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Ethnic peace negotiators got down to brass tacks on Wednesday during their second day of meetings in Chiang Mai, Thailand, taking up specific issues of troop placement and post-ceasefire recruitment.
Nai Hongsa, vice-chairman of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), said that the ethnic peacemaking bloc debated whether military operations should remain as they are during the transitional period between signing a ceasefire and implementing political dialogue.
“We discussed how armed groups should proceed during the transitional period,” he told DVB on Wednesday. “[We decided that] Things should stay as they are now, with troops in their current positions. We are also reviewing requests that there be no new recruitment after signing the ceasefire.”
The three-day meeting is focused primarily on the third draft of a nationwide ceasefire agreement, which is expected to be signed by the end of this year and would later be signed into law though parliamentary approval.
The most recent and perhaps final draft was agreed upon during the most recent round of meetings between the NCCT and the government’s negotiating team, the Union Peace-making Work Committee (UPWC), held in Rangoon in August.
NCCT deputy leader and vice-chief of staff for the Kachin Independence Organisation, Maj-Gen Gun Maw, downplayed the meetings as “nothing special”, explaining that the team is simply reviewing an agreement that has already undergone several rounds of debate.
“We are discussing the draft agreement that came out of our meetings in Rangoon. We are reviewing the document and adding a few points to discuss with government. Nothing special. We aim to finish the draft,” he said.
The NCCT and the UPWC have announced plans to meet in late September, but no date has yet been set. An original August deadline for reaching a nationwide accord came and went, with some players in the peace process predicting that the agreement would be reached by mid-September, when a fresh session of the Union Parliament is set to begin.
The government’s chief peace negotiator, Aung Min, now predicts that a nationwide ceasefire will be signed by the end of October.
Nai Hongsa, however, said that the ethnic groups have now reached an agreement on most issues, and moving forward will depend on whether Naypyidaw can meet their needs during the next round of bilateral talks.