Suu Kyi to Meet With Burma Army, Ethnic Armed Groups

By The Irrawaddy 27 April 2016

RANGOON — A new chapter of peace talks is set to open as Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s state counselor and de facto leader, will meet with the Burma Army and representatives of ethnic armed groups on Wednesday in Naypyidaw, according to a military officer.

Lt-Gen Ya Pyayt, chairman of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC), a body that monitors the ceasefire process, said in a speech in Burma’s capital on Tuesday that the monitoring body and ethnic representatives who signed a so-called Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in October will meet and talk with Suu Kyi, who will lead the peace process moving forward.

The parties will “discuss guidelines and procedures relating to the Union-level ceasefire agreement. The meeting also focused upon the formation of Mon State- and Karen State-level ceasefire monitoring bodies,” according to the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar daily.

This will mark the first time Suu Kyi has met with the army and ethnic groups after taking office on April 1. Only eight NCA signatory members will be present at the meeting, however, leaving out many ethnic armed groups who were not involved in last year’s agreement.

Of the eight signatories, only about half are capable of fielding a formidable fighting force. Larger groups, like the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the United Wa State Army (UWSA), withheld their signatures, and a handful of other groups in ongoing conflict with the Burma Army were effectively shut out of the NCA by the previous government.

The Joint Monitoring Committee has been holding ongoing meetings in Naypyidaw to monitor the ceasefire agreement, which was signed on Oct. 15.

“As these political issues have been solved through use of arm line policy [sic], the country has been suffering for decades with officers and other ranks from both sides having sacrificed their lives and limbs,” Gen. Saw Isaac Poe of the KNU, who is also vice chairman of the JMC, said to the state-run newspaper.

Hopes for a breakthrough in the peace process now largely rest on the new government’s shoulders. But Suu Kyi has not given details about how she plans to proceed with negotiations, and it is unclear whether she will carry on the work of Aung Min, the previous government’s top peace envoy, or design her own approach.