ENAC Briefing Paper No. 1
The Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) and Union Peace-making Work Committee (UPWC) met at the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) in Rangoon, Burma, for the sixth round of talks to negotiate the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) over five days from September 22 to 26, 2014. The NCCT is the negotiating team representing 16 Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs), including all members of the United Nationalities Federal Council and its associate members. The UPWC consists of representatives from Burma’s government, parliament, and military, and it reports to the Union Peace-making Central Committee (UPCC). Following the talks, a meeting was held between members of the NCCT, UPWC, and political parties. The NCCT also held a briefing meeting with civil society representatives. The next round of talk was agreed to be held in October, but October was gone.
Despite expectations that the participants might be able to complete most of the remaining points during this round of talks, progress was not made and in some ways the negotiations moved backward rather than forward. Burma’s Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing replaced the lead military negotiator Lt. General Thet Naing Win with Lieutenant-General Myint Soe, and the military representatives emphasized the Tatmadaw’s Six Peace Principles, which include “strict adherence to the existing laws and acceptance of the 2008 constitution. “Some participants felt that the negotiation backtracked, for instance when members of the UPWC reopened discussion of the roadmap for political dialogue”.
Other difficult issues included the responsibilities of EAOs during the Interim Period (Interim Period means the period from signing NCA to signing the national peace agreement), and drafting the military code of conduct and the joint monitoring committee.
The fifth round of talks held in August saw much progress, including agreement on the inclusion of text about a federal system in accordance with both sides’ principles and with details to be determined during the political dialogue. For the political dialogue to be meaningful and lead to sustainable and durable peace, it will necessarily lead to constitutional change.
The setbacks to the talks showed that the core issues still remain to deal with. The participants had established a ground rule that nothing would be finalized until all of the text was agreed, but returning to earlier agreed sections of the text slowed down the talks and changed the tone of the negotiations. Military affairs remain a difficult area for both sides to find common ground in a way that fits within the larger peace process roadmap.
During the meeting with political parties, NCCT Leader Nai Han Tha explained that the ethnic nationalities want to join the Union as they chose to with the Panglong Agreement. He stated that “[i]f we can build a genuine federal union based on equality and self-determination, then no one need worry about us breaking away.” He explained that the current peace process presents an opportunity to create a federal union and rights for the people through law and democracy,
which will be necessary to resolve the longstanding conflicts. President’s Minister U Aung Min emphasized the government’s focus on the NCA, stating, “An agreement will pave the way for holding a political dialogue, so we are committed to make every effort to move to bring about this historic event.” It is a positive sign that the parties hope to meet again in the future.