Peace Commission Reaches Out to Wa-Led Committee

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 4 May 2017

RANGOON — The government’s peace commission is approaching the Wa-led political negotiation committee for talks on Burma’s peace process.

“We are trying to contact the Wa-led political negotiation committee. The earlier we can meet, the better. Currently, we are still holding internal discussions about it,” peace commission adviser U Aung Kyi told The Irrawaddy.

Burma’s largest ethnic armed organization (EAO), the United Wa State Army (UWSA), leads seven armed groups in the committee, none of which have signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).

“We are taking all the factors into consideration, including the advantages and disadvantages. We are also considering holding talks without any restrictions,” said U Aung Kyi.

As the peace commission has been assigned to facilitate the peace process, it would meet all EAOs and not just certain ones, said U Aung Kyi.

Formed at the fourth Panghsang Summit held in April, the Wa-led committee comprises seven EAOs based in northern Burma and along the China-Burma border.

The committee has representatives from the UWSA, the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army-North (SSPP/SSA-North), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and the Arakan Army (AA).

The groups rejected the path to peace initiated by the former President U Thein Sein’s government. Instead, they want to sign ceasefire agreements at the state and Union levels, and enter political dialogue with the government to discuss their stances, policies and demands.

The Burma Army has refused to hold peace talks with the MNDAA, the TNLA, and the AA, stating that the three groups had formed after the quasi-civilian government took office in 2011.

The military demanded the three groups lay down their arms, but they refused and joined the Wa-led committee. U Aung Kyi said the Burma Army has not given the peace commission specific instructions concerning these three groups.

“We take action independently on our own initiative. We have not received any particular instructions like who and who not to meet,” said U Aung Kyi.

The Wa-led political negotiation committee is waiting for the government’s invitation for talks, said TNLA Vice-Chairman Brig-Gen Tar Jok Jar.

Seven EAOs at the Panghsang Summit in April agreed on a paper defining policy on political dialogue and the Wa-led committee wanted to discuss the details of the paper with the government.

The paper outlines rights of ethnic states, ethnic groups, equality, constitutional amendments, including changing the eligibility criteria for the president and lawmakers, and civilian government’s control over the military, and assigning ethnic troops for security in states.

The Wa-led committee has stated it wants to hold talks with the government as a whole and not as separate groups. According to the peace commission, the government will meet all the EAOs based in northern Burma and along the China-Burma border, including the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).

“Our leaders are discussing the possibility of talks thoroughly,” U Aung Soe, a Lower House lawmaker and member of the peace commission, told The Irrawaddy. “If there are talks, both the government and the military will join. But I don’t know when the meeting can take place. I hope it will take place before the 21st Century Panglong.”

The second session of the 21st Century Panglong peace conference is scheduled to commence on May 24.

The KIO and the Burma Army will meet separately soon, according to sources, but the venue and date are yet to be confirmed.

Kyaw Kha contributed to this report.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko