NLD, Ethnic Armed Groups Meet to Hash Out Peace Framework

By Nyein Nyein 18 December 2015

At a meeting on Thursday, National League for Democracy (NLD) chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi revealed to signatories of Burma’s so-called “nationwide” ceasefire agreement why she opted not to sign the contentious pact and explained her plans for advancing the country’s peace process.

The opposition leader, whose party won a landslide victory in Burma’s Nov. 8 general election, hosted leaders from the Karen National Union (KNU), Chin National Front (CNF), Pa-O National Organization (PNO), Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF), among other groups, at Suu Kyi’s rule of law office in the capital Naypyidaw.

“Aung San Suu Kyi told us she wants to avoid additional disunity between ethnic armed signatories and non-signatories,” said KNU secretary Pado Kwe Htoo Win, adding that although Suu Kyi agreed with the ceasefire text, which was drafted by ethnic armed groups and the government, she wanted all ethnic groups to be involved in efforts to resolve ethnic conflict.

So far only eight ethnic armed groups have signed the agreement, which was inked on Oct. 15. Several others have abstained, while some ethnic rebel armies have been shut out by the government.

Pado Kwe Htoo Win also said Suu Kyi “appreciates our political dialogue framework because it makes it easier to accommodate changes.”

He said the framework for political dialogue was based on different versions drawn up by participants of the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee, which signed off on a draft on Tuesday before handing it over to President Thein Sein on Wednesday for approval.

The NLD has also approved the text, and the dialogue is expected to begin in the coming weeks.

“And if necessary, we can change some of the text under the NLD government,” Pado Kwe Htoo Win said, referring to questions that were raised by some framework observers who are wary of proceeding with talks without having the consent of non-signatory ethnic armed groups.

Some of these groups are still engaged in fighting with the Burma Army in the country’s north. However, the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), a coalition of ethnic armed groups, said recently that they would collaborate with the new government to achieve peace.

The nationwide ceasefire text stipulates that a framework for political dialogue must be drafted within 60 days of signing the agreement—which the committee has done—and that this dialogue must commence within 90s days. Talks are slated to start in January, under the outgoing government.

It is as yet unknown when there will be another such meeting between the NLD and ethnic armed groups, but Pado Kwe Htoo Win said ethnic stakeholders are ready to collaborate with the new government in its peacebuilding efforts.