By THE IRRAWADDY | April 20, 2016
-The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of nine ethnic armed groups, is taking steps toward holding peace talks with President Htin Kyaw’s government.
The meeting of current UNFC members, who opted out of the so-called Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the previous government in October 2015, began Tuesday in Chiang Mai and focused on future plans, including negotiations with the new government.
“We’ve heard somewhat about the standpoint of the new government. So we guess there will be a political dialogue soon. We are preparing, through this meeting, for additional discussion of a nationwide ceasefire,” UNFC vice chairperson Nai Hong Sar told journalists.
The three-day meeting will reportedly focus on the latest actions of a negotiation group that was formed by the UNFC in an attempt to quell conflict between the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA-S) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army/Palaung State Liberation Front (TNLA/PSLF).
Thousands of internally displaced persons in Shan State, particularly in Kyaukme Township, have fled recent fighting between the two sides, who split over the signing of the agreement; the RCSS is a signatory, while the TNLA is not. Clashes between the two groups first erupted in late November and have persisted in the months since.
Additionally, the meeting will focus on progress in the merger between the United League for Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA) as well as the political framework drafted by the former President Thein Sein’s government and the eight ethnic armed groups that signed the NCA.
UNFC members welcomed Aung San Suu Kyi’s speech delivered on the occasion of the Burmese New Year, in which she promised to build a genuine, democratic federal union, seeing it as an auspicious sign for peace talks.