Suu Kyi Tells Govt Peace Body: Reach Out to Non-Signatory Armed Groups

By Lawi Weng 24 December 2015

RANGOON — National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi told representatives of the government-backed Myanmar Peace Center on Wednesday to meet with ethnic armed groups that did not sign a “nationwide” ceasefire agreement inked in mid-October.

While eight armed groups signed the much-touted peace pact, over a dozen groups withheld their support until all ethnic armed groups were welcomed as signatories.

A long-awaited political dialogue is set to convene on Jan. 12 involving more than 700 stakeholders, with non-signatories offered the opportunity to attend with “observer” status, according to the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC).

“[Suu Kyi] told us that we should meet other ethnic armed groups that did not sign the NCA yet,” Hla Maung Shwe, a senior advisor for the MPC, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

Among non-signatory groups are several powerful ethnic armies, including the United Wa State Army and the Kachin Independence Army.

Win Htein, a spokesperson for the NLD who participated in the meeting with MPC representatives, including the group’s chair Aung Min, in Naypyidaw, has stated repeatedly that Suu Kyi would take a lead role in peace negotiations.

However, the NLD chairwoman’s exact role in the ongoing process was not specified at Wednesday’s dialogue, according to Hla Maung Shwe.

“Of course, she could lead our MPC because her party will become the government,” he said.

It is an open secret that some ethnic leaders have little trust in the MPC, viewing it as merely an extension of government. Some local political observers have speculated as to whether the peace body should be abolished when the NLD takes power in 2016.

Suu Kyi acknowledged the work of the MPC on Wednesday, according to Hla Maung Shwe, without elaborating on the group’s future.

Meanwhile, a representative of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) said on Thursday that the ethnic alliance had formed a committee to lead dialogue with Naypyidaw.

“We are ready for negotiations with the current government or the new government for future peace talks. We have already formed a committee to lead negotiations and this committee will deal with the government in the future,” said Htun Zaw, UNFC joint-secretary.

“The people elected a new government. Their policy is also based on negotiation. We expect the situation with the new government will be better than the current government.”

Htun Zaw said the country’s prospects for peace hinged to a significant extent on the NLD’s relationship with the Burma Army, and whether ongoing conflict could be decisively halted.