Ethnic armed groups, gov’t likely to meet over ceasefire deal in Chiang Mai in July

Nai Hong Sar (right) briefs media about the progress of a three-member ethnic delegation’s informal meeting with the government side at Green Hill Hotel in Yangon on Tuesday. Also pictured are delegates U Tun Zaw and Pado Saw Kwe Htoo Win.— Photo: Ye Myint
Nai Hong Sar (right) briefs media about the progress of a three-member ethnic delegation’s informal meeting with the government side at Green Hill Hotel in Yangon on Tuesday. Also pictured are delegates U Tun Zaw and Pado Saw Kwe Htoo Win.— Photo: Ye Myint

Yangon, 23 June — Ethnic armed groups are likely to hold informal talks with the Myanmar government toward a national ceasefire agreement in the first week of July in Chiang Mai, Thailand, a negotiator from the ethnic side said Tuesday.
The revelation came from Nai Hong Sar, one of three ethnic delegates who met informally with a government delegation led by Union Minister U Aung Min at Myanmar Peace Centre in Yangon on Monday.
The meeting was aimed at paving the way for further negotiations between the government and a new high-level nationwide ceasefire coordination team appointed by the ethnic armed groups at the recent Law Khee Lar summit to finalize the approved draft text for the ceasefire, he added
“We proposed to hold an informal meeting between a delegation led by Union Minister U Aung Min and senior delegates of ethnic armed groups in
Chiang Mai next month, but no exact date is set yet,” said Nai Hong Sar, who is vice-chairman of the New Mon State Party and leader of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team comprising 16 ethnic armed groups.
The role of the new ethnic negotiating team in finalizing the draft peace deal was explained to the Union ministers and party at the meeting on Monday, Nai Hong Sar added.
“The informal talks with ethnic peace negotiators are likely to take place in Chiang Mai in the first week of next month,” U Hla Maung Shwe, senior adviser at the MPC, said, adding that the likelihood of further formal talks should be clearer after the Chiang Mai meeting.
After a year and a half of peace negotiations between the government’s Union Peace-Making Work Committee and the NCCT, both sides approved a draft ceasefire deal after the seventh round of negotiations last March.
Since then, the government indicated readiness to officially sign the draft accord as soon as possible. However, ethnic armed organizations held a conference to seek final approval of the draft deal in Law Khee Lar in Kayin State in early June. The Law Khee Lar summit concluded with an agreement by the 16 NCCT members to sign the draft ceasefire accord, but only if some amendments were made.
“Signing of the draft deal must be inclusive of all ethnic groups,” Nai Hong Sa said.
Moreover, the ethnic side created a new 15-member negotiating team comprising nine new members plus six members of the previous NCCT team.
Further amendments to the draft deal are minor and mainly changes in wordings, Nai Hong Sar said.
The government side sought explanation of the reasons for forming the new negotiating team, and asked for the final deal to be approved with no changes, he said.
Asked whether the government’s peace negotiating team might find it hard to build trust with the new ethnic negotiating team, Nai Hong Sar said the six existing NCCT members had already established trust with the government.
U Tun Zaw, who was also part of the three-man ethnic delegation, most members of the new team “have experienced bilateral relations with the government.”
“It is not required to build further trust with new members of the team,” he said.
Monday’s informal talks at the MPC were the first since the Law Khee Lar summit.— GNLM

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