NCA Signatories Plan to Meet State Counselor, Burma Army Chief

By Nyein Nyein 12 January 2017

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — A coalition of eight armed groups who signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) have requested a meeting with the State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and army chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing to find solutions to ongoing armed conflict in Shan and Kachin states and to the country’s stunted peace process.

The eight groups’ combined Peace Process Steering Team (PPST) held an urgent two-day meeting from Jan. 10-11 in Lay Wah, Karen State and decided that its five representatives—led by Pado Saw Mutu Say Poe of the Karen National Union (KNU)—would meet with Burma’s top decision makers as soon as possible.

U Than Khe, chairman of the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF) told The Irrawaddy that the PPST hope to meet with the State Counselor and Burma Army chief as soon as possible.

Issues discussed in the Lay Wah meeting included the way to proceed to national level dialogue prior to the second 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference slated to be held next month.

The group also discussed the recent arrest of ABSDF central committee member U Min Htay, which leaders said violated NCA principles regarding freedom of movement.

Burma Army troops arrested U Min Htay at the Sein Lone checkpoint on the Bhamo-Lwegel road in Moemauk Township—a Kachin Independence Army (KIA)-controlled area of Kachin State—on Dec. 28 last year.

He is charged under the Unlawful Associations Act with Burma Army Capt. Thet Swe Lwin as plaintiff and is being held at Bhamo Prison. His first court date is set for Friday and the maximum sentence for a guilty verdict is two years.

The ABSDF leaders, led by its secretary, are now in Bhamo to oversee the case and met with U Min Htay on Wednesday.

“ABSDF was removed from the Unlawful Associations Act so we have the right to free movement and to hold discussions in accordance with the NCA principles,” U Than Khe said.

The eight groups—the ABSDF, KNU, Chin National Front, Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO), Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, KNU/KNLA Peace Council, the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South and the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP)—were removed from the unlawful association list as they signed the NCA in Oct. 2015.

“The detention [of U Min Htay] should not have happened as it affects trust building,” he added.

ABSDF leaders said all NCA-signatories have started holding public consultations ahead of national-level dialogues. U Than Khe also said they are concerned by the intensified fighting in Kachin and northern Shan states as the peace process is a national affair.

The detention of an ALP member for carrying weapons was also discussed, added Col Khun Okkar from the PNLO.

“We have vowed to move forward to building peace, whatever problems we face,” Khun Okkar said.

The PPST previously had separate meetings with the State Counselor and the Burma Army Chief in August 2016.

Kyaw Kha contributed to this report.