Gov’t to Meet Northern Alliance, Says Peace Group

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Burma’s government and an alliance of four non-ceasefire ethnic armed groups will meet at the end of this month to discuss the possibility of reaching bilateral ceasefire agreements, according the Kachin State-based Peace-talk Creation Group (PCG).

The venue for the planned meeting, which comes amid intense fighting in northern Shan State between the Burma Army and three members of the Northern Alliance, has not yet been decided, the group said.

“Currently, they have a plan to meet. We will travel tomorrow. I will confirm the venue if they are sure to meet. The scheduled date is August 31,” the PCG’s Sam Awng told NMG.

“Both sides have almost agreed on the meeting venue, which may be in Kengtung. I will confirm it when I know for sure,” Sam Awng said.

“I don’t know exactly who will attend the meeting. I don’t know if representatives of the army will be there. I think they [the Burma Army] should be there,” he added.

The meeting, if it takes place, will be the first between the two sides since one held in Muse, on the Chinese border, on April 30. Subsequent attempts to meet were called off over disagreements about the venue.

While the government has proposed Kengtung for the meeting, the alliance prefers a different venue—Mongla, the headquarters of the National Democratic Alliance Army.

“If it is in Mongla, a meeting is possible because this is in the region of our alliance,” Khine Thukha, the information officer for the United League of Arakan/Arakan (ULA/AA) told NMG.

“If it is going to be held in Kengtung, I think it’s still unsure. The army proposed Kengtung before, but [the alliance members] didn’t agree to go there. I think it’s unlikely the meeting will take place in Kengtung,” he added.

One of the participants of the meeting, Kachin Independent Organization’s delegation leader Lt. General Gunmaw today posted on his facebook that they were traveling to Kengtung. And, the picture of the invitation says this is an informal meeting.

According to Sam Awng, two factors make talks now more urgent than ever: the end of the Burma Army’s unilateral ceasefire in the region, which is set to expire soon, and intense fighting since the ULA/AA and two other alliance members, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance, launched coordinated attacks on Burma Army targets on August 15.

“We need to do something. Both domestic and international communities, including China, want to see a meeting between the government, the army and the ethnic armed groups,” Sam Awng said.

“We expect many things to come out of this meeting. We want to see smooth negotiations and a ceasefire agreement. I think this meeting is important for building trust among them. It’s better to have a meeting than not to have a meeting,” he added.