By NYEIN NYEIN / THE IRRAWADDY| Monday, April 20, 2015 |
RANGOON — Ethnic rebel leaders said the United Wa State Army (UWSA) will host a meeting between ethnic armed groups involved in the drafting of the preliminary nationwide ceasefire accord and several ethnic groups that have not directly participated in the process.
Wa spokesman Aung Myint said 12 ethnic groups are expected to convene on May 1-3 in Panghsang, a town located in northern Shan State on the Burma-China border where the powerful UWSA has its headquarters. “We are hosting it upon the request of our ethnic brothers,” he said.
The meeting will not be the much-anticipated conference in which the major rebel groups decide whether or not to endorse the preliminary ceasefire text that was recently agreed upon with the government, ethnic representatives said.
Gen. Gun Maw, deputy chief of staff of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), said the goal of the Panghsang meeting was to foster discussions between groups involved in the nationwide ceasefire negotiations with the government and ethnic groups that are not part of this process.
He said the conference would focus on “the peace process and evaluate on the progress as a whole.”
On March 30, the government agreed in principle with the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), which represents 16 ethnic groups, on the text for a nationwide ceasefire. The understanding was hailed by the government as a breakthrough, though the NCCT said it would have to take the draft text back to its leaders, who would have to convene and endorse its content before an accord can be signed.
Earlier reports suggested that the key meeting could take place in the Wa-controlled area, but it now appears that this meeting will take place later in KIA or Karen National Union (KNU)-controlled territory.
The conference in Panghsang is merely meant to foster discussions between NCCT members and those groups who are not NCCT members, such as the UWSA, the Mongla group and Shan State Army-South, and groups that the government refuses to acknowledge as participants in the nationwide ceasefire process.
The latter groups include the Arakan Army and the Kokang’s Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army. Both have been involved in heavy fighting with the Burma Army in northern Shan State in recent months.
NCCT members that are expected to attend the meeting in the Wa area include the KNU, the KIA, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the New Mon State Party and the Shan State Army-North.
Gun Maw said the Panghsang meeting “is not the NCCT’s proposed summit,” adding that a date and location for the NCCT meeting on endorsing the draft ceasefire agreement was yet to be determined.