Suu Kyi, Military Chief, EAO Leaders to Sit Down Together This Month

By Lawi Weng 4 October 2018

State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and selected leaders of the country’s ethnic armed organizations will meet this month to discuss ways of resolving the deadlocks that have left the peace process stalled, an official from one of the EAOs said.

Saw Mra Yazar Lin, a peace negotiator for the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the government had proposed a date of Oct. 15 for the meeting, but discussions with the EAOs to finalize the date were ongoing.

She was not authorized to disclose the location of the meeting.

“At the meeting, we will mainly discuss how we can find a solution to resolve the deadlock facing the peace process,” she said.

“To find a solution, it is important to bring together decision-makers at the meeting,” she said. These included people with the authority to make political decisions on behalf of the Myanmar Army (or Tatmadaw), the government and the  EAOs, she said.

This will be first time that leaders of the three main stakeholding groups in the peace process—the government, the military, and the EAOs—will sit at one table since the country’s peace process was launched in 2011 under then-President Thein Sein. The meeting was proposed by the EAOs to the government last month.

The EAOs have proposed 12 points of discussion, while the government has at least four points to discuss at the meeting, she said.

One issue on the agenda is the Tatmadaw’s insistence that EAOs promise not seek to secede from the Union. Another will be how the Myanmar Army can share power with EAOs, given that the country can have only one army. Snr-Gen. Min Aung Hlaing said at the third session of the 21st Century Union Peace Conference earlier this year that the peace process will be complete by 2020. The EAOs intend to ask him how this can be achieved.

The EAOs also want to discuss how the Myanmar Army and government plan to allow self-determination in their respective regions. They will also discuss proposed amendments to the military-drafted 2008 Constitution.

“Our ethnic leaders will engage in the discussions at the meeting based on a future federal system [for Myanmar],” she said, referring to the political system that EAOs have already proposed for the country’s future.

The EAO leaders will meet in Chiang Mai, Thailand on Oct. 11 to decide who will meet with the Army chief and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Ten EAOs have signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). At least another 10 with strong armed forces, included the United Wa State Army, have not signed and are closely observing the current peace process between the NCA signatories and the government.

The Myanmar Army did not allow EAO leaders to discuss political issues at the third session of the Union Peace Conference earlier this year because the ethnic leaders refused to promise never to seek secession from the Union. According to the ethnic leaders, this is the main reason for the deadlock in the peace process.

Ethnic leaders say the current political system in the country is not a genuine democracy, and their people still do not have equal rights. Therefore, they continue to stand together in their refusal to disavow secession as a right.

The EAO leaders said the Army should reconsider this policy, because peace negotiations cannot move forward otherwise.