By Lun Min Mang / Myanmar Times | February 17, 2017
During the meeting held at the Kachin Independence Organization’s (KIO) headquarters in Laiza along China-Myanmar border, Karen National Union (KNU) officials exchanged their points of view on a number of things related to the peace process. Two advisors to the Restoration Council of Shan State attended the meeting.
Padoh Saw Ta Doh Moo, a member of KNU’s central executive committee told The Myanmar Times that officials said communication was the main problem between KIO and the government’s peace commission.
He said the KNU delegation led by its chair General Saw Mutu Say Poe met with the peace team of KIO and heard the difficulties the latter is facing currently in negotiating peace with government.
“They said they sent a letter to the National Reconciliation and Peace Center previously. They want the official response from government,” the KNU official said.
KNU is a signatory armed ethnic group to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), whereas the KIO is not, and is currently at war with government’s troops in Kachin State as well as in northern Shan State.
After clashes with the Tatmadaw in mid-August of 2016, KIO requested a meeting with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Tatmadaw’s Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
Despite being a member of United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) and having ongoing negotiation with government, KIO officials said they would want to have a private meeting with the government. Earlier this month, the government had replied to a KIO’s letter that it was willing to have private talks with the armed ethnic group.
“The main problem is weakness in communication at both sides. As far as I know, previous government led by the USDP [Union Solidarity and Development Party] was better at communicating with armed ethnic groups,” said Padoh Saw Ta Doh Moo.
Citing to the Deed of Commitment for Peace and National Reconciliation, a document that Karen National Union signed with previous administration at the Union Day of 2015, the joint statement said terms of non-aggression should be pursued, as efforts shall be made for the participation of all armed ethnic groups to the peace process.
The joint statement also said the KNU and KIO agreed to work together for the inclusivity of the peace process.
“We urge all concerned parties to work and find ways for ending armed conflicts in line with agreements and for the participation of all relevant parties at the political dialogues,” said the joint statement.
Northern Alliance that was formed by KIA (Kachin Independence Army, armed wing of KIO), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, Ta’ang National Liberation Army and Arakan Army launched joint military offensives against police and military outposts in northern Shan State in November of 2016.
Defense minister Lt-Gen Sein Win suggested to Pyithu Hluttaw that the parliament should designate the armed groups as “terrorist organizations” last December. Despite the proposal not winning at the Lower House, a similar proposal was raised in Shan State parliament where the USDP MPs are majority and was passed.
KNU and KIO’s joint statement have also said that they all are “armed ethnic organizations” and not “terrorist organizations”, but are in partnership at the peace process.
Meanwhile KIO is a recognized party to the peace negotiation; the government has so far denied the participation of the coalition’s three other groups.
Padoh Saw Ta Doh Moo said the KNU and its leaders have often called on the government and Tatmadaw to soften their stance towards the non-signatory armed ethnic groups to the peace process, and to the 21st Century Panglong Conference specifically.
The UNFC has previously said it would sign the NCA if the government would agree the nine points of proposal previously raised by it. The proposal was to strengthen the ceasefire at the post-NCA-signing period.
The KNU official said, “Though we have signed the NCA earlier, it would be good to have the nine points of proposal by UNFC because it would strengthen the ceasefire than now it is.”
Though the second batch of 21st Century Panglong Conference was targeted to start on February 28, representatives at the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee have decided to postpone the commencing date of the conference to mid-March. National-level political dialogues are scheduled to be held in Shan and Chin states at the end of February.
Earlier yesterday, local police blocked planned conference in Kachin State’s capital Myitkyina by local peace advocates, civil society groups, and political parties, but later allowed the meeting to proceed, though event organisers had to compromise.
U Hkawn Zau Jat, a member of executive committee of Kachin National Consultant Assembly said Police Colonel San Lwin who visited the location of the event at Manaw playground in the afternoon told the awaiting attendants, the police ban came from the state government.
“We have agreed to change the conference’s title from ‘Kachin National Convention’ to ‘Pre-21st Panglong Kachin National Meeting’ as it was demanded by police. It started in the afternoon of yesterday. Our main intention for having this conference is to select individuals who will represent Kachin nationalities in the upcoming 21st Century Panglong Conference,” he said.
The police told the event organizers that the name ‘Kachin National Convention’ was quite unsuitable for the meeting held by groups other than the government. According to him, the conference would choose as many as 60 candidates and the selected ones would attend the 21st Century Panglong Conference as ‘ethnic representatives’. The conference will end tomorrow.
This article originally appeared on Myanmar Times on February 17, 2017