All Members of Northern Alliance to Meet Gov’t in Kengtung

Friday, August 30, 2019

All four members of an alliance of non-ceasefire ethnic armed groups have agreed to meet with government peace negotiators on Saturday after China said it would guarantee their safety.

The meeting will be held in Kengtung in eastern Shan State, a venue previously rejected by the four alliance members because of concerns about their security.

In a statement released on Thursday, three members of the Northern Alliance—the Arakan Army (AA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA)—said that peaceful dialogue was the best way to solve problems and guarantee the security of all ethnic people.

The statement also accused the Burma Army of impeding peace negotiations by refusing to recognize the Northern Alliance members as dialogue partners and demanding that they disarm as a condition for talks.

“All of our Northern Alliance members will attend the meeting in Kengtung. The Chinese government negotiated for our security. That’s why we will be there,” AA spokesperson Khine Thukha told NMG.

“They will discuss the possibility of signing a bilateral ceasefire agreement, and also how to stop the current clashes,” he added.

The Burma Army has been engaged in fierce clashes with the AA, the TNLA, and the MNDAA since the three alliance members—dubbed the “Northern Alliance Brotherhood”—carried out coordinated attacks on army targets in Pyin Oo Lwin and northern Shan State on August 15.

The fourth member of the alliance, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), has not been involved in that fighting, but continues to engage the Burma Army in Kachin State.

Col. Naw Bu, who heads the information department of the KIA’s political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), said representatives at the meeting would focus on the ceasefire issue but also discuss efforts to enable civilians displaced by conflict to return home.

He added that KIO general secretary La Nan would lead the group’s four-member team at the meeting.

It was unclear who would represent the government and the other alliance members. It was also unlikely that there would be any major breakthroughs, according to some participants.

“I heard that U Thein Zaw from the government’s Peace Commission will attend. I don’t think any agreements will be reached at this meeting. If the government and the army can offer a workable proposal, then negotiations will improve. Otherwise, the situation will be the same,” said Maj. Mai Aik Kyaw, head of the TNLA’s information department.

The meeting will be the first since April 30, despite repeated attempts to restart talks between the two sides.

“The major stumbling block has been security. But with China taking care of our security, it will be safe for us to go to Kengtung. I think China has been pressuring the Burmese government to hold this meeting,” Maj. Mai Aik Kyaw told NMG.

Other alliance members also credited China with making the meeting possible, but also noted the role of another stakeholder—the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC), a grouping led by the powerful United Wa State Army that also includes the Northern Alliance.

“We can hold this meeting because China and the FPNCC successfully negotiated to make it happen,” said Khine Thukha.