CHIANG MAI, Thailand—The Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), a non-signatory of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), said solving problems on the ground would help to move forward the process of signing the NCA as well as political negotiations.
The KNPP and the government have had a state-level bilateral agreement since 2012, but negotiations on signing the NCA and the KNPP’s political participation are ongoing.
Informal talks on signing the NCA were held between the KNPP and representatives of the government’s Peace Commission on Sunday in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The KNPP and the Peace Commission last met formally in April in Loikaw, the capital of Kayah State, followed by two other informal talks this year.
There are concerns over the Tatmadaw’s (Myanmar army’s) misinterpretation of the bilateral agreement between the state government and the KNPP, according to Khu Oo Reh, the KNPP’s vice chairman. Khu Oo Reh was referring to the recent clash between the KNPP and Tatmadaw troops in Hpa Saung Township, Kayah State.
The KNPP, the Karenni state government and state-level Tatmadaw commanders have been holding monthly talks in order to gain mutual understanding on their bilateral agreement and to ensure both sides follow it.
One of the rules stipulated in the bilateral agreement is that the KNPP and the Tatmadaw must use designated routes for the movement of their troops and that both sides must inform the other three days before passing near battalions of the other army in order to avoid unnecessary engagement.
“But the Tatmadaw does not follow these rules. We think it may be because of different understandings of the bilateral agreement,” said Khu Oo Reh.
The group focused on these situations in their discussions with the Peace Commission on Sunday. Commission advisor U Hla Maung Shwe said Sunday’s talk was helpful for sharing approaches to solving these situations on the ground.
Both sides said they would have further meetings but did not elaborate when.
Whether the political negotiations can move forward “totally depends on how quickly we can solve these problems on the ground,” said Khu Oo Reh.
The government’s negotiators, led by Peace Commission secretary and former lieutenant general U Khin Zaw Oo, were in Chiang Mai for a series of informal talks over the weekend. They separately met two key signatories of the NCA—the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS)—and two non-signatories, the KNPP and the Kachin Independent Army (KIA).
An informal meeting between the government and a KIA representative was also held on Sunday in Chiang Mai but media were not allowed to attend, instead being told it was held only to create an open channel between the negotiators.