Burma’s ethnic leaders convened in Laiza, Kachin State, on Thursday for the next round of discussions on a nationwide ceasefire agreement, where they established a leading committee to oversee political aspects of the peace process.
The 16-member Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) established the committee in a closed-door meeting, postponing the group’s discussions on the text of the ceasefire, which resumed on Friday under its supervision.
“The committee is tasked to lead political affairs,” said Khun Okkar, a member of the NCCT representing the Pa-O National Liberation Organisation. “The conference will proceed as planned and the committee will oversee, supervise and provide political leadership — like the US Senate — while the NCCT’s duty is to report its undertakings.”
The committee will be chaired by Mutu Say Poe, commander-in-chief of the Karen National Union. Lt-Gen Gam Shawng, chief-of-staff for the Kachin Independence Army, was appointed as deputy chairman of the leading committee. Vice-chairman of the Karenni National Progressive Party Khu Oo Reh will serve as secretary. Representatives of each NCCT member organisation have also been appointed to serve on the committee.
The conference in Laiza, headquarters of the Kachin Independence Organisation, is the third summit held by NCCT members as the nation works towards achieving an inclusive, state-level peace accord. While the Burmese military initially created an August deadline for signing the pact, disagreements between the government’s Union Peace-Making Work Committee (UPWC) and the NCCT have caused delays. Sources close to the process have estimated that the two sides will reach an agreement in September.
Meetings began on Friday centred on the second draft of a single-text ceasefire agreement, which combines independent demands made and agreed upon by union-level stakeholders and the NCCT. Discussions were originally scheduled to begin on 24 July, but were postponed to accommodate Thursday’s private meeting and appointment of the leading committee members.
Representatives of most NCCT member organisations are present at the summit, though the United Wa State Army (UWSA) abstained, as they did during a similar session in October 2013. The group’s spokesperson, Aung Myint, told DVB that its absence was due to short notice. The UWSA was not given enough time to thoroughly read the new ceasefire draft, he said, adding that while the group also desires an agreement that would establish a federalist system, the creation of a federal army will require time.