen Ye Aung failed to make any progress towards establishing peace talks with Myanmar’s northeastern-based ethnic armed groups over the weekend.
The government delegation, which included high-level military leaders, met separately with the leaders of the United Wa State Party/United Wa State Army (UWSP/UWSA) and Mongla’s National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) in Special Region No. 2 and No. 4 respectively on Nov. 11 and 12 to discuss regional development, state-run newspapers reported on Tuesday.
The UWSP/UWSA said the meeting discussed ways to build mutual trust, as well as political issues and matters related to development.
“Regarding political discussions, the government delegation urged the UWSP/UWSA to sign the nationwide ceasefire agreement [NCA],” Nyi Rang from the UWSA’s Lashio Liaison Office posted on his Facebook page on Tuesday evening. The UWSA responded “to continue according to the political dialogue framework drafted by the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC),” which was shared with the government’s Peace Commission in May last year.
The FPNCC continues to assert the need for an alternative process to the NCA, which was drafted with the involvement of 16 ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), excluding the Wa and Mongla, over a period of almost two years and signed by eight of 21 government recognized EAOs in October 2015. More than two years after the signing and implementation of the NCA, the National League for Democracy-led government has yet to make peace with non-signatories of the NCA.
No specific peace proposals were discussed at the meetings over the weekend, according to sources close to the northern-based groups, despite the government’s repeated insistence that it is doing its best to hold talks with active ethnic armed groups in northern Shan State and Kachin State.
“Their positions are diametrically opposed, so it is hard for the two sides [the government and the ethnic armed groups] to hold face-to-face talks,” said U Maung Maung Soe, a political analyst familiar with ethnic affairs.
“The door to talks will remain closed as long as the government and the Tatmadaw [Myanmar’s military] do not accede to the FPNCC’s request [to meet them as a bloc] and do not consider holding at least informal meetings with the group,” he said.
According to sources close to the Wa and Mongla, the government delegation brought up the issue of further peace talks with the groups. However, the talk did not go further as the government maintained its condition that talks could only be held with the groups individually, rather than with the FPNCC.
The Facebook post included a demand that the government take steps to reverse the Shan State Parliament’s 2016 classification of three members of the FPNCC – Kokang’s Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Ta’ang Nationalities Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Arakan Army (AA) – as “terrorist organizations.”
A post on Nyi Rang’s Facebook page said the government and Wa delegations discussed possible further collaboration to build mutual trust and support for the region’s development.
The Wa first requested such support when they travelled to Naypyitaw to meet State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in July last year.
Among specific topics discussed at the weekend discussions were the possibility of the government supplying materials [tar] to build new roads within Wa-controlled areas; possible plans for a 60,000 MW hydropower plant in Mong Tong Township in Mongmaw District; and the issuance of national identity cards to students in Wa state to enable them to continue their higher education in Lashio, Mandalay and Yangon.
The UWSP reiterated that “its vice chairman Xiao Minliang (Tax Ngox) vows that the Wa state will never secede from the territory of the Union of Myanmar,” a promise the Wa has made to the government since last year.
The Wa were granted a self-administrative zone under the 2008 military-authored Constitution along with five other minority groups: the Palaung (Ta’ang), Kokang, PaO, Danu and Naga.