A rebel group representing the minority ethnic Palaung in northern Shan State says it will hold peace talks with the government this week.
The Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF), the political wing of a rebel armed group known as the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), will meet with the government’s chief peace negotiator, Minister Aung Min from the President’s Office, on Wednesday in Shan State’s Muse Township.
“This is our first time meeting since we had informal talks in November 2012,” Mai Aung Ko, a spokesman for the group, told The Irrawaddy on Monday, adding that PSLF general secretary Lt-Col Mai Phone Kyaw would lead the rebel group’s delegation. “We expect to continue holding dialogues to work toward genuine peace.”
The peace talks follow renewed clashes between the TNLA and government troops in northern Shan State last week.
The director of the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), Min Zaw Oo, declined to comment on the upcoming talks with the PSLF. “We cannot say anything yet because our MPC has not yet released a press statement,” he said.
A detailed agenda of the meeting has not yet been revealed, but drug eradication efforts will likely be raised. “We will discuss how to collaborate for the anti-opium campaign,” Mai Aung Ko said.
The TNLA has been engaged in drug eradication efforts in the east Burma state by destroying opium fields. Burma is the world’s second-largest producer of opium after Afghanistan.
The Palaung army is about 1,300 soldiers strong and has been engaged in guerilla warfare against the government for decades. It is believed to have an alliance with the rebel Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP), which is connected to the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N).
Since early last year, hundreds of clashes have been reported between the TNLA and government troops. In June, clashes between both sides displaced several thousands of residents in Namkham, Mongtong and Kutkai townships.
In a joint statement issued on Friday, the PSLF and the TNLA said other leaders representing the Kachin, Karen, Mon, Shan and Wa ethnic minority groups would join the peace talks this week as observers. The statement said the chief minister of Shan State would attend the meeting, along with officials from rebel armed groups and the government military.