CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Signatories to Burma’s so-called nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) have formed a new group to engage in the peace process with the incoming National League for Democracy (NLD) government.
The eight non-state armed groups that signed the NCA with outgoing President Thein Sein’s government met at a summit in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and formed the Ethnic Armed Organizations Peace Process Steering Team (EAO PPST) on Saturday. The team intends to provide leadership for the eight signatories during future peace talks.
“The team was formed to provide guidance in shaping policies and making important decisions,” said Khun Okkar, a spokesperson for the summit.
The Karen National Union (KNU) chairman, Gen. Mutu Say Poe, will act as the team leader; Lt-Gen Yawd Serk, chairman of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), will serve as his deputy; and leaders of the NCA signatory groups will join the team as members.
PPST will continue with Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) and Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) initiatives implemented during Thein Sein’s administration, and engage in the peace process with the new government.
Phado Kwe Htoo Win, general secretary of the KNU, said he did not think the establishment of the team would be an obstacle to negotiations with the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), a block of nine ethnic non-signatories of the NCA.
Statements issued throughout the summit acknowledged the need for inclusive representation of all ethnic armed groups at each stage of a political dialogue begun on Jan. 12.
“It would be extremely difficult to build complete peace without the involvement of all armed revolutionary organizations,” said Pu Zing Cung, chairman of the Chin National Front (CNF).
The Delegation for Political Negotiation (DPN), representing the UNFC, and the Delegation for Ethnic Armed Organizations Unity (DEU), representing the signatories of the NCA, held an informal meeting in Chiang Mai on Sunday, but the gathering failed to deliver concrete results.
“We’ve discussed informally what we can do for signatories and non-signatories of the NCA to work together, and how to restore unity between us,” Khaing Soe Naing Aung, the lead negotiator for the DEU, told reporters.
According to some attendees, the two sides are likely to meet again in April and political analysts suggest that the two sides may develop their peace policies based on the policy of the incoming government, which is believed to be announced by NLD President-elect Htin Kyaw in his inaugural address to the people after the power handover on March 30.