Myanmar Rights Groups Urge Ethnic Armed Organizations to Shun Junta Peace Talks

By The Irrawaddy 27 September 2022

A total of 567 Myanmar civil society organizations (CSOs) based at home and abroad have urged ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) not to attend the junta’s sham peace talks.

The call came a day after representatives of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) and the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army-North  (SSPP/SSA-N) attended the second round of so-called peace talks on Sunday with junta chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

Representatives of the UWSP, NDAA and SSPP with junta leaders in Naypyitaw on Monday.

Currently, ten EAOs have held talks with the military regime: the Karen National Union/ Karen National Liberation Army-Peace Council, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, the Pa-O National Liberation Organization, the New Mon State Party, the Arakan Liberation Party, the Restoration Council of Shan State/ Shan State Army-South, the Lahu Democratic Union, the NDAA, the SSPP/SSA-N and the UWSA.

But other EAOs are engaging regime forces in near-daily fighting alongside People’s Defense Forces. They include the Karen National Liberation Army and Karen National Defense Organization of the Karen National Union (KNU), the Chin National Front, the Karenni National Progressive Party, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Arakan Army, the Kachin Independence Army and the All Burma Student’s Democratic Front.

On Monday, in an open letter to EAOs, the 567 CSOs said that the military regime is regarded as merely a terrorist organization according to international and domestic laws, as it has cruelly murdered and tortured peaceful anti-regime demonstrators after seizing power from the democratically-elected government.

Since last year’s coup, there is evidence that the Myanmar military is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity such as burning civilians alive, massacres, the use of sexual violence against women, indiscriminate air and artillery strikes on civilian targets including religious buildings, schools, and refugee camps, and burning and looting villages.

As of Monday, 2,319 people had been killed by junta forces since the coup, while 15,643 people including elected government leaders have been arrested or detained, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a rights group documenting civilian deaths and arrests.

Nor has the junta been recognized as Myanmar’s legitimate government either at home or abroad, due to the regime’s failure to implement a five-point peace plan agreed with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The regime has also ignored the demands of the United Nations and the international community to cease all violence against civilians.

At the same time, coup leader Min Aung Hlaing faces criminal charges in the International Court of Justice for allegedly committing genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, said the CSOs.

The group of CSOs said also that the junta is creating a sham peace dialogue using EAOs in an attempt to mislead the international community, including ASEAN, since it can no longer defeat the armed revolution of the Myanmar people.

In their letter, the rights groups said that the armed conflict in Myanmar must be clearly understood as a battle between the military and the people.

“Attending the sham peace talks is not only against the will of the people opposing the military terrorist group, but will also lend legitimacy to this terrorist military council,” the CSOs said.

“At worse, sham talks will permit and encourage further crimes against humanity committed by the terrorist military group,” added the CSOs, who also called on EAOs to join the revolution aimed at totally removing the military from politics.

“The junta tries to be recognized as an official government and holds mock peace talks with some armed groups. Those without proper policies are meeting junta leader Min Aung Hlaing,” said Padoh Saw Taw Nee, the head of the KNU’s Foreign Affairs Department, in a recent interview with The Irrawaddy.

He added “We have contempt for his [the coup leader] peace process. It will never happen.”

Myanmar’s parallel National Unity Government (NUG), which has widespread public support at home and backing overseas, announced in June that any negotiations with the junta are illegal and won’t be recognized by the NUG and any of its successors, as the regime has no right to negotiate with parties like a Union government.