UNFC Proposes More Negotiations Prior to Suu Kyi Meeting

By Saw Yan Naing 14 June 2016

RANGOON—The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of nine ethnic armed groups, has told Burma’s peace delegation that it would like to hold additional talks with lead negotiator Dr. Tin Myo Win before meeting State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.

The UNFC’s peace delegation, known as Delegation for Political Negotiation (DPN), reached out on Monday to the government’s peace conference preparatory sub-committee 2. The committee is led by Tin Myo Win, longstanding personal physician of Suu Kyi and newly appointed government peace negotiator.

Tun Zaw, the secretary of the UNFC, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the DPN had agreed to meet the state counselor, but wanted to first hold additional talks with Tin Myo Win’s delegation in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

“We didn’t deny their invitation. But, we want to pre-negotiate before meeting Daw Aung San Suu Kyi so that it will be smooth when we meet her. We haven’t yet heard a clear response to what we asked during our meeting on June 3,” said Tun Zaw, in reference to the UNFC’s inquiry during a previous meeting about whether Burma’s current government policy aligned with that of the previous government.

The former military-backed administration invited only 15 potential signatories to the so-called Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA)—eight of whom opted to sign—and excluded the Arakan Army (AA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).

The UNFC leaders also asked the sub-committee if they would need to sign the NCA prior to participating in the upcoming “21st Century Panglong Conference,” a question which they also claim has yet to be clearly answered.

Hla Maung Shwe, member of sub-committee 2 and former senior advisor to the Myanmar Peace Center, acknowledged the DPN’s request and stated that they would likely meet again in the coming days in Chiang Mai.

He said the committee has explained the government’s policy, but would clarify any discrepancies at the upcoming meeting.

Under the previous government led by former President Thein Sein, eight ethnic armed groups including the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) signed the NCA. However, other powerful ethnic armed organizations like the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the Mongla Army, did not sign.

There are two government sub-committees tasked with preparations for the upcoming peace conference. One is led by Burma Army official Lt-Gen Yar Pyae and is responsible for negotiating with current NCA signatories. The other, led by Tin Myo Win, is in charge of meeting with non-signatories and intends to meet with the UWSA and the Mongla Army in the near future.