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Govt eyes meeting with Northern Alliance ahead of next 21CPC

FILE PHOTO: A meeting of the leaders of several ethnic armed groups at the United Wa State Army headquarters in Panghsang, northern Shan State, was held on 6 May 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

The Burmese government’s Peace Commission said it is prepared to meet with representatives of the Northern Alliance-Burma ahead of the next round of peace talks known as the 21st Century Panglong Conference (21CPC).

Aung Kyi, the head of the Peace Commission advisory team, told DVB yesterday that the government “had not forgotten about” the Northern Alliance and that it hoped the ethnic rebel alliance would be “involved in the peace process very soon”.

“We have not yet fixed a venue for a meeting with the Northern Alliance,” he said. “But it will be held before the next Panglong Conference, I think within the next three months.”

The Northern Alliance-Burma, officially known as the Federal Political Negotiation Consultative Committee (FPNCC), was formed in April comprising seven ethnic armed groups who had previously rejected the government’s plans for a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). Several of the ethnic armies continue to battle against Burmese government forces in northern Shan State.

The FPNCC is led by the 20,000-strong United Wa State Army (UWSP), alongside the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA); the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA); the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA); the Arakan Army (AA); the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA); and factions of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

With the exception of the UWSA, the groups each attended the second session of the 21CPC in May at the behest of Chinese government mediators.

However, Burma’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, who is hosting the 21CPC, has met on separate occasions with representatives of each group. In May, she met first with delegates from KIA, SSPP, UWSA and NDAA, before a second meeting in Naypyidaw with representatives of MNDAA, AA and TNLA.

The FPNCC now maintains that it wishes to attend any talks with the government as an alliance, not through bilateral or separate negotiations.

TNLA spokesperson Mai Aike Kyaw told DVB today that it was “an all-or-nothing” situation for them.

“We have requested that we be represented as the FPNCC,” he said. “Otherwise we will not meet with the Peace Commission.”

The Peace Commission’s Aung Kyi confirmed that the government team would not seek to hold separate or bilateral talks but was prepared to recognise the seven armies as a bloc.

“We don’t want to hold separate meetings. It should be conducted altogether, “he said.

Naypyidaw has recently extended an offer to all non-signatory groups to sign the NCA on 15 October, the second anniversary of the accord.

But TNLA spokesman Mai Aike Kyaw said that the FPNCC would not do so because several of its members continue to be involved in day-to-day hostilities with government forces.

“And even some of the eight NCA signatories are fighting with the Burmese military from time to time,” he said. “That’s why we don’t believe in this NCA.”