Leaders of several of Burma’s ethnic armed groups are convening this week in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in the lead-up to bilateral ceasefire talks.
The Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), a 13-member coalition of ethnic leaders created to liaise with government peace negotiators, began the two-day conference in the Northern Thai city on Monday.
Nai Hongsa, NCCT vice-chair and member of the New Mon State Party, was joined by colleagues Saw Kwe Htoo Win of the Karen National Union and Maj-Gen Gun Maw, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Kachin Independence Army.
“We are reviewing the framework … such as policies, terms and other technical issues, and discussing the upcoming meeting [with the government],” said Kwe Htoo Win, deputy leader of the NCCT. The group is supposed to meet with the UPWC in Rangoon next month to proceed with negotiations.
The NCCT has identified nine ceasefire points that they wish to amend, which include military ethics, liaison offices, framework for future political dialogue and protection for civilians in conflict zones.
The drafting in March of a single-text ceasefire agreement signalled considerable progress towards ending the country’s decades of civil war, but optimism faded as fighting in Kachin and northern Shan states broke out again in early April.
Kwe Htoo Win emphasised that the Kachin Independence Organisation and the government must immediately take measures to resolve the conflict, and that the issue will be addressed in chapter seven of the ceasefire draft.
The United Nationalities Federal Council, a coalition of 11 ethnic armed groups, on 23 April issued a public warning to the Burmese army that offensives against ethnic armed groups during peace negotiations could undo progress made to date.