Chin rebels strike deal with gov’t during peace talks

Chin rebels strike deal with gov’t during peace talks

The Chin National Front (CNF) and a government peace team have agreed to 27 points from a 33-point plan presented by the armed group during talks last weekend.

According to Myanmar Egress Vice President Hla Muang Shwe, who observed the talks, the two sides ironed out five ratifications that will focus on Chin national affairs, national reconciliation, human rights and the environment, development and social and culture issues.

“Previously, we held talks with the CNF twice in Chin state. Now we are having the second round of union-level talks in Rangoon and have signed agreements on 27 of the 33 points they proposed,” said Hla Maung Shwe.

“We couldn’t agree on certain points that we think would be hard to practice.”

The agreement also aims to stop military skirmishes in Chin state and facilitate union-level political discussions in the future.

“Of the more than 200 nations in the world, I don’t think there are any other countries that can engage in peace talks with many groups at the same time and so I think it needs cooperation from everyone,” said Hla Maung Shwe.

“We have to build trust through holding talks and take gradual steps to achieve genuine peace.”

The second round of negotiations kicked off in Rangoon on 7 December when the 21-member CNF delegation – led by the group’s Secretary General Pu Zin Kyon – met with their government counterparts led by Presidential Office Ministers Aung Min and Soe Thein.

“We were having an off-the-record meeting [last Friday], re-evaluating the agreements reached with the Chin State government as well as planning ahead for a political dialogue in the future,” said CNF Central Executive Committee member Shwe Kha.

However, outsider observers have warned that the CNF risks marginalizing members of their own state by not including larger numbers from various constituencies.

“I remain concerned that larger Chin populations are under-represented by the CNF such as townships like Falam, Tedim, Tongzang, Cikha, Paletwa, Mindat and the Chin populations in other parts of Burma. Because of lack of the wider participation, the agreement does not bring enthusiasm among the Chin people as it should have,” said Chin human rights defender Cheery Zahau.

The CNF is also planning to meet with the Chin National Party to discuss cooperation and regional development following the talks.

The armed group has been militarily engaged with the Burmese army for more than 20 years, but signed a ceasefire agreement with the government in January. The group held union-level talks for the first time in May. During the meeting, the armed group agreed to open liaison offices in Tedim, Matupi and Htantalan townships in Chin state.

-Naw Noreen, Ko Htwe and David Stout contributed reporting. 

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