Following one week of peace talks in Rangoon, a leading delegate of the ethnic bloc Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), Salai Lian Hmung Sakhong, has confirmed to DVB that only four issues remain on the table for discussion when negotiations resume next week.
“The first issue is a military affair, regarding the future recruitment of soldiers for ethnic armed groups,” he said.
“The second point will be concerning political dialogue, and the third matter is related to the government’s request to appoint its own ethnic representatives at future rounds of political dialogue.”
Salai Lian Hmung said that the NCCT disagrees with the government’s proposal, saying that ethnic groups are already sufficiently represented at the ceasefire talks.
“We want to know on what basis the government would like to appoint their own ethnic representatives,” he said.
“The fourth and final issue regards the ethnic armed groups’ stance during the transitional period, during the process of political dialogue,” he said.
The comments from Salai Lian Hmung, a member of the Chin National Front, come after the latest round of ceasefire negotiations between government delegates and the NCCT which kicked off in Rangoon on 17 March and concluded on 22 March. The talks are set to continue on 30 March.
The Thein Sein government has expressed a desire to sign a nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) shortly after the Burmese New Year, which falls in mid-April, with a view to initiating political dialogue before the general election in November.
However, conflict is still raging in the Kokang region of northeastern Shan State between Burmese government forces and at least three members of the NCCT: the Kokang militia known as Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA); the Arakan Army; and the Ta-ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).
At the same time, arguably the most prominent member of the alliance, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), is engaged in frequent clashes with government forces across Kachin State and in northern Shan State.
Burma’s state media this week said the Burmese army had attacked Kachin positions using warplanes and accused the KIA of overseeing illegal logging operations.
The KIA’s political wing, the Kachin Independence Organisation, was conspicuous by its absence at talks in Naypyidaw on 12 February – Burma’s Union Day – which was the original date Thein Sein had set as a target for signing the NCA.
Other setbacks in the peace process include the government forces’ shelling in November of a Kachin training base near Laiza which killed 23 ethnic cadets.