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A negotiating committee representing seven ethnic armed groups in northern Burma says it intends to attend next week’s Union Peace Conference in Naypyidaw, which is being organised by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s government.
The Union Political Negotiation Dialogue Committee (UPNDC) was created last month following a meeting of the ethnic armed groups in Panghsang, capital of the Wa autonomous region. The coalition released a statement on Wednesday announcing that the bloc is ready to join the peace summit, but represented by a joint committee — not individually.
The statement called for an end to warfare between Burmese government forces and ethnic armed groups, and requested talks “as soon as possible” between the government, the military and the UPNDC.
None of the UPNDC members is signatory to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), meaning if the government accepts its overture to attend the Union Peace Conference, the bloc’s delegation will likely attend as “observers,” as opposed to full participants. The high-level peace talks are the National League for Democracy’s signature foray into Burma’s peace process, but its framework has been largely carried over from that of the previous government and requires ethnic armed groups to sign the NCA if they are to be eligible to participate fully.
The five-day Union Peace Conference is due to convene on 24 May.
The UPNDC will represent the following armed groups at next week’s peace summit, also known as the 21st Century Panglong Conference: the Arakan Army; the Kachin Independence Army (KIA); the Ta’ang National Liberation Army; the Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army-North; the National Democratic Alliance Army; the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army; and the United Wa State Army.
Earlier this month, the KIA withdrew from the United Nationalities Federal Council, a separate alliance of ethnic armies not signatory to the NCA.