The much awaited meeting between government’s National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC) and National Alliance – Burma (NA-B) took place on August 31 morning, in eastern Shan State Kengtung at Amazing Kengtong Resort.
The NRPC delegation is headed by NRPC’s Peace Commission (PC) Vice-Chairman Thein Zaw, Secretary General Khin Zaw Oo (retired), Shan State Security and Border Affairs Minister Col Hla Oo, Presidential Office Director Zaw Htay, Shan State Government Secretary Soe Soe Zaw, and PC Advisor Moe Zaw Oo.
In four-member NA-B, the Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/KIA) four-men delegation was headed by KIO Central Committee Secretary Com Htat Htaing Nan; the Kokang or Myanmar National Truth and Justice Party/Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDJP/MNDAA) four-men delegation led by Deputy Commander-in-Chief Yan Kin Kyong; the Palaung State Liberation Front/Ta’ang National Liberation Army (PSLF/TNLA) three-men delegation led by Vice-Chairman (2) Tar Khu Lan; and the United League of Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA) three-men delegation led by Brigadier-General Nyo Tun Aung.
At the end of the meeting a six-point joint-statement of NRPC and NA-B was issued, which wrote:
- NRPC and the four organizations’ representatives of KIO, PSLF, MNDJP, ULA met on August 31, 2019, in Shan State Kengtung, at Amazing Kengtong Resort.
- In the meeting with the aim of stopping the ongoing battles, the (possible) signing of bilateral ceasefire agreement were cordially and transparently discussed.
- In the meeting demarcation of armed troops, rules and regulations to prevent armed conflict issues discussion with the Tatmadaw representative team were agreed.
- The next meeting is agreed on September 16-17, 2019 and the meeting venue is to be negotiated and agreed upon.
- After the bilateral ceasefire agreement, it is agreed that negotiation to sign NCA will follow.
- (We) hereby announced that the two sides will continue to strive with full political will, in order to stop the ongoing battles within the country sooner, national reconciliation and peace within the union.
Zaw Htay in its press conference at the end of the meeting emphasized the recent civilian casualties of 5 civilians, including a small child, in Mawhit village, Kutkai township, and have serious, heated discussion with the Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) attending the meeting.
He, moreover, moaned that the disruption of the union road from Nawngkhio to Muse, an economic life line is hurting, which generates 75% of the country’s trade volume. He said the closing down of this route affected everybody, even the the farmers in the Irrawaddy delta.
Nyo Tun Aung before leaving for Mongla gave a short interview where he said the results are positive and that both sides have agreed to meet again and only the venue has to be agreed upon. He said that the NA-B side proposed for Panghsang, now known as Pangkham, while the NRPC wanted to use the same venue, Kengtung.
It is far too early to speculate if the meeting could be termed as a break through. Nevertheless, talking is better than shooting or fighting, even though no one could guarantee the de-escalation of the ongoing war in Arakan and northern Shan states will follow soon after this. But for the people in conflict zones, the generosity of both the warring parties good will gesture in form of toning down the conflict will at least give them a breathing space, after years of having to endure the agony of war in contested areas.