Myanmar’s National Dialogue Must Be for All NCA Signatories Ahead of Peace Summit, EAOs Say 

By Nyein Nyein 20 January 2020

Organizing a national-level political dialogue before the next peace conference will be one of the key issues to discuss during next week’s meeting between the government and the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) that signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).

The national dialogue began in 2017 but not all the signatories were able to convene. These included the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) because of objections from the Tatmadaw (military) about the location and the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) in Rakhine State, citing security concerns.

The RCSS and ALP were missing from the dialogue in 2017 and 2018 and their input was therefore missing from the process to establish a federation.

With the formal peace process stalled, the national political dialogue has been abandoned for nearly two years.

Sai Ngern, the head of the EAOs’ negotiation team on the political dialogue framework and a secretary of the RCSS, said every NCA signatory “must be able to organize the national-level political dialogue under a new framework”.

“We tentatively plan it to be able to hold talks in late March. It will be on the agenda of the talks with the government on Jan. 28-29,” he told reporters after the 10 NCA signatories’ Peace Process Steering Team (PPST) meeting in Chiang Mai on Saturday.

He said the EAOs believed every group should organize a national-level political dialogue, as the recommendations from the consultations are passed to the Union Peace Conference (UPC) for consideration when developing federal principles.

The groups said they needed to negotiate in what form and where the dialogue can be held ahead of the fourth 21st-Century Panglong UPC, which is due no later than April.

The Joint Implementation Coordination Meeting (JICM) on Jan. 8 saw the government and EAOs agree eight points to further implement the peace process to establish a stronger ceasefire and pledge to continue to negotiate in finding ways to move forward in building a federal union.

The JICM, which was led by State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Deputy Commander-in-Chief Vice-Senior General Soe Win and RCSS chairman General Yawd Serk, also agreed to implement interim arrangements from the NCA text. They planned to further prepare and establish a model for what to include in part three of the Union Accord, which will be discussed at the UPC.

Among the agreements made at the JICM were to convene the next UPC early this year; to form a working committee to ensure common understanding of the NCA terms and definitions; to ensure NCA non-signatories are included in the peace process; and to start the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) and Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee (JMC) meetings.

The PPST leaders said negotiators were to work on the key federal principles that can be agreed at the next UPC, added U Than Khe, the chair of the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front, an NCA signatory.

The negotiations with the government will also cover the drafting framework for the political dialogue and how to work together on the participation of the NCA non-signatories.

Sai Ngern reiterated that the PPST leaders also focused discussions on the inclusion of the non-NCA signatories in the peace process because “inclusivity is vital, as the peace process cannot be achieved with only 10 EAOs”.

He added: “Therefore, we had been finding ways to include our brothers in the process. We talked about it in the JICM and in the PPST discussions. We are in talks with the government’s Peace Commission, who also have talks with the non-NCA signatories and we need to link both of our approaches together. So far, we plan to invite our brothers [non-NCA signatories] to join the talks on drafting the political dialogue framework.”

Part of their efforts on inclusion have been that the PPST’s negotiation team and the non-signatories, such as the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), met to discuss the basic federal principles last Monday in Chiang Mai, according to sources.

The KNPP, KIO and other members of the Northern Alliance, of which the KIO is a member, are holding peace talks with the government.

These groups were negotiating to reach “the bilateral ceasefire agreements without pre-conditions”, General Gun Maw of the KIO told The Irrawaddy last week. “Only after it is signed, will the issues of the return of internally displaced people and the NCA be discussed.”

The political dialogue framework is also key to starting the national-level dialogue, and non-signatories joined the framework-drafting meeting in 2018.

Later this week, the RCSS is due to hold talks with the Tatmadaw ahead of the Jan. 28 negotiations, according to Sai Ngern. The PPST leaders also said the Karen National Union would meet the Tatmadaw.

The New Mon State Party had talks with the military, which withdrew troops from an outpost at the Three Pagodas Pass on the Thai border on Jan. 8, according to Nai Ong Ma Nge of the NMSP. “It helps to build trust with the Tatmadaw,” he said.

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