ENAC Briefing No. 3
Following a series of informal discussions held in Chiang Mai over the preceding weeks, members of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) and Union Peace- making Work Committee (UPWC) met for a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) Coordination Meeting in Rangoon on 22-23 December 2014. This meeting was the first held in Rangoon since the sixth round of talks in September and the attack on the cadet academy at Laiza, Kachin State, on 19 November 2014 that killed 23 and injured an additional 20 persons, all members of six different Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs).
The NCA Coordination Meeting was not a formal negotiation round, but a discussion between the parties to prepare for the seventh round in January and to work towards rebuilding trust. The sixth round of talks in September was a setback in the process, as the Commander-in-Chief replaced his lead negotiator and directed his representatives to renegotiate already agreed upon points. The attack on 19 November greatly harmed trust between the negotiating parties. The use of heavy weapons to bomb cadets at a graduation ceremony was a shocking attack, and it was condemned in statements by many EAOs, political parties, and civil society organizations. The KIO and other affected organizations have also not felt that the Tatmadaw leadership has responded honestly and appropriately in public or in direct communications. The KIO has called for the withdrawal of the outpost used to conduct the attack and cessation of the use of heavy weapons.
The full NCCT and UPWC did not attend the NCA Coordination Meeting. Five NCCT members, including Deputy Leader 1 Padoh Kwe Htoo Win, plus technical team members, attended the meeting. Gen. Gun Maw did not attend, showing that the KIO was not satisfied with the Tatmadaw’s response to the 19 November attack and the ongoing fighting. NCCT Team Leader Nai Hong Sa did not attend. The Tatmadaw representatives to the UPWC also did not attend. Lt. Gen. Thet Naing Win, who was replaced by Lt. Gen. Myint Soe as the Tatmadaw’s Team Leader in September, attended the talks as part of the executive branch team led by Minister U Aung Min. NCCT members also attended meetings with political parties and civil society organizations during their time in Rangoon.
Prior to and during the NCA Coordination Meeting, the NCCT has made requests designed to help rebuild the trust and get the NCA negotiations back on track. The NCCT has requested a discussion between the parties about the 19 November attack, a commission to investigate the attack and ensure it would not happen again in any part of the country, and an honest explanation of the attack.
The NCCT discussed with the UPWC increasing the participation of the international community in the NCA process by including members of the Peace Donor Support Group in addition to the already agreed observers, the UN and China. Outside observersgenerally agree that greater third party involvement could increase confidence in the process. The donor community should be willing to support the process if the parties agree on their involvement.
The NCCT requested that the next round of talks be held in mid-January in Myitkyina, Kachin State. This location would provide an appropriate venue for the UPWC and affected EAOs to discuss the 19 November attack and rebuild trust while returning to the table for the substantive NCA negotiations. Although the UPWC may be resistant to holding the next round of talks in Myitkyina, the first formal NCA talks were held there in November 2013, so it should be possible if viewed as a way to build trust and advance the discussions towards the shared goal of reaching the NCA.
Despite the setbacks and challenges facing the parties following the sixth round of talks and the 19 November attack, the NCCT, MPC, and UPWC have worked hard to maintain dialogue, find ways to rebuild trust, and move the NCA negotiations forward. The UPWC is now consulting with the UPCC about the NCCT’s requests and the next steps for the process. The remaining substantive issues to agree upon should all be workable if all the key decision makers truly desire to achieve the NCA. The Tatmadaw and the Commander-in-Chief have the ability at this time to push the negotiation the final steps toward an agreement by showing that they intend to reach and keep the agreement. This can be achieved if the Tatmadaw ceases its offensives in the North, participates in confidence-building measures to respond to the 19 November attack, and engages productively with the substantive progress made between the NCCT and other UPWC members.