CHIANG MAI, Thailand – The Shan State Progressive Party and the government’s Peace Commission will meet at the party’s Wan Hai headquarters in northern Shan State’s Kehsi Township within the next three weeks, according to the commission.
According to sources close to the SSPP, the government approached the party through Sai Aik Pao, the chairman of the Shan Nationalities Development Party and the former Shan State minister for mining and forestry, late last month, proposing bilateral talks.
The two sides are currently negotiating a date for the meeting. As the Peace Commission is scheduled to meet the Karenni National Progressive Party on April 23-25, it is believed the government delegation could meet the Shan armed group after that.
The SSPP is a member of the seven-member Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC), a northeast-based armed alliance which has a policy of insisting on holding collective talks with the government. Despite the policy, however, two of its members — the Kachin Independence Army and the United Wa State Army — have met the government delegation separately on previous occasions at the behest of Chinese officials.
Peace Commission secretary U Khin Zaw Oo, a former lieutenant-general, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the meeting is planned for either late April or early May at Wan Hai.
He confirmed that they “had communicated about holding talks, as mentioned in the SSPP’s statement issued on Wednesday evening,” but declined to reveal what would be discussed.
On Wednesday, a fake statement was circulated online purporting to be from the SSPP and announcing that it had made plans to meet unilaterally with the PC because the KIA and UWSA had done so.
A few hours later, the SSPP issued an official statement reading: “There was a fake statement which attempted to divide the FPNCC alliance and sabotage the Peace Commission and the SSPP’s optimistic approach toward national reconciliation, the peace process, regional stability and development.”
Sai Nyunt Lwin, the secretary of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, shared the SSPP’s view, telling The Irrawaddy on Thursday, “It [the fake statement] is an attempt to weaken trust and cause quarrels among the FPNCC members, and to cause misunderstanding between the Shan armed group members.”
Chit Min Tun contributed to this report.