Friday, August 18, 2017

Non-signatories, govt make strides toward joining NCA

The Delegation for Political Negotiation (DPN), which speaks for several non-signatories to the nationwide ceasefire, reached agreement with the government on four of eight points discussed with the latter’s peace preparatory committee, led by U Tin Myo Win, in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday.

Though specifics on the agreed-upon points – and remaining points of contention – were not elaborated on at a press conference following yesterday’s meeting, delegates on both sides said the mutual perspective they had arrived at would improve prospects for non-signatories to the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) joining that pact soon.

“[Non-NCA groups] will be able to sign the NCA as we agreed to some points,” Khu Oo Reh, a spokesperson for the DPN, told reporters after the meeting. The DPN acts as a negotiating body for the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of seven ethnic armed groups that have not signed the NCA.

The UNFC put forward eight demands ahead of the 21st-century Pang­long Conference earlier this year, including the declaration of a bilateral ceasefire by both the Tatmadaw and the UNFC, as well as pushing for agreement on the composition of representation at tripartite peace negotiations to come.

Other demands included drafting and enacting a constitution based on the outcomes of the Panglong Conference, agreement on military codes of conduct and the formation of a ceasefire Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) with representatives from the government, ethnic armed organisations and international figures acceptable to both parties.

The UNFC also wants to see the formation of a neutral enforcement tribunal for the NCA involving domestic and international law experts and judges that are acceptable to both parties, and to ensure development projects are carried out using the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) as a framework.

DPN delegates said yesterday they reached agreement on extractive resource issues, and on cooperation between the government and ethnic armed groups to assist local populations, but the details of some military matters are yet to be hammered out.

“We have to wait and see whether the agreement will really be carried out or not, then we will decide whether to sign the NCA,” said Khu Oo Reh, who is also vice chair of the Karenni National Progressive Party.

U Hla Maung Shwe, a government peace adviser, expressed optimism that the UNFC’s outstanding four points would be resolved at the next round of talks, which negotiators aim to hold in the first week of November.

“Both sides are satisfied with the results of the meeting as they built mutual trust over some other issues. We hope we can sort out the rest of the points at the November meeting,” U Hla Maung Shwe said.

He added that representatives for the DPN will participate in a political dialogue framework meeting being held at the Yangon office of the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre from October 18 to 19. According to the current plan, the government and ethnic groups will finalise the national-level framework for political dialogue at the meeting, with final approval expected at a Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee meeting in Nay Pyi Taw from October 21 to 22.