Almost 100 participants from 18 armed ethnic groups, including UNFC members, gathered at the Kachin Independence Organisation headquarters of Laiza on October 30 for the three days of talks. The historic meeting – the first of its kind in more than 60 years – was convened to examine a draft ceasefire agreement proposed by the government. Groups are expected to decide whether to agree to sign the ceasefire at a ceremony in Nay Pyi Taw.
The only absentees were the United Wa State Army and National Democratic Alliance Army, a group based at Mong La in eastern Shan State.
The ethnic armed leaders’ meeting scheduled for the end of this month will mainly discuss the combining of two drafts for a nationwide ceasefire accord, says the joint secretary of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC).
Colonel Khun Okka revealed the plan two days before the meeting being held in Laiza, Kachin State, where the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) is headquartered.
More than 17 ethnic armed groups were expected to attend the meeting, to be held from today through Friday.
At the moment, there are two drafts of the nationwide ceasefire agreement the government is planning to sign with the ethnic armed groups. One was written based on resolutions coming out of the second ethnic conference in late July and a UNFC meeting in October. The second draft was written by the Working Group for Ethnic Coordination. The Karen National Union and the Restoration Council of Shan State submitted this draft to the government, which later revised it with some amendments and supplements.
“We need to adjust those two drafts. But we will mainly focus on the one from the ethnic conference. Then we will shorten the draft agreement from the government-sponsored Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), because it has a lot of provisions. I assume we can produce a proper one,” said Colonel Khun Okka.
For the other draft, originally prepared by the WGEC and later revised by the MPC, the joint secretary described it as seemingly “unworkable.”
“I have roughly studied the draft. I read it two or three times. Yet, I cannot give official comments on it. The draft seems unworkable. Here, we will consider only the three-part draft prepared by the ethnics,” he said.
“The MPC’s revised draft is a bit long. In some cases, such as in forming committees and joint committees, the procedures mentioned are quite complicated. For the ethnics, it is difficult to understand. So, a comprehensive draft will be written and we will try to reach the agreement on details. Then, the agreement must be implemented. Implementation is a must because without it, the agreement will be broken.”
The UNFC’s joint general secretaries, Colonel Khun Okka and Naing Han Tha, arrived in Laiza Township on Monday for the meeting of ethnic armed group leaders. The rest of the leaders arrived yesterday.