New Peace Talks Before Christmas: Negotiators

By Saw Yan Naing 3 December 2014

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Ethnic armed group representatives have confirmed official peace talks will take place before Christmas, the first such discussions since the Burma army attacked a Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) base near Laiza last month.

Meeting in Chiang Mai on Tuesday, representatives from the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) and members of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordinating Team (NCCT), which represents 16 ethnic armed groups, have attempted to settle their disagreements ahead of planned discussions with MPC chairman Aung Min.

Kwe Htoo Win, a senior member of the NCCT and general-secretary of the Karen National Union (KNU), told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the government has softened their stance on some critical demands put forward by ethnic minority groups.

“We are negotiating some points that we are going to talk about with U Aung Min before Christmas,” he said. “They [the government] constructively accepted some points for discussion that they disregarded in the past, such as federalism.”

The announcement comes on the back of a meeting between the KNU and Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the Burma army, in Naypyidaw on Saturday.

Kwe Htoo Win said that the government and NCCT would discuss the government’s attack on KIO base on Nov. 19, which killed 23 ethnic army cadets and injured 20 others.

“It saddens us to see the attack against the KIO,” he said. “Both sides will make sure that this won’t happen again.”

Hla Maung Shwe, a director at MPC, told The Irrawaddy last week that the signing of a nationwide ceasefire agreement during President Thein Sein’s administration is of the highest importance, given the established relationship between ethnic armed groups and the current administration.

“The peace process will be more secure if a nationwide ceasefire agreement is signed with the current government, because we don’t know for sure what will happen with the peace program in the next government,” he said.