Myanmar’s military junta has dissolved the office set up by the ousted civilian-led government of Aung San Suu Kyi to negotiate peace agreements with warring ethnic armies, replacing it with an army team that will deal directly with the armed groups, negotiators said.
The dismantling of the National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC), chaired by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi since 2016, in the wake of the Feb. 1 military coup led by defense forces chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing was met with concern by wary ethnic armed groups.
Lamai Gum Jar, a peace broker with the Myitkyina-based Peace-Talk Creation Group — a group of Kachin businessmen who assist with peace talks by mediating between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the government — said the leader of the Myanmar military’s Northern Commander told him that the NRPC no longer existed.
“That’s why the ethnic armed groups are now required to work with the military government’s peace negotiation group in the future,” he said.
The KIA is among seven ethnic armies that have not signed on to the government’s nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA), which has drawn in 10 ethnic armies since it was launched in 2015.
The 10 ethnic armies that have signed the NCA and had joined several rounds of government-run peace talks through 2020 have not yet received details about the termination of the NRPC, said Colonel Khun Okkar, chairman of the Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO), one of the signatories of the pact.
The ethnic armies have expressed doubt over the legality of the coup and questioned whether the military government has the authority to hold peace talks, he said.
“This military coup affects the entire peace process,” Khun Okkar said. “The trust we have built over these years has been lost. The promises that we made to each other that we would create a federal union are now no longer guaranteed, but we will have to keep the negotiations going.”
The colonel also said that it is important for the armed groups to negotiate with legitimate authorities.
“We need to review whether our negotiations would be valid under Myanmar law and international law,” he said. “Only then can we have an official Union-level peace conference.”
The grouping of armies that remain outside the cease-fire, called the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC), has not yet commented on the development. The alliance comprises seven rebel armies in northern Shan state, including four known as the Northern Alliance.
Lamai Gum Jar also said that plans for a February meeting between government peace negotiators and the Northern Alliance have been canceled because of the coup, though the new regime’s peace negotiation team has not confirmed this.
RFA could not reach Myanmar military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun to confirm the dissolution of the NRPC and whether the junta has informed all ethnic armies about the change. The regime has not formally announced the suspension of the body.
A facilitator in the peace process who asked not to be named said NRPC members, including vice chairmen Dr. Tin Myo Win, the state counselor’s longtime personal physician, and Kyaw Tint Swe, minister of the State Counselor’s Office, were detained along with Aung San Suu Kyi.
The new military regime hasn’t done anything yet with regard to the NRPC, though it has dissolved the civilian administration and ministries and formed new commissions, the source said.
Ending Myanmar’s decades of internal warfare was a key goal of Aung San Suu Kyi’s 2016-20 term. Four rounds of talks were held during that time, but they failed to make significant headway.
Source: Radio Free Asia