Peace Process Steering Team Form Panels to Hold Informal Talks With Gov’t

By Nyein Nyein 9 April 2018

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — The peace process steering team (PPST), which comprises the leaders of the signatories of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), on Friday formed two teams to hold informal talks with the government on political and security issues.

Padoh Kwe Htoo Win, the vice chairman of the Karen National Union (KNU), will lead the informal
team on the political sector, said Salai Thla Hei, coordinator of the peace process working team under the PPST.

Padoh Saw Roger Khin, also from the KNU, will lead the informal team on the security sector.

Salai Thla Hei told The Irrawaddy that the informal negotiation teams will try to meet with the government later this month after Thingyan, the Myanmar New Year holiday, which runs from April 13-17.

On April 5-6, the NCA signatories met in Chiang Mai, Thailand to discuss the current political situation, the peace process, and the upcoming 21st-Century Panglong Peace Conference (UPC).

The Tatmadaw’s ongoing clashes with EAO signatories and the inability of the latter to conduct national-level dialogues have raised questions over the NCA and caused non-signatory EAOs to doubt the process.

The standoff between the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the Tatmadaw continued after fighting broke out in Papun district of Karen state last month over the Tatmadaw’s continued presence in the area, where it is rebuilding an old road. Talks between the two armies to resolve the issue have not yet been held.

Meanwhile, the Shan, Mon and Rakhine signatories have yet to implement national-level dialogues, with the third session of the UPC scheduled to be held next month.

A lack of informal talks between the government, Tatmadaw and the ethnic armed organizations is one cause of the failure of the peace process, according to some stakeholders.

“For the remaining three years, the peace negotiators on both sides need to hold more informal talks to help the formal negotiations to go smoothly,” said Padoh Kwe Htoo Win, who recently spoke to The Irrawaddy.

Under the two-year-old National League for Democracy-led government, the peace process has not made much progress, struggling to reach its aims of achieving genuine peace and a federal union. On the positive side, two more groups – the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Lahu Democratic Union (LDU) – signed the NCA last month. Also, at the second UPC session in May last year, the Union Accord Part 1 was established. The accord agrees on 37 basic principles for a federal state. Despite these achievements, peace negotiations have almost disappeared.

According to some stakeholders close to the government, while the Peace Commission is formally chaired by Dr. Tin Myo Win, an aide to State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, in practice ex-generals lead both the negotiations and the commission, as the chairman is seen as incompetent to lead such negotiations.

The stakeholders share the view that the NLD government’s aim to achieve a democratic federal union is good, but its implementation has been weak compared to the previous government led by then-President U Thein Sein. In peace negotiations launched under U Thein Sein starting in late 2011, informal, closed-door meetings were used to help move the process forward.

The stakeholders feel that the process will not achieve its goals within the desired time frame unless the terms of the negotiations are reconsidered.

Padoh Kwe Htoo Win, who has been involved in peace negotiations since 2011, agreed that the many challenges and difficulties facing the process had kept it from achieving its goals.

“We have many stakeholders, and we have different perspectives. Although we have a common goal to build a democratic federal union, our approach may not be the same. Thus we are trying to negotiate on that,” he added.