State Counselor to Meet UNFC’s Peace Negotiation Team

By Nyein Nyein 21 February 2017

State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will meet an ethnic armed bloc’s Delegation for Political Negotiation (DPN) next week in Naypyidaw, although neither side has yet officially announced a date for the talks.

The DPN is the peace negotiation team of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance made up of ethnic armed organizations that opted out of signing the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) in 2015. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi met with UNFC senior leaders for the first time in July 2016.

The DPN requested a meeting with the State Counselor, who is also the head of the National Reconciliation and Peace Center at their Jan. 13 informal meeting with the government peace commission’s adviser in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

U Zaw Htay, spokesperson of the President’s Office told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, “We are still working on a date when the State Counselor can meet the DPN.”

“In the meeting, the leaders will talk about policies regarding peace implementation and the DPN’s nine points of demand, and it will be discussed in detail with the [government] peace commission afterwards,” added U Zaw Htay.

The DPN proposed March 1 as a potential date. According to sources close to the peace negotiators, it is very likely that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will meet the DPN then.

Last week, the government proposed meeting the DPN on Feb. 23, as the State Counselor was free at that time and then could have further meetings with the peace commission the following day.

But Khu Oo Reh, the head of the DPN, said that the ethnic leaders could not attend a meeting this week, because some UNFC members are traveling to the Wa Self-Administrative Zone for an ethnic armed group summit hosted by the United Wa State Party/Army (UWSP/A) from Feb 22-24.

Khu Oo Reh explained, “Our travel plan for the meeting had already been set amongst ourselves. We will be putting together our collective voices for the peace talks, and we could not just go with one or two representatives to meet the State Counselor. We don’t want to be seen as not being serious if not all of our DPN members are represented.”

However, some DPN representatives will join the meeting of the Joint Coordinating Body for Peace Process Funding on Wednesday in Naypyidaw.

Invites to the ethnic summit in Panghsang, the de facto capital of the Wa region, were extended to only ten groups, none of which are signatories to the NCA. The agenda will focus on consolidating the ethnic armed organizations’ perspectives and stances on the upcoming second 21st Century Panglong peace conference, said the secretariats of the summit in a statement on Tuesday.

The DPN and UNFC have said they would not join the peace conference if they are invited as observers, but a decision on their status has not yet come out of a Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee, of which Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is the chair.

With the exception of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) and the New Mon State Party, the eight invited groups that will attend the summit include the UWSA, Kachin Independence Army, Kokang’s Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, Ta’ang Nationalities Liberation Army, Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army-North and Mongla’s National Democratic Alliance Army.

Khu Oo Reh, also the vice chair of the KNPP, explained that members of the two organizations’ leadership were too busy to travel to the event, but said they had shared their papers with those attending the summit.