Rangoon Peace Talks End on ‘Positive’ Note

By Lawi Weng 20 March 2015

RANGOON —On the tail end of four days of peace talks between the Burmese government and ethnic armed groups, stakeholders on both sides of the table came out with a positive outlook.

Negotiators said that this week’s discussions brought them closer than ever to reaching a long-awaited single text nationwide ceasefire agreement, reaching the fifth chapter up for discussion.

Head of the ethnic negotiating bloc Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), Nai Hongsar told The Irrawaddy as talks drew to a close that “there were some positive [outcomes]” from the discussions.

“We reached some agreement, and we will continue to talk about how to achieve the NCA,” he said.

Another ethnic representative said that “of course” the talks produced some positive things, but that some of the most contentious issues—such as the formation of a federal army and the creation of a code of conduct—will not enter into discussions until political dialogue begins, after a pact is reached.

Ethnic leaders focused their discussions on achieving a nationwide pact, according to Khun Okkar, another chief member of the NCCT.

The current conflict in northern Shan State, which was expected to be high on the agenda, was among those issues ethnic leaders believed could be solved after an accord was reached, he said.

“We will bring all of the armed groups [together] and have peace talks, but at the moment we are discussing how to sign NCA,” said Khun Okkar.

The NCCT tabled the issue of fighting in Kokang Special Region, where the Burma Army has been in conflict with the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army since Feb. 9, but the Burma Army said that the conflict could only be resolved by dialogue between itself and Kokng leadership.

“They said Kokang leaders need to come and talk to them if they want to have peace… This is why, from our perspective, we will take a little more time before bringing the Kokang into our peace talks,” said NCCT member Twan Zaw.

Another northern rebel group, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), said it will continue to allow the NCCT to negotiate on its behalf, reiterating that its policy is in line with that of the bloc. A KIA official, Col. Zau Dang, said that a recent meeting between the Kachin leaders and President Thein Sein was a “trust-building” exercise, and was not, as some believed, geared toward brokering an independent deal.

“Our leaders told the president about our organization policy, which is to let the NCCT lead the peace talks, and we ourselves do not plan to reach a separate peace agreement,” he said.