The government and ethnic groups’ representatives reached an agreement in principle to work towards getting the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement signed and starting the process of drafting a political dialogue framework with President U Thein Sein’s administration.
The Union Peacemaking Working Committee led by Minister U Aung Min and the Ethnic Senior Delegation led by Padoh Naw Zipporah Sein met on July 3rd and 4th in Chiang Mai, Thailand for the first time, since the senior ethnic delegation was formed. The preliminary meeting was to exchange views before an official round of talks take place in Rangoon, which according to U Aung Min, will be held around the third week of July.
Padoh Naw Zipporah Sein, vice chairperson of the Karen National Union and who is to lead the Ethnic Senior Delegation said in an interview with Karen News that the government’s negotiators are pressing to have a NCA agreed to before the national elections.
“They [UPWC] want the NCA signed before the election. If the points that we want are included in the NCA, this will be possible. We also want this to take place as soon as possible.”
The agreement [in principle] was pointed out in the four-point-statement released by the ethnic Senior Delegation on July 5th 2015. The statement described the agreement as a “good result” that allows them to meet officially and continue talks for a “genuine peace.”
Padoh Naw Zipporah Sein, told Karen News about the issues discussed at the meeting.
“We mainly discussed about the decisions made at Law Khee Lar [Ethnic Leader Summit] about being inclusive of all ethnic groups and the points [in NCA] that need further negotiation. We discussed how we are going to proceed on these issues. Minister U Aung Min said that he will report back to the President about what we agreed at the meeting on how we want to proceed.”
Minister U Aung Min who led the UPWC delegation also gave his impression on the meeting at the end of the session.
“The result of the meeting is good. It’s like a door is open for the signing [of NCA] because we have decided that a nationwide ceasefire agreement will be signed. However, we still have to talks more before that happens. We will invite the [Ethnic] Senior Delegation to Yangon and we will have further negotiations in Yangon – so we can say we have made another footstep.”
The draft nationwide ceasefire agreement that was earlier agreed to by the ethnic armed groups Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team and the government’s UPWC was not approved at the last ethnic armed organization summit held at Law Khee Lar in Karen State in early June, 2015. Ethnic leaders at Law Khee Lar summit raised 15 points from the draft NCA that they said needed further negotiation.
Padoh Naw Zipporah Sein told Karen News about how they discussed these issues with the UPWC delegation at the Chiang Mai meeting.
“We discuss the 15 points. From their [UPWC] side, their position is that they don’t want to make changes to these points. From our side, we discuss with them to find ways, instead of holding on to the position of ‘making no changes at all’. We have to look at each point and try to see which point can be reworded or kept as notes or brought back for further discussion. They agreed with what has been discussed and they need to report it back.”