Peace Process Hits Another Hurdle

By Nyein Nyein 9 January 2018

YANGON — The government and ethnic leaders postponed a Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) meeting this month, where stakeholders would discuss setting a date for the upcoming session of the Union Peace Conference (UPC), in part because of the suspension of the Shan national-level political dialogue.

With the UPDJC talk postponed, the peace process is stalled and whether the UPC will be convened later this month as previously planned is uncertain.

“All meetings have been postponed,” said U Myo Win, a secretary of the UPDJC who represents the ethnic armed organization (EAO) side. The UPDJC has 48 members and EAOs, the government and political parties have 16 representatives, respectively.

“We are not ready to meet again, partly because the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) suspended the Shan national-level political dialogue,” he said, referring to the Tatamdaw’s obstruction of prior consultations held in Shan State in December.

It seems that the peace process has reached a stalemate yet again for the government, the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Army) and signatories of the nationwide ceasefire agreement. But stakeholders say they are optimistic that further negotiations will propel the process forward.

The Peace Process Steering Team of the eight NCA signatories, led by Karen National Union (KNU) chairman Gen Saw Mutu Say Poe, will discuss a way to overcome this hurdle on Thursday.

“If the RCSS completed its Shan national-level political dialogue, the process could move forward,” said U Myo Win, but the UPC would still be postponed.

Dr. Manam Tu Ja, the chairman of the Kachin State Democracy Party, echoed that a stalled UPDJC meeting does not mean that the peace process had stopped.

He also speculated that the stalemate could be the result of hopes of additional NCA signatories following peace talk efforts between the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) and the government.

The UNFC requested a meeting with State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Commander-in-chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing to discuss the issue.

The New Mon State Party (NMSP), a member of the UNFC bloc, expressed a desire to sign the NCA soon, after its executive committee meeting in December. However, the stance of UNFC member the Karenni National Progressive Party remains uncertain, as three KNPP soldiers were recently killed by the Tatmadaw in Loikaw.

In the meantime, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), the armed wing of the KNU, urged for a postponement of the UPC, as the military-drafted 2008 Constitution remains in place, and little has been accomplished under this framework in prior peace conferences.

Since ceasefire negotiations began, the Tatmadaw wanted the EAOs to disarm and take part in politics under the 2008 Constitution. But EAOs consistently raise concerns regarding reform of the security sector, as agreed to in the NCA. There is an ongoing dispute as to whether disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) or security sector reform (SSR) comes first.

KNLA commanders reaffirmed that they would not give up their arms until genuine peace prevails in the country.