A number of Burma’s EAOs have responded to Min Aung Hlaing’s invitation to face-to-face talks, one day after the coup leader made the gesture. The reaction has been predictably cool, with armed groups unanimously expressing a lack of trust in the coup leader’s intentions.
On the same day that state media outlets ran with a call from the dictator for new “peace talks”, the junta’s Ministry of Defense issued a statement requesting those addressed to not “recruit forces”, expand territorially, nor attack its bases during, what it terms, its “invitation period” — EAOs have been given until May 9 to reply to the senior general.
Some have speculated that the military’s attempt to engage leaders reflects an increasing unease amongst the generals as monsoon season approaches — diminishing the critical utility of the Burma Air Force’s helicopters and fighter jets — and the NUG’s Ministry of Defense boasts of improved warfare capability.
The second secretary of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), Aung San Myit, told DVB that the junta’s calls for discussion no longer match the political direction of revolutionary ethnic organizations.
“[Min Aung Hlaing’s] version of political discussion will be premised in the law of the 2008 Constitution. We always knew and recognized that such a law was always in place to prop up the dictatorship in Burma,” he said.
Karen National Union (KNU) spokesperson, Pado Saw Htaw Ni, said: “Our desire is simple. We never denied peace talks. And we also respect peace processes due to the history we’ve been through. We talked to the military face to face, but from our own experience, it didn’t work well — despite talks, they did as they pleased and now we have ended up with a coup. Based on our experiences and lessons, we decided we will never let that kind of discussion happen in the future. So, we have also made preparations for any upcoming political discussions; Namely: [the military has] to accept our opening demands. If they don’t accept, there will be no more peace talks.”
The spokesperson of the Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP), major Sai Su said: “This is a positive development for a peace process. However, good words must be met with good work. I could say that it would be positive step forward for the military to meet all armed organizations, small or big, which are in conflict across the country. But practice is key.”
The Chairman of the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF), Than Khae, an EAO which is still actively participating in the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement steering team, said: “As I understand it, the situation in Burma will not be solved only via discussion with EAOs and federal democracy — the situation today is between the dictatorship and the entire public. Despite it saying it want’s a “democratic transition”, people on the ground have no trust in the military and are suffering from its slaughters, arrests, and arson. If they don’t stop committing these crimes whilst continuing to invite EAOs to talks, I think the talks and the country will be hindered, creating a more complicated political landscape.”
Despite the military’s recent declaration of a ceasefire until the end of 2022 in order to have the year recognized as what Min Aung Hlaing has termed the “Year of Peace”, air and ground troops continue to bombard those living inside Burma, committing daily crimes against humanity.