NLD Works Toward ‘Open Door’ Peace Process

By Nyein Nyein 3 June 2016

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) government will open the door to all stakeholders in the peace dialogue process, taking a different approach from the former administration.

The new administration will first seek collaboration on the political dialogue framework with ethnic armed organizations that were non-signatories to 2015’s so-called nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA). Under former President Thein Sein, non-signatories were invited as observers to Burma’s Union Peace Conference, but were barred from participating in the talks.

Later, it is understood that the NLD will aim for these groups to join a nationwide ceasefire as signatories.

Dr. Tin Myo Win, longstanding personal physician of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and newly appointed government peace negotiator, on Friday officially invited ethnic armed organization leaders from non-signatory groups to join the political dialogue framework meeting, which is scheduled for next week.

During the first meeting with the United Nationalities Federal Council’s (UNFC) Delegation for Political Negotiation (DPN), which comprises 13 members drawn from various non-state ethnic armed groups who opted out of signing the NCA, Tin Myo Win said he believed mutual understanding was the key to building peace, and he hoped to achieve this aim.

General Gun Maw, the vice chairperson of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and head of Friday’s delegation of ethnic leaders, said he interpreted the NLD’s approach of trying to bring them into the process as well-intentioned and “a positive sign.”

He told The Irrawaddy that he hopes for opportunities to collaborate and to give input on amendments to the existing framework for political dialogue, adding that it was still not official whether all of the invited groups would attend the meeting.

Tin Myo Win said that a solution to the country’s longstanding conflict could be reached by engaging key stakeholders including State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing and the ethnic armed group leaders. The ethnic leaders, the government, and the Burma Army have the common goal of genuine peace, development of the state, and the prosperity and security of the people, he added.

Regarding the three armed organizations engaged in active conflict with the army, Tin Myo Win said, “We must try to include every group including the Ta’ang Nationalities Liberation Army (TNLA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and Arakan Army (AA). All must participate in the negotiation whether they sign the NCA or not.”

These groups have been shunned by Burma Army leaders, and were excluded from peace discussions under the former government. Rumors have recently circulated that the three groups would form a military alliance along with the United Wa State Army (UWSA), another NCA non-signatory group that now seeks representation in the political dialogue.

Tin Myo Win and his committee members will soon travel north to meet with the Wa and Mongla, who were allocated self-administered regions in Shan State in the military-drafted 2008 Constitution.

Since the NCA was signed by eight armed groups and the government last October, alliances have split, the peace process has deadlocked and fighting has resumed. In the last four months, ethnic leaders formed the DPN and said that they trusted the NLD government and were prepared to talk.

There was a brief hiccup before Friday’s meeting, when the NLD’s peace team failed to approach the UNFC through proper channels, but the error was resolved in time.

Suu Kyi’s envisioned “Panglong-style” peace conference—modeled after a 1947 summit convened in Panglong, Shan State by her father, independence leader Aung San—is scheduled for July or August, said Tin Myo Win.

Suu Kyi has ordered that the Union government allocate the peace budget, after the previous Myanmar Peace Center was criticized for misuse of its funds and rumored exorbitant employee salaries.