The Government’s Peace Commission and the Delegation for Political Negotiation (DPN) agreed at a meeting last week on nine proposals put forward by the DPN regarding ceasefire rules, among others.
At a press conference following the meeting, the commission and the delegation said DPN, which represents seven armed ethnic organisations of United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), would consult the council’s leaders on the negotiated terms, although they were agreed to.
“Final agreements have yet to be made because DPN has to bring the agreed terms to the members of UNFC for final agreement,” said U Zaw Htay, the President Office’s deputy director general.
DPN met State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Nay Pyi Taw prior to the talks with the peace commission in Yangon last week. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi also chairs the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre (NRPC), which is the government’s peace secretariat.
The DPN’s proposal to change the composition of the political dialogue at the 21st Century Panglong Conference from multi-party to tripartite would be negotiated at the political dialogue framework review meeting.
The agreed points regarding ceasefire rules, military code of conduct, terms of reference for monitoring and relocation of troops will also be discussed by the “ceasefire joint monitoring committee”. The committee is responsible for monitoring breaches of the National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) terms.
“We ‘negotiated’ on the points that are acceptable to both sides, which means there was a compromise by both sides,” said U Zaw Htay.
The Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) is likely to hold the Second 21st Century Panglong Conference in early April due to “tight schedules” of related events, such as the congress of Karen National Union, the largest signatory, which will start on March 14.
However, negotiation of the remaining points and feedback from UNFC on the terms agreed will be parallel with the Second 21st Century Panglong Conference, according to U Zaw Htay and DPN leader Khu Oo Reh, who is a senior official from Karenni National Progressive Party which is not a signatory of the NCA.
Since UNFC previously said it would not attend the Second 21st Panglong Conference if invited as “observers”, UPDJC has decided to invite them as “special guests”. Whether the special guests would participate in the discussions and decision-making has yet to be decided by the UPDJC.
While last week’s peace talks in Yangon were productive, it is not known how the government views the group formed in the last week of February with the Wa leadership after a summit in Pangkham, the capital of United Wa State Army (UWSA).
Seven non-signatory groups to the NCA including two UNFC members – Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP) attended the summit. The joint statement released after the summit said a new peace negotiation body led by the UWSA was formed and called for the replacement of the NCA with more equitable ceasefire document.
Khu Oo Reh also said the KIA and SSPP’s representation at the UNFC and its negotiating body DPN remains unchanged.
“We stand on the same ground. They are still with us, as with the latest situation before we came here for the talks,” he said. “They consented to the talks and negotiations.”
SSPP’s leader Sai Htoo also met with the State Counsellor in Nay Pyi Taw, while KIA did not send a delegation due to busy schedules, according to Khu Oo Reh.
After the Pangkham summit, Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing told diplomats from the United States that the Tatmadaw’s position on the peace process remained as specified in the NCA treaty. That contradicted to the call at the Pangkham Statement to “replace the NCA with more equitable ceasefire document”.
Groups that endorsed the Pangkham Statement included the Northern Alliance (NA) members – Kokang, Ta’ang, Arakan armed ethnic organisations, which the Tatmadaw has so far denied to have peace talks with. The opportunity cost for the groups to sign the NCA and attend the political dialogue is to denounce their arms, a Tatmadaw demand that the groups have so far rejected.
The ruling NLD-party’s peace initiative including the 21st Century Panglong Conference and the national-level dialogues in the areas of the signatories follow the terms of the NCA and political dialogues framework.
However, as U Zaw Htay said last week, the government is observing the newly formed body. He said government’s stance concerning the groups involved in the northern Shan State conflicts follow the statement of the NRPC chair last November after police and military outposts faced attacks by NA, assisted by KIA’s two brigades.
In the statement on November 23 last year after the attacks, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi called on the groups to sign the NCA and work together with civil society to find ways to strengthen the ceasefire monitoring mechanism.
“For the moment, we are not yet clear who are in the newly formed body and the committee’s position and details of it,” U Zaw Htay said.
He also said the peace commission’s chair U Tin Myo Win’s previous invitation to hold a dialogue with the Wa leaders was legitimate and the door to peace negotiations was still open.
In the joint statement, DPN and the peace commission said they would try to get the participation of “appropriate organisations” at the 21st Century Panglong Conference. Members of UNFC rejected former president U Thein Sein’s invitation to sign the NCA on October 15, 2015, for not including all armed ethnic organisations.
The former president’s invitation excluded the members of NA, but DPN’s core groups – KIA, SSPP, KNPP and New Mon State Party were invited.