Myanmar Military Calls Off Shan Coalition Meeting in Thailand

By Nyein Nyein 20 July 2017

YANGON — A planned meeting in Chiang Mai, Thailand for the Committee for Shan State Unity (CSSU) had to be canceled on Thursday due to objections from the military attaché in the Myanmar embassy.

The CSSU is a coalition of the Shan political parties, civil society organizations and two armed groups—the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA-S) and the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army-North (SSPP/SSA-N). They were scheduled to hold a three-day talk in northern Thailand from July 20-22.

Khuensai, the director of Chiang Mai-based Pyidaungsu Institute for Peace and Dialogue, said they had received a notice from the Thai government indicating that the Myanmar military attaché objected to the meeting, leading to its cancelation.

CSSU released a statement on Thursday afternoon explaining that through the Thai Army Division No. 3, the Myanmar military attaché had tried to bar them from meeting, alleging that the CSSU discussions were not in line with the official peace process. Concerns were reportedly raised that the CSSU included a non-signatory to the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA), a reference to the SSPP/SSA-N.

The purpose of the meeting, CSSU said in its statement, was “to gather common perspectives” on five key themes discussed at the Union Peace Conference: politics, economic, social issues, security, and land and the environment. It is not uncommon for CSSU to hold its meetings in Chiang Mai; the last gathering took place there in early May.

“We decided not to hold the meeting in consideration of the sake of the relationship with the government of the Kingdom of Thailand and the development of the peace process,” CSSU’s statement read.

Sai Nyunt Lwin, secretary of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, told The Irrawaddy that the military attaché was overstepping what should be the role of the government’s peace commission, affiliated with the National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC).

“The meetings of the United Nationalities Federal Council [a coalition of non-signatories to the NCA] are held in Thailand, and the objection should have never come to the CSSU, which has been led by the RCSS,” he said. The RCSS/SSA-S is one of eight signatories to the ceasefire accord.

“The question is how they view the NRPC,” he added, saying that the objection “really disturbs the peace building process.”

The CSSU was instructed to inform the government’s NRPC of any future coalition meetings as well as request permission from the Thai government.

Kyaw Kha contributed to this report from Chiang Mai, Thailand.