CHIANG MAI, Thailand — The United Wa State Army-led Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC) donated more than 400 million kyats to Myanmar flood victims through the National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC) on Thursday.
This move is considered the first time that ethnic armed organizations have collectively contributed to people affected by natural disaster.
U Nyi Rang, the UWSA spokesman, told The Irrawaddy after donating that “despite different political perspectives, we wanted to lend our support to the victims.”
He said that all of the seven member organizations of the FPNCC contributed to the total amount of 436,681,222 kyats (US$288,000).
Peace Commission member and Lower House lawmaker U Aung Soe told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the commission would manage the donations and begin distributing the funds soon.
“It is an act of one ethnic group helping another in this Union,” said U Aung Soe, “They wanted to donate to flood victims so we accepted it and will manage the funds.”
On Aug. 3, the FPNCC Secretariat issued a letter requesting contributions from its members. It urged them to participate in the flood-relief assistance and “to put aside all disputes and hatred with the federal government and the military [or Tatmadaw] . . . it’s time to give play to compatriots love.”
In a second statement released on Aug. 16, the FPNCC Standing Committee said the ethnic alliance shared its “condolences to victims” after seeing images of large-scale flooding and the tragic aftermath.
Myanmar faces flooding every year. This year, official figures released at the end of July cite at least 10 deaths and 100,000 affected people.
The FPNCC’s statement reads that according to news reports, as of Aug. 3, the flooding in Bago, Tanintharyi, and Yangon regions and Mon, Karen and eastern Shan states had affected some 200,000 people, with more than 16 killed and some 90,000 acres of farmland destroyed.
“As compatriots, we are deeply grieved. We mourn for the dead, bless the survivors and pray for the safety of the people in flood-stricken areas,” it reads.
In regards to the donations, the UWSA spokesman did not reveal how or where the donation money came from; only that contributions came from all member organizations of the FPNCC. The ethnic alliance was established in April 2017 and is comprised of the UWSA, Kachin Independence Army, Shan State Progressive Party, Mongla’s National Democratic Alliance Army, Arakan Army, Ta’ang Nationalities Liberation Army and Kokang’s Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army.
Some of the FPNCC members have been infamous for extorting money from the local businesses –including current accusations against the TNLA. U Nyi Rang declined to comment on these accusations.
“This [donation] is a gesture to show the public we stand together with them,” he said.
U Nyi Rang said it is legal for ethnic armed organizations to collect taxes from residents of areas under their control.
A certificate of honor signed by Dr. Tin Myo Win, the chairman of the Peace Commission, was given for “contributions from ethnic armed organizations led by the Wa special region 2.” The certificate did not mention the FPNCC by name.
The government and the military have consistently denied the existence of the bloc. When talks have taken place in the past, negotiators tend to meet members of the alliance separately, despite the FPNCC demands to meet as one group.
In regards to peace talks, the government’s Peace Commission and the UWSA-led FPNCC are negotiating the dates. They met with State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and military leaders on the sidelines of the third session of the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference in July in Naypyitaw.
“Our [peace] talks are ongoing, but we are still negotiating the dates and we cannot say more about it at this time,” added U Aung Soe.