By YE MON | FRONTIER
YANGON — The government’s Union Peace Commission has scheduled a meeting in Nay Pyi Taw this week to address the recent decision by the two largest ethnic signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement to suspend their involvement in state-led peace talks.
In an unprecedented blow to the peace process that was initiated by the Thein Sein administration, the Karen National Union said in an October 27 letter to State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi that it would temporarily withdraw from peace talks. The group said it needed to address internal concerns around a high-level meeting last month that failed to achieve a breakthrough over key obstacles to a peace agreement.
Speaking to Frontier on November 10, U Aung Soe, a member of the peace commission, said it would also discuss a November 1 announcement by the Restoration Council of Shan State, another NCA signatory that has been fighting alongside the Tatmadaw in Shan State, to temporarily withdraw from Joint Monitoring Committee meetings.
Like the KNU, the RCSS has said it would hold internal discussions about the decision and the future of the group’s involvement in the peace process.
“In the peace process, we will face difficulties, but we will try to find a solution,” Aung Soe said.
The KNU’s Central Standing Committee held an emergency meeting from November 6 to 10 to review the high-level peace talks held last month between the Tatmadaw, the government and NCA signatories.
Aimed at overcoming the obstacles to peace, the summit instead revealed what appear to be irreconcilable differences with the government and Myanmar military over the issues of non-succession and the formation of a single army. The meeting more broadly reviewed the strengths and weaknesses of the ongoing peace process.
In a November 10 statement, the KNU said conflicts continued in ethnic areas due to violations of the NCA and limitations created during political negotiations.
“In attempting the meaningful participation in the implementation of the peace process and in order to participate in the process by the entire organization with unity, the organization will postpone the attendance of formal meetings temporarily,” said the statement.
However, the KNU said in the same statement that it would engage with the government in informal meetings in order to seek a solution. General secretary Saw Tah Doh Moo said in an interview filmed by the KNU and posted to the group’s official Facebook page that the government, military and ethnic armed groups needed to break the deadlock through informal talks and that it would take time to ensure the success of the peace process. “We need to hold a lot of informal meetings to overcome the deadlocks,” he said.
A Peace Process Steering Team meeting to be chaired by the KNU from November 5 to 7 in Thailand’s Chiang Mai was postponed because it coincided with the group’s emergency meeting.
Saw Mra Yazar Lin, a senior member of the Arakan Liberation Party, which has also signed the NCA, said the KNU intended to hold a meeting with the other nine ethnic armed groups that are party to the nationwide ceasefire to explain the group’s reasons withdrawing from formal talks.