RCSS and Gov’t Peace Negotiators Hold Informal Meetings in Chiang Mai

By Nyein Nyein 16 November 2018

CHIANG MAI, Thailand—Government peace negotiators and representatives of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) met informally in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand on Friday as part of a series of informal peace talks led by the government with four major ethnic armed organizations this weekend aimed at finding ways to move forward with the peace process.

The government negotiators will meet the Karen National Union (KNU) on Saturday. They will also separately meet the non-signatories Kachin Independent Army (KIA) and the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) on Sunday.

The RCSS had stopped participating in meetings with the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee (JMC), an implementation body of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) this month, following the KNU’s decision not to take part in the formal peace negotiations.

After Friday’s talk, both sides (the RCSS and the government) told reporters that their discussions focused on seeking different approaches in order to be able to move forward the process within the NCA path.

U Zaw Htay, director general of the State Counselor’s Office told reporters in Chiang Mai after the 80-minute meeting that their talk focused on finding the best possible approach to reducing conflict.

Both sides said they had thorough discussions on the aspects of the NCA that are not possible to implement.

U Zaw Htay said, “Our discussion focused on preventing conflict from being escalated and losing trust. We do not want any trouble on our NCA path.”

Sai Ngern, secretary of the RCSS also said they had good results from these informal discussions.

He said they raised their concerns and desires based on their statement released on Nov. 12 and discussed how to overcome those obstacles as well as the single-army issue and non-secession.

The RCSS’s statement on Monday said they are committed to the NCA principles but they have not made a pledge to non-secession as it is not stipulated in the NCA text. On the issues of a single army, the RCSS said they would find a way through the informal talks.

It demanded a meeting with Tatmadaw (Myanmar army) leaders in order to have a mutual understanding on the JMC and only after that they would decide whether they will continue participation in JMC meetings. It was discussed in Friday’s talk, but Sai Ngern did not elaborate on the details of it, saying further informal meetings would be conducted.

The RCSS had also pushed for a change to the JMC structure, mechanisms and terms of references and for the consideration of a role for international experts in the JMC.

The government delegation is led by U Khin Zaw Oo, secretary of the Peace Commission, accompanied by commission members U Aung Soe, U Zaw Htay, U Kyaw Lin Oo, and advisor U Hla Maung Shwe.

RCSS chairman Gen. Yawd Serk led the talk, accompanied by the RCSS deputy commander-in-chief Brig-Gen Pao Khay, secretary Col. Sai Ngern and the spokesman Lt-Col Sai Meng.

U Zaw Htay told The Irrawaddy they would have open discussions with the three other groups over the weekend because “we accept there are problems which need to be solved.”

He expects the informal talks this weekend will yield a solution which is acceptable by both sides.