Mongla Armed Group Backs Govt’s All-Inclusive Peace Policy

By Nyein Nyein 1 August 2016

RANGOON — Leaders of the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), based in Mongla in eastern Shan State, vocally backed the government’s “all-inclusive” peace policy after meeting with the government’s Peace Commission in Rangoon on Monday.

This policy concerns the inclusion of all Burma’s ethnic armed groups in peace negotiations, which will begin formally with the Union Peace Conference—now labeled the “21st Century Panglong Conference”—scheduled for later this month in Naypyidaw.

Burma’s military has meanwhile demanded that three armed groups with which it remains in active conflict—the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Arakan Army (AA)—commit to disarming before taking part in formal peace talks; a demand these groups and their allies have repeatedly refused.

The NDAA, popularly known as the “Mongla Group,” controls an autonomous area of eastern Shan State known as Special Region 4, with the town of Mongla on the Chinese border as its headquarters. The NDAA is chaired by Sai Leun, the son-in-law of Peng Jiasheng, who chairs the MNDAA based in the Kokang region of northern Shan State.

The government’s Peace Commission is chaired by Tin Myo Win, the man appointed by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi as the government’s top peace negotiator, and was formed to support the National Reconciliation and Peace Center, the government’s peace secretariat—the successor to the Myanmar Peace Center under the previous government.

Kyi Myint, secretary of Special Region 4’s Peace and Unity Committee, confirmed to The Irrawaddy that the NDAA would “participate in the 21st Century Panglong peace conference” and that they “fully support State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi’s principle of all-inclusiveness.”

Peace Commission spokesperson Khin Zaw Oo confirmed that the NDAA leaders “welcomed peace from their hearts and said they would collaborate with the new government and the Tatmadaw [Burma Army].”

The meeting also covered the challenges of including the three groups—the TNLA, the MNDAA and the AA—on which Burma’s military has maintained an uncompromising stance, demanding in effect their unconditional surrender through disarmament.

The Peace Commission’s Khin Zaw Oo told The Irrawaddy that the NDAA leaders had “urged us to bring these groups into the process, if possible.”

Government representatives met with leaders of the three groups in late June and they plan to meet them again later this month, said Khin Zaw Oo, although no date has been revealed.

Following their meeting with Suu Kyi on Friday, representatives of the United Wa State Army (UWSA)—a group with close historical ties to the NDAA—met with members of the Peace Commission on Saturday in Naypyidaw.

Khin Zaw Oo said the UWSA and NDAA leaders would abide by their pledges not to secede from the Union of Burma, as the UWSA made clear on their Friday meeting with Suu Kyi.

During their respective meetings with the government, the UWSA and the NDAA delegations had both requested regional development assistance, according to Khin Zaw Oo, with the UWSA prioritizing road upgrades and the NDAA stressing the need for improved medical service provision in their mountainous area.

The NDAA, along with the UWSA, has been invited by the government to participate in the political dialogue framework review meeting, planned for the weekend of August 7-8 in Rangoon, where the agenda will be set for the Union Peace Conference scheduled for later this month.

“Regarding their willingness to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement”— reached between the former government and eight ethnic armed groups in October last year—“they [both UWSA and NDAA] said they would respond on the matter after discussing amongst themselves,” Khin Zaw Oo said.

It is currently unclear whether armed groups who refused to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement—the majority of armed groups in Burma—would have to sign before being allowed to take part in political negotiations at the Union Peace Conference.