The meeting was set to discuss a proposal to disband the Burma Army-approved Peace Process Steering Team.
Plans to examine a proposal to scrap the Burma Army-approved Peace Process Steering Team (PPST)—a body comprising ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) that have signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA)—were put on hold after Thai authorities shut down a meeting set to take place in Chiang Mai last weekend.
It was the first time that a meeting of the 10 EAOs, who successfully completed talks on other issues last week, had been blocked since the signing of the NCA three years ago, signaling the sensitivity of the PPST issue.
The move came after Brig.-Gen. Khin Zaw, the military attaché to the Burmese embassy in Bangkok, sent a letter to the director of the Royal Thai Army’s foreign liaison office last Friday requesting that Thai authorities “obstruct” the meeting.
“The 10 NCA-signatory EAOs were going to discuss the PPST issue. It was not just a meeting of the NCA groups, but would also include some non-NCA EAOs. The [Burma Army’s] accusation was that it would disrupt the peace process. That’s why they asked the Thai authorities to block the meeting,” said Khun Sai, an advisor to the PPST.
According to Khun Sai, the meeting to discuss the PPST issue has been “postponed”.
Leaders of the 10 groups that attended last week’s talks, which were also held in Chiang Mai, agreed on a common position for negotiations with the government and sought solutions to issues that have stalled the peace process.
Ethnic leaders say they are worried about the future of the peace process after 2020 because despite government assurances that political dialogue would continue beyond that year, the Burma Army has insisted that negotiations would have to be concluded by then.
“All of us are worried about post-2020. The Burmese government and the Burma Army should be more transparent about this,” said Khun Sai.
This is not the first time the Thai authorities have blocked a meeting of ethnic groups from Burma at the behest of the Burma Army. In the past, a planned meeting of the Committee for Shan State Unity in Chiang Mai was also called off because of pressure from the host country.