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Peace Commission, latest ethnic armed alliance expected to meet

Ethnic armed groups have held several meetings in Panghsang, Shan State, including this one in May 2015. The outcome of another meeting this year was the creation of the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee. (Photo: Reuters)

The government Peace Commission is preparing to meet “soon” with members of a recently formed alliance of ethnic armed groups based largely in Burma’s north, an apparent signal that the new coalition is increasingly viewed as an important factor in the peace process calculus.

Peace Commission member Aung Soe, who is also an MP for the ruling National League for Democracy, told DVB on Wednesday that government negotiators are still discussing how and where they will meet with the northern armed groups, with an agenda for the meeting also yet to be hammered out.

“We don’t know yet the date. The commission members are still discussing how we’ll meet with them. And I have no authority to say what the commission will discuss with them,” he said.

A Chinese delegation has given invitation letters to the alliance, officially called the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC), on behalf of the Peace Commission, but there are signs the two sides aren’t seeing eye-to-eye: The Peace Commission has indicated that it does not want to meet the committee collectively, while a chance to speak as a single alliance is what the ethnic armed groups are seeking.

The FPNCC, also sometimes described as the “Panghsang allies,” was formed on 19 April by seven ethnic armed groups — the United Wa State Army, Kachin Independence Army, Ta’ang National Liberation Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, Arakan Army, National Democratic Alliance Army and the Shan State Army-North.

Representatives from the grouping attended the second session of the 21st Century Panglong Conference last month, thanks in part to negotiations brokered by a Chinese delegation.

It was at that peace summit in Naypyidaw that State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi met with the FPNCC in two sittings, the first grouping together the KIA, SSA-N, UWSA and NDAA, and the second involving representatives for the remaining committee members.

“The Peace Commission hasn’t met with all seven groups together. The types of meeting [being proposed] are like with the state counsellor’s meeting in Naypyidaw,” he said.

However, the ethnic armed groups have said they don’t favour that format and only want to meet the Peace Commission as a collective alliance.

Brigadier General Tar Jode Jar, vice chairman of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), told DVB that they had received the invitation letter but nothing on specifics of the proposed meeting or meetings.

“We don’t know further information. The commission won’t tell us anything,” he said.

Amid the ever-changing dynamics of Burma’s peace process, the FPNCC made waves shortly after its formation when its members signed a joint statement rejecting the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. Only eight non-state armed groups have signed the accord, but it was drafted as the bedrock of future political dialogue by the previous government, with Suu Kyi indicating that this would not change under her administration.