By NAW BETTY HAN | FRONTIER
YANGON — A Karen National Union official insists the group remains committed to the peace process despite skipping a meeting in Yangon this week that was attended by all other signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.
The informal meeting of the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee’s secretariat in Yangon on June 13 and 14 was the committee’s first gathering in nearly a year.
Formal meetings of the UPDJC are supposed to take place on a monthly basis but have been suspended since the last 21st Century Panglong Union Peace Conference in July 2018.
“We couldn’t join the secretariat’s informal meeting this time but the KNU is willing to engage in informal meetings with government officials to overcome deadlocks in the peace process,” KNU general secretary Padoh Saw Ta Doh Moo told Frontier.
He declined to reveal why the group had skipped the meeting.
The KNU temporarily suspended its participation in the formal peace process in October 2018 following high-level talks with the government, Tatmadaw and NCA signatories in Nay Pyi Taw at which disagreements emerged over the issues of non-secession and military integration.
The following month, another nationwide ceasefire signatory, the Restoration Council of Shan State, suspended its participation in meetings of the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee, an implementation body set up under the NCA.
The RCSS, however, attended the informal meeting in Yangon along with the eight other signatories to the NCA.
The talks were held to resolve disagreements that are holding back the peace process so that another Panglong conference can be held.
“We must discuss together ways to resolve deadlocks in the peace process. Then we can hold a formal meeting and go straight forward to a 21st Century Panglong Union Peace Conference,” said U Khin Zaw Oo, a former Tatmadaw general who sits on the UPDJC as part of the bloc representing the government, parliament and Tatmadaw.
He said to Frontier that it was important to build trust between ethnic armed groups, the government and the Tatmadaw, and that the process be properly inclusive.
Officials from nine ethnic armed groups participated along with 10 representatives from the government and 10 representatives from political parties.
Sai Kyaw Nyunt, secretary of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, told Frontier that the meeting focused both on how to make use of the limited time left before next year’s general election and how peace stakeholders could work with a future government after 2020. He added that to make progress it would be essential to include all ethnic armed groups.
Asked about the KNU’s absence, Kyaw Nyunt said, “Maybe they couldn’t join the meeting because they are busy with their internal affairs, or there may be something else that has created misunderstanding between them and the government.”
An earlier meeting of NCA signatories, including the KNU, that was due to be held on June 8-9 in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand was cancelled because of objections from the Royal Thai Army after the Myanmar military attaché at the embassy in Bangkok requested in a formal letter that it “obstruct” the meeting, Frontier reported on Monday.