By NYAN HLAING LYNN | FRONTIER
NAY PYI TAW — The United Nationalities Federal Council has responded to doubts about its future by announcing it will welcome back two former members.
The UNFC revealed after a February 23 to 25 meeting that it had decided to readmit the Kachin National Organization (KNO) and Chin National Front (CNF), which had been founding members of the bloc when it was set up by ethnic armed groups back in 2010.
The KNO resigned in 2017 and the CNF was suspended in 2015 when it signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement. The UNFC said in a statement that they would be formally reinstated at a UNFC interim congress in July.
The announcement came amid questions about the future of the UNFC, after two of its four active members, the New Mon State Party and Lahu Democratic Union, broke with the bloc’s position on collective decision-making and signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement on February 13.
The February 25 statement said the meeting was attended by representatives of the NMSP, LDU, Karenni National Progressive Party, Shan State Progress Party and Arakan National Council. Although no longer a member, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) sent a representative, the statement said.
“[T]he member organisations of UNFC decided to collectively pursue peace in Burma’s current peace process through the NCA path,” it said.
When Frontier asked CNF chairman Dr Salai Lian Hmung about the group being readmitted to the UNFC, he said he was unaware of it. “I don’t know. The CNF has not made any decision to rejoin the UNFC. We haven’t even discussed it.”
UNFC central executive committee member U Twan Zaw did not answer the question, but added, “NCA signatories will go on that path to peace, while non-signatories will continue to negotiate with the Peace Commission.”
The efforts to bolster the UNFC may not carry much weight with the government, however. State Counsellor’s Office spokesman U Zaw Htay said the government does not recognise the ANC because it lacks armed forces. Because the SSPP has also sought to resign from the bloc, the government recognises only the KNPP as a UNFC member.
It is proposing to dispense with the UNFC and its negotiating team, the Delegation for Political Negotiation, and instead open bilateral talks with the KNPP, Zaw Htay said.
He added that the government would not consider negotiating with the KNO. “It will create difficulties if the government agrees to negotiate with any new group that arises,” he said. “So the government has set a policy of not negotiating with new groups.”
To date 10 ethnic armed groups have signed the nationwide ceasefire, while around 10 have not. Most of those that have refused are members of the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee, a bloc led by the power United Wa State Army.