UNFC Edges Closer to Signing NCA, Military Issues Still Unresolved

By Nyein Nyein 25 October 2017

The latest peace talks between the government’s peace commission and ethnic bloc the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) concluded this week with an agreement in principle of the UNFC’s eight-point proposal to signing the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).

The seventh round of peace talks—which took place in Yangon on Monday and Tuesday—had been “thoroughly” conducted with only military-related affairs left to discuss, according to spokespersons from both parties.

Despite this latest successful meeting and four of the eight points of the UNFC proposal being agreed in August, the numerous formal and informal discussions over the last 16 months have not yet led to the signing of the NCA.

Government spokesperson U Zaw Htay said remaining discussions—which focus on troop deployment and demarcation of territory—will continue on Nov. 8.

UNFC delegation spokesperson Nai Ong Ma-Nge said much of the necessary discussions had been completed and that only details such as codes of conducts and terms of references for the effectiveness of the NCA implementation were left to be established.
“We hope that if we can finalize discussions on Nov. 8, we would be able to sign the NCA,” he said.

Discussions of military affairs required military representatives from the UNFC, said U Zaw Htay.

He added, “The key sensitive issue is the military affairs and we have to pay close attention to it. We have to be very careful even with NCA signatories. The situation could revert back to armed conflict at any time. Thus, the UNFC has been thoroughly discussing on it.”

The government negotiators represented the Tatmadaw, the civilian government, and parliament and were led by U Thein Zaw, accompanied by military representatives Lt-Gen Yar Pyae and Lt-Gen Min Naung who are also members of the National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC).

The UNFC’s Delegation for Political Negotiation (DPN) was led by Khu Oo Reh who is the vice chair of the UNFC which is comprised of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), the New Mon State Party (NMSP), the Arakan National Council (ANC) and Lahu Democratic Union (LDU).

Also present at the meeting were observers from three groups who have signed the NCA already.

U Zaw Htay reiterated that the door was open for peace talks with every ethnic armed organization based in the north and northeast of the country.

He said, however, the government will only meet groups individually as the government does not recognize seven-member Federal Political Negotiations and Consultative Committee (FPNCC) formed in April and led by the United Wa State Army which reject the NCA approach to peace.

Even though the two sides are yet to sign an agreement, U Zaw Htay said they have reached to a common understanding through more open and thorough negotiations from step by step which is a key to move forward.

International representatives and peace NGOs are supporting the peace process and building trust between the Tatmadaw, the government and ethnic armed groups.

According to sources close to the peace process, a mixed delegation of the government, the Tatmadaw and both NCA signatory and non-signatory ethnic armed organizations will join a trip to Colombia to study the country’s peace process organized by the peace NGO Inter Mediate at the end of October and early November.