Northern EAOs Keen to Keep Talking to Government

By Nyein Nyein 12 July 2018

NAYPYITAW – The leaders of ethnic armed groups based along the northeastern China-Myanmar border expressed their position for continuing talks with the government through the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee’s (FPNCC’s) political paper, during their meetings with State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday.

The state counselor held a meeting with the senior leaders of four ethnic armed organizations — the United Wa State Army, Mongla’s National Democratic Alliance Army, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Shan State Progressive Party — on Thursday after Army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing met them for informal talks a day earlier.

She also had another meeting with the remaining three members of the FPNCC — the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, Arakan Army, and Kokang’s Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army. These three groups also met the deputy army chief, Vice-Senior General Soe Win, on Wednesday.

The seven members of the FPNCC are in Naypyitaw this week to participate in the opening of the third session of the 21st-Century Panglong Union Peace Conference (UPC), which began on Wednesday. Some of the leaders also took part in a cluster-based discussion group for EAOs on Thursday.

The government and Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, met the FPNCC members separately and categorized the two groups as above. This is the same principle both the NLD administration and the Army have applied to meet the alliance, because they do not recognize the FPNCC, which is led by the UWSA and was established about a year and a half ago in Pangseng. When the FPNCC members visited Naypyitaw last May, the state counselor and the Army chief met them separately.

General Sumlut Gun Maw, the vice chairman of the Kachin Independence Organization, the political wing of the KIA, told reporters on Thursday after the talks that it was just “an informal” session and “we told them we want continuous discussion based on the FPNCC’s principles,” which the UWSA shared with the government last year.

He said, “It is too early to say whether we will sign the NCA or not,” adding that this decision will have to be made later.

UWSA spokesman Kyauk Kaw Ann, who led the Pangseng alliance in this week’s mission to Naypyitaw, shared views of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and she in turn outlined the central government’s official view, according to Gen. Gun Maw, the KIO leader.

General Say Htin, the patron of the SSPP, told The Irrawaddy that Thursday’s informal meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was “very good.” But he did not provide any further details.

These sideline meetings during the UPC are intended to build trust and understanding, according to a member of the Peace Commission, who was at the July 11 meeting between the Army chief and the ethnic groups.