KENGTUNG, eastern Shan State—Negotiators from the Myanmar government and the Northern Alliance of ethnic armed groups agreed in principle on seven points of a draft bilateral ceasefire on Tuesday during peace talks in Kengtung, eastern Shan State.
The points include commitments to end the current fighting, plans for further bilateral ceasefire negotiations and pledges from all groups to cooperate on the rehabilitation and return of displaced people to their homes.
According to U Zaw Htay, director general of the President’s Office, the agreements-in-principle were signed by U Tun Tun Oo, vice chairman of the National Reconciliation and Peace Center, and representatives of the Northern Alliance: the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Arakan Army (AA) and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).
The two sides have been negotiating the draft texts of bilateral ceasefire agreements for months and this is the first time they have come to agreements on principles.
Dr. Nyo Twan Aung, deputy chief of staff for the AA, told reporters after the talks, “I would not say that today’s talks were satisfactory or not, but they were needed to fill a gap.” He said the success of the talks could be measured with how much trust can be built amongst the negotiators.
Negotiators from both sides agreed to further talks to agree on reductions to troop deployments and codes of conduct to avoid further clashes.
The negotiators also agreed that each group, including the Myanmar military, would stop their troops from engaging in further clashes in Rakhine and Shan states, in order to open communication and negotiation channels. The groups also committed to continue dialogue and to build trust by avoiding arrests and legal action related to the conflicts.
The parties said they would also continue discussions around the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), which 10 other ethnic armed groups have so far signed since October 2015. Both sides agreed, however, that discussions of the NCA can happen only when both sides are ready and that they must seek support for mediation to ensure strong ceasefires.
The talks were led by U Tun Tun Oo, accompanied by President’s Office spokesman U Zaw Htay, Lieutenant General Yar Pyae from the Office of the Commander-in-Chief (Army), Peace Commission Vice Chairman U Thein Zaw and Secretary U Khin Zaw Oo.
“The results of this negotiation are not very different from those of the previous one,” Brigadier General Tar Bone Kyaw, general secretary of the TNLA, told the Irrawaddy. “We will hold further talks and discuss thoroughly the signing of bilateral agreements.”
He added that the two sides were not able to make much progress towards ending the violence between them.
“It depends on both, the Myanmar military and our three groups’ leaders, and how much we can control our ground troops and to what extent we want to reduce the military tension. In these talks, we were not able to discuss thoroughly the reduction of fighting,” he said.
The military has extended its unilateral ceasefire, which was first declared in December 2018, until Sept. 21 for five military commands in Kachin and Shan States. The ceasefire excludes Rakhine state. Three Northern Alliance members—the TNLA, AA and MNDAA—also announced a joint unilateral ceasefire for their territories from Sept. 9 to Oct. 8.
Both sides said that the talks on Tuesday were more productive than previous talks, as Myanmar military representatives were present this time. The Northern Alliance stressed, however, that they need to hold further discussions with the military representatives in order to stem current fighting, reduce troop deployments and sign bilateral ceasefire agreements.
Both sides agreed to meet again in October and are still negotiating the venue and exact date.
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