Peace Parley: Northern Alliance Flies In, UNFC Stays Out

By Lawi Weng 23 May 2017

RANGOON — Burma’s bloc of ethnic armed organizations the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) will not attend Wednesday’s Union Peace Conference as its members were only invited as “special guests,” which the bloc viewed as the status of observers.

“Based on the Panglong Spirit, all of us should have equal rights to self-determination and autonomy,” a UNFC statement released Tuesday read. “The UNFC will only support political talks based on genuine federal and democratic principles,” it added.

Meanwhile, representatives of all seven armed groups comprising the Northern Alliance arrived in Naypyidaw on Tuesday to attend Wednesday’s Union Peace Conference, according to one of the groups’ leaders.

“We decided to attend as we wanted to break the deadlock on the peace process,” Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA)’s Brig-Gen Tar Phone Kyaw told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday. “We expect this will begin the road to peace.”

The United Wa State Army (UWSA), the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and the Shan State Army North (SSA-N) will attend as “special guests” after receiving invitations from the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) last week.

The TNLA and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MDNAA) received the same invitation last night, according to Brig-Gen Tar Phone Kyaw. The Arakan Army (AA) will only attend the opening and closing ceremonies, he added.

It was decided on Tuesday that special guest status allows groups to submit papers to the conference, but does not allow them to address the conference in the way delegates can, according to government sources.

The TNLA’s vice chairman Brig-Gen Tarr Jode Jarr and joint secretary Ta Pan Hla will attend, along with Kyi Myint from the NDAA, Bao Youyi and Zhao Guoan from the UWSA, N’Ban La from the KIA, and Sai Ba Htun from the SSA-N, according to sources close to the ethnic armed organizations.

Brig-Gen Tar Phone Kyaw told The Irrawaddy the Northern Alliance’s attendance was down to negotiation by China’s Special Envoy for Asian Affairs Sun Guoxiang who met with Burma Army commander-in-chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyidaw on Monday.

The Burma Army had previously ruled out inviting the TNLA, MNDAA, and the AA, who were not invited to last year’s peace conference.

The Northern Alliance said they would only attend if all seven members were in invited after a UWSA-led summit in the Wa capital Panghsang in February.

All nationwide ceasefire agreement-signatories—a total of eight groups—will attend as delegates.

Additional reporting by Nyein Nyein in Naypyidaw.