RCSS: Peace Process ‘At A Standstill’

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Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) spokesperson Col Sai Nguen recently spoke to SHAN reporter Sai Yawd Kham about talks between signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) held in Yangon last week. Issues that came up included the possibility of another session of the Union Peace Conference—also known as the 21st Century Panglong—and the current state of the peace process. 

2019 09 12 NRPC and EAO 2
Photo by – Hla Maung Shwe/  NCA EAO’s meeting, Yangon 10/9/2019

The interview is below. 

Can you tell me about your recent meeting with the government? 

Well, representatives of the government and NCA-signatory EAOs [ethnic armed groups] held a meeting at the NRPC [National Reconciliation and Peace Center] office in Yangon on September 10. Ten representatives from the government and 15 representatives from NCA-signatory EAOs attended the meeting. 

What is the update regarding the holding of the 21st Century Panglong Conference in early 2020?

In the meeting, we discussed the 21st Panglong Conference. They [the government] wants to hold the 21st Century Panglong Conference. We also want to hold the 21st Century Panglong conference. After negotiation, the 21st Panglong Conference is likely to be held in early 2020. But representatives of both sides need to report it to our respective leaders. For us, we have to report it to the PPST [Peace Process Steering Team]. The government’s representatives will also report to their leaders. In this stage, we discuss what we want to do. It’s not at the decision-making stage. 

When do you meet again? 

I expect we will meet again in the second week of next month. 

Could you tell us what else you discussed in the meeting? 

The peace process isn’t moving anywhere. It’s at a standstill. We want to overcome this situation. Representatives of the 10 NCA-signatory EAOs had prepared our discussion topics and the government’s representatives also prepared their topics. We openly discussed our topics in the meeting. Then we got agendas from the meeting, and we discussed how to move forward [to carry out] this agenda. 

Another thing is that the NCA signing is having its fourth anniversary coming up on October 15. We discussed that we wanted to hold a ceremony for the fourth anniversary like we have in previous years. We prepared for it. We wanted to hold a meeting of top leaders by using this fourth anniversary commemoration. We expect this meeting will likely be held three to four days after the anniversary commemoration. We want to create circumstances for there to be a close relationship. We feel that we are currently a little bit far [from achieving this]. 

2019 09 12 NRPC and EAO 11
Photo by – Hla Maung Shwe/  NCA EAO’s meeting, Yangon 10/9/2019

According to what you said, the NCA is now four years old but the peace process is still at a standstill. There are many deadlocked issues in the process. What do you think it will take to solve these problems? 

Well, as the NCA turns into four years, I am not satisfied with current situation of the peace process. But we have to be patient. We need dialogue to solve these problems with mutual respect. Now we are going under the NCA framework, so we cannot use violence. We also discussed how to persuade non-NCA EAOs to participate in the peace process. According to the list, there are about 20 ethnic armed organizations. Only 10 EAOs signed the NCA. There are 10 non-signatory NCA EAOs outside of the NCA. We need to create circumstances for it to be ‘all-inclusive.’ We have to seek a way to make this happen. 

Thank you for your time, Colonel. 

This interview was lightly edited for clarity. 

In the September 10 meeting, the government’s representatives included NRPC deputy chairperson (3) Tun Tun Oo, retired Lt-Gen Khin Zaw Oo, Lt-Gen Yar Pyae, Lt-Gen Min Naung, Maj-Gen Soe Naing Oo, Maj-Gen Nay Lin, Pyone Cho, Hla Maung Shwe, Moe Zaw Oo, and director of the President’s Office Zaw Htay. 

Representing EAOs were Col Sai Nguen, Yebaw Myo Win, Dr. Salai Lian Hmong Sakhong, Saw Mra Razar Lin, Khun Myint Tun, Nai Aung Mangae, Col Saw Sein Win, Padoh Saw El Kalu Say, Col Saw Kyaw Nyung, Col Salomon, Padoh Saw Sel Gay, Sai Leng, Brig-Gen Saw Tar Malar Thaw, Col Seng Harn, Col Banyar Chamnon, and office and technical staff. 

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