RANGOON — Representatives of the ethnic armed bloc the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) will travel to the Wa Self-Administered Zone to discuss Burma’s peace process with the country’s largest non-state armed group the United Wa State Army (UWSA), a UNFC leader said on Thursday after a three-day emergency meeting in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
The move is a further show of unity between ethnic armed organizations by the UNFC after earlier this week it claimed it was united behind the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) amid suspicion of a rift within the bloc as the comprising groups disagreed over signing the NCA and its role in the peace process.
“We will not cut our friendship with the UWSA as we are all ethnic people who have been forced to live without freedom,” UNFC vice chairman Nai Hong Sar told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.
“We need to make sure there are no misunderstandings [between UNFC and UWSA]—we need to be strong as one force,” he added.
Members of both the UNFC and the Northern Alliance—the KIA and the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N)—attended a United Wa State Army (UWSA)-led summit in the Wa Self-Administered Zone’s capital of Panghsang in February.
The UWSA called for the NCA to be replaced, contrary to the UNFC’s nine principals leading to all member groups signing the accord, and said it would lead a political negotiation team between ethnic armed groups and the government.
Last week, the government announced that five of the seven UNFC members—the Karenni National Progressive Party, the New Mon State Party, the Arakan National Council, the Lahu Democratic Union and the Wa National Organization—would sign the NCA, although the groups later said it had not been officially decided.
“We need to talk with [the UWSA] to make our position on the NCA clear, as UNFC members joined the UWSA meeting,” Nai Hong Sar said, referring to the February Panghsang summit.
The UWSA invited UNFC representatives to attend the summit and although UNFC chairman Gen N Ban La of the KIA did attend, he represented the KIA, not the UNFC.
Nai Hong Sar insisted there was no problem with the Northern Alliance UNFC members attending the Panghsang summit as they were under attack by the Burma Army and needed to be united to protect themselves.
He told The Irrawaddy, however, that all sides needed to keep tolerance to maintain peace and that “political conflict cannot be solved by force.”
Nai Hong Sar urged the government to prepare to meet with the new UWSA-led political negotiation team.
The UNFC will organize further meetings with political parties and NCA-signatory armed groups to further discussions on the July 2016 Kachin Independence Army (KIA)-led Mai Ja Yang summit’s basic principles of a federal state, he added.