The Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and the Wa National Organisation (WNO) have withdrawn from the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), a formerly seven-member coalition of ethnic armed groups that have yet to sign Burma’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.
The KIO submitted to the UNFC a letter of resignation signed by its secretary, La Nan, and dated 29 April, Pa-O National Liberation Organisation (PNLO) patron Colonel Khun Okkar told DVB.
“The KIO Secretary La Nan signed the letter and withdrew KIO membership from the UNFC so as not to be a hindrance for other organisations in the UNFC, which will probably join the National Ceasefire Agreement [NCA]. This is probably one of the reasons behind the decision,” he said.
“The other thing is the KIO wants to give up its involvement in the NCA [framework for peace talks] as well as in the Wa armed groups alliance,” Khun Okkar added, referring to a relatively new grouping of ethnic armed organisations led by the powerful United Wa State Army (UWSA).
“It is possible that the KIO plans to take a different approach to talks with the government and to stand alone in further discussions. It might have been difficult for the KIO to engage with the Wa grouping.”
Likewise, the WNO reportedly drew up a letter withdrawing from the UNFC earlier this month.
In the letter, the WNO cited some reasons for pulling out of the alliance, including that it has been having more difficulty collaborating with the UNFC than in the earlier days of its membership. There are also discussions about forming an umbrella grouping of Wa organisations, tentatively to be named the Wa National League, with the WNO exodus from the UNFC partly in preparation for the league’s establishment.
As of Monday, the UNFC had not made an official announcement regarding the matter, nor had the KIO or WNO offered formal comment.
Maung Maung Soe, an ethnic affairs analyst, told DVB, “Although the KIO is resigning from the UNFC, it is not certain whether the remaining UNFC members will sign the NCA.”
“Not a single organisation has signed the NCA after 15 October 2015, when eight organisations and [their respective] armed groups signed the NCA,” he added.
Countering Khun Okkar’s assertion, Maung Maung Soe said it was “unlikely” that the UNFC’s remaining members would sign the NCA. He cited the various “dilemmas” facing the groups, including a decision by the Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP) to join a February summit of the UWSA-led ethnic armed grouping, which has renounced the accord.
The latest developments in a series of shifting alliances and posturing among Burma’s ethnic armed groups come as the government prepares to host the second round of the 21st Century Panglong Conference. The high-level peace talks are the National League for Democracy’s signature foray into the peace process, but its framework has been largely carried over from that of the previous government and requires ethnic armed groups to sign the NCA if they are to be eligible to participate fully.
The government has announced that the five-day conference will convene on 24 May.
With the KIO and WNO backing out, the five remaining UNFC members are the SSPP, the New Mon State Party (NMSP), the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), the Lahu Democratic Union (LDU) and the Arakan National Council (ANC).