Myanmar’s military says it has formed a peace negotiation committee to kickstart peace talks with ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), regardless of whether they have signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) to achieve lasting peace.
The Office of the Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Service stated on Monday night that the committee is tasked with holding talks to build a stronger peace with NCA signatories, to negotiate with non-signatories over signing the ceasefire and to move ahead with the peace process immediately after the 2020 general election.
Military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday the committee’s mandate is “to work to achieve peace and, if [the EAOs] want, discussions can be held through the committee.”
The five-member committee will be led by Lieutenant General Yar Pyae, the current head of the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee. Other members include secretary Lt-Gen Aung Lin Dway, Lt-Gen Tun Tun Naung, Lt-Gen Tin Maung Win and Lt-Gen Min Naung.
All of the members have been on the government’s negotiation body as military representatives in talks with the EAOs.
The military’s negotiating team was formed in December 2018 under the leadership of Lt-Gen Yar Pyae. However, the military spokesman on Tuesday said the negotiation team was just temporary and the new committee would be permanent.
Formal peace negotiations were postponed after the fourth 21st-Century Panglong Union Peace Conference in August for the general election and also due to COVID-19, where the negotiators set out the guidelines to implement the peace process under a new government.
As the military statement came out the day after the election, the Tatmadaw (military) aim to work for peace with their existing negotiators, said Dr. Min Zaw Oo, the director of Myanmar Institute for Peace and Security.
He said: “It is a good move because in contrast to assigning in-service commanding officers to lead peace negotiations, the military uses Lt-Gen Yar Pyae and others who have been participating in the peace process for years and they are the risk-takers in negotiations.”
He said the military is using its manpower well before the generals retire.
“They are in auxiliary forces and can be more open in discussions,” Dr. Min Zaw Oo said. “If new people join the negotiation committee, it might delay the process.”
Myanmar’s peace process began in Aug. 2011 and talks are being held for ceasefires and talks to end seven decades of armed conflict with EAOs that demand more equality and self-determination.
However, talks regularly stall. Both informal and formal talks have been held between the military and EAOs alongside talks between the EAOs and the government’s Peace Commission, which includes military representatives.
Major General Zaw Min Tun said military negotiators would talk to any group, regardless of whether they have signed the NCA.