Suu Kyi Begins Talks with NCA Non-Signatories

By Nyein Nyein 18 July 2016

RANGOON — Building a federal union with national reconciliation in mind was the primary issue discussed during the first meeting between State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic alliance leaders from the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) on Sunday.

The preliminary meeting at Rangoon’s National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC)—ahead of the planned Union Peace Conference in late August—had the air of a family gathering as opposed to a formal meeting, participants said.

The focus was on “building mutual relationships between UNFC senior leaders and the state counselor,” said Khu Oo Reh, a UNFC spokesperson who added that there would be additional talks throughout the next month.

“It is a step forward, as this is the first meeting under the new government,” he said.

Attendees included UNFC chair Gen N’Ban La of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Naing Htaw Mon on the New Mon State Party (NMSP), Maj-Gen Say Htin of the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP), Khun Abel Tweet of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), and Khu Oo Reh, the leader of Delegation for Political Negotiation (DPN) along with other DPN members.

From the government side, lead peace negotiator Dr. Tin Myo Win and Kyaw Tint Swe—both vice chairmen of the NRPC—attended along with Suu Kyi.

“We share a common goal of achieving peace and building a federal union, so we will continue negotiations,” said Naing Htaw Mon, NMSP chairman.

The government officially invited the UNFC—an ethnic alliance of which all are non-signatories to last year’s nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) with the former government—on Saturday to participate in the political framework review meetings, said Hla Maung Shwe, a member of the government’s peace conference preparatory sub-committee.

Khu Oo Reh said ethnic leaders would decide later on whether they would join as a group or individually.

The leaders discussed how UNFC member groups could participate in the Union Peace Conference.

They also raised issues surrounding the Burma Army’s current offensive against ethnic armed groups in the northern part of the country and its expectation that all armed groups declare a ceasefire.

The participation of their allies—the armed and actively fighting Arakan Army, Ta’ang Nationalities Liberation Army and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army; and the Arakan National Council, Wa National Organization and Lahu Democratic Union—in the peace process was also raised.

The previous government did not allow groups engaged in fighting to participate in the peace process, but did allow the latter three groups to join the Union Peace Conference as observers.

The ethnic armed group leaders will meet in Kachin State’s Mai Ja Yang in late July to find a common stance on building a future federal union.