Ethnic Rebel Coalition Meets With Aung San Suu Kyi to Prepare For Myanmar Peace Conference

A coalition of Myanmar’s armed ethnic groups that have met with State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi to discuss preparations for peace negotiations in late August say a political framework is crucial for the government’s peace conference to be a success.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s de facto national leader, has made peace and national reconciliation a key goal of her civilian-led administration, which came to power in April.

On Sunday, United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC)—a coalition of nine ethnic rebel groups that did not sign a national cease-fire agreement (NCA) with the previous government last October—met with Aung San Suu Kyi in her capacity as chairperson of the National Reconciliation and Peace Center in Yangon to talk about run-up to the 21st-Century Panglong Peace Conference.

The UNFC, which represents both groups that have signed the NCA and those that have not, is advocating for the formation of a federal union. It also is insisting that all rebel groups be included in the peace conference.

“If we can’t finish discussions on the framework, it will be impossible to hold the 21st-Century Panglong Peace Conference,” said UNFC general secretary Khu Do Reh at a press conference in Yangon. “That means that holding a successful peace conference hinges upon the framework discussions.”

'Everybody is responsible'

The UNFC requested that Aung San Suu Kyi mediate negotiations between the Myanmar army and ethnic rebel groups so they agree on declaring a cease-fire at the same time, Khu Oo Yal said.

Aung San Suu Kyi promised that she would discuss the issue with the military, he said.

“What we’ve got to understand is that we all fought together for freedom,” Khu Oo Reh said. “Everybody is responsible for working towards development and peace in this country.”

Khu Oo Yal also said the nonsignatories will attend framework discussions for holding the Panglong Peace Conference, named after a similar meeting of ethnic groups spearheaded by Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, General Aung San, in 1947.

But his assassination a few months later prevented the agreements made during the conference from reaching fruition, and many ethnic groups then took up arms against the central government in wars that have ground on in some cases for more than five decades.

Armed ethnic groups will meet in Mai Ja Yang—territory controlled by the Kachin Independence organization (KIO)—in northern Myanmar’s Kachin state on July 26-29 to discuss attending the Panglong Peace Conference and creating a federal union, Kho Oo Reh said.

The KIO is the political branch of wing of the Kachin Independence Army, which has not signed the NCA. The UNFC said it will invite Wa and Ming La ethnic groups to the meeting.

Seven letters sent

Tin Myo Win, the government’s peace envoy, has sent invitation letters to seven of the nonsignatory groups to participate in the political framework review meetings, said Hla Maung Shwe, secretary of the government’s peace conference preparatory subcommittee.

Thein Zaw, vice chairman of the government's Union Peace Making Work Committee, will soon meet with representatives from the Arakan Army (AA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA)—the three groups excluded from the NCA because of ongoing hostilities with the Myanmar army—he said.

General Mutu Say Pho, leader of the Karen National Union (KNU), is urging the armed ethnic groups not to make too many demands during the peace negotiations and to work for reasonable results.

“Our needs and demands should be reasonable according to the country’s current situation, and we need to have practical results that all groups can accept,’ he said while delivering the opening speech at Monday’s meeting in Chaing Mai, Thailand, with groups that did not sign the NCA.

“We shouldn’t say that we will accept the result only if we get everything we want,” he said. “The result should be a reasonable one.”

Leaders from Chin National Front (CNF), All-Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF), Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), Pa-Oh People's Liberation Organization (PPLO), Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) will attend the meeting.

The eight armed groups that signed the NCA are currently holding a two-day meeting in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to prepare for the Mai Ja Yang summit.

Reported by Thiha Tun, Aung Theinkha and Aung Moe Myint of RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin