Twelve ethnic armed groups in Burma have agreed to an alliance they claim will see them collaborate in their struggle against the Burmese junta.
Around 50 representatives from a dozen groups, including several ceasefire armies, were present at the four-day talks along the Thai-Burma border this week.
Under the banner of the Union Nationalities Federal Council (Union of Burma), groups such as the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) will come together for the first time in their history.
“Whether armed or ceasefire, we are all uniting as one ethnic group,” said the Council’s newly appointed joint secretary–1, Khun Okkar. “We will try to find ways to solve the political problems via political means, whilst carrying out resistance together.
He said that the alliance had laid down a number of specific objectives, including official recognition of armed ethnic groups and their territory, and their role as protectors of Burma’s myriad ethnic peoples.
Burma’s border regions are home to some 135 different ethnic nationalities whom collectively are outnumbered by the Burman majority, which dominates the country’s government. More than 20 armed ethnic groups operate in these regions, some of whom have fought decades-long wars against the Burmese army.
One of the more prominent groups is the Karen National Union, which has also agreed to become part of the new Council. It’s commander-in-chief, Mutu Say Poe, was appointed chairman at the meeting, and will head a cabinet of six people, including members of the Pa-O National Organisation, the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF).
Other groups included in the Council are the Chin National Front (CNF), Kachin National Organization (KNO), Lahu Democratic Union (LDU), National Unity Party of Arakan (UNPA), Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF), PaO National Liberation Organisation (PNLO) and the Wa National Organisation (WNO).