YANGON – An alliance of seven ethnic armed groups based in northeast Myanmar led by the United Wa State Army (UWSA) said it would only meet with government peace negotiators as a single entity, not as separate groups.
The government’s peace commission asked the alliance to attend meetings through Chinese officials last week, according to Tar Jode Jar, vice chairman of alliance member the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), though government peace negotiators separately told The Irrawaddy it was unlikely they would meet the groups as a bloc.
“If we meet [with the government], we will only meet as an alliance,” Tar Jode Jar told The Irrawaddy on Monday, referring to the new alliance of seven groups, which also includes the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Arakan Army (AA).
If agreed, the meeting is likely to take place later this week somewhere along the border of Myanmar and China, according to Tar Jode Jar.
U Aung Soe, a member of the government’s Peace Commission and a lower house lawmaker said, however, the government “will meet three northern groups together [the TNLA, the AA, and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA)] and the rest separately.”
Discussions could include the Panghsang Principles, an agreement signed by the seven groups at a summit in Wa self-administered territory in April, which denounce the government’s nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).
Although the NCA—signed by eight armed groups in October 2015—is the government’s chosen peace process, many powerful ethnic armed groups have shunned signing the accord and have put forward alternative approaches to national reconciliation.
Peace process observers have pointed out the need to review the NCA while others criticize the lack of informal talks prior to formal negotiations.
Alongside the second session of the 21st Century Panglong peace conference last month, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi met separately with the seven members of the alliance—the UWSA, the KIA, the TNLA, the AA, Mongla’s National Democratic Alliance Army, the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army North and Kokang’s MNDAA.
The seven groups attended the opening session of the conference at the last minute with the intervention of China’s negotiators.