The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) is sending teams across Burma to meet with local civil society groups to prepare for potential political talks with the government.
According to UNFC spokesperson Khun Okkar, the group’s Ethnic Nationalities Cooperation Committee will begin sending teams to different ethnic regions in the country to negotiate with local organisations and discuss talking points ahead of future political talks with the government, which have yet to be scheduled or agreed upon.
“We are taking field trips to meet with local organisations to negotiate with them about their individual agreement [concerning] the principles and guidelines for the political discussion with the [government],” said Khun Okka.
He said the UNFC hopes government negotiators will avoid meeting with groups individually and instead hold inclusive talks in the future.
“We wish to emphasise our aim to sit in the dialogue together, not as one group. If we reach an agreement based on the guidelines we want to [put on the] the table, we can be more organised,” said the spokesperson.
In a press release published on 10 January, the UNFC announced that they would be negotiating collectively and would no longer recognise ceasefires made between the government and individual organisations.
“The UNFC, therefore, officially notifies the government of Myanmar/Burma that the UNFC is a sole negotiation body to the government in terms of comprehensive ceasefire and peace talks with the UNFC member organisations,” read the press statement.
The UNFC also said in the press release that the escalation of hostilities toward the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has ‘eroded’ trust between the country’s ethnic nationals and President Thein Sein’s government.
“There is an ongoing serious military offensive against the [KIA], a UNFC member, so we are looking to prioritise stopping the war in Kachin.”
The KIA is the only major ethnic militia that has yet to reach a deal with the government following the collapse of their previous 17-year ceasefire in 2011.
The UNFC and government negotiators have met several times in the past year, but have yet to engage in formal talks with the state.
The group consists of 11 ethnic armed groups including the Karen National Union, New Mon State Party, Kachin Independence Organisation, Karenni National Progressive Party and the Chin National Front.