A week after formal peace negotiations resumed, General Yawd Serk, who represents Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) signatories, urged all sides to work collectively to move the peace process forward.
The NCA signatories’ Peace Process Steering Team, currently led by Gen. Yawd Serk of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), meets from Friday in Chiang Mai to discuss future tasks in the peace process ahead of the implementation of the eight points agreed at the Joint-Ceasefire Implementation Coordination Meeting (JICM).
The meeting, a gateway to the formal peace talks, was held on Jan. 8 in Naypyitaw, joining peace negotiators from the ethnic armed organizations that signed the NCA and the government.
Gen. Yawd Serk said: “In laying down future tasks, we have to do so in agreement” with the time set by the JICM for the convening of the fourth 21st-century Panglong peace conference, which is scheduled for no later than April.
He said reaching “the goal of building a federal Union” depended on the groups’ constant engagement in the peace process and keeping “the affairs of the Union in the forefront, rather than the affairs of one group”.
He added: “I would like to request you to discuss the views of the organizations rather than the opinion of individuals… and work hard.”
Colonel Khun Oakkar, the patron of the Pa-O Nationalities Liberation Organization (PNLO), another NCA signatory, told The Irrawaddy that formal talks must continue.
Gen. Yawd Serk “is aware of the potential risk … that some group might spoil the process”, the colonel added.
Formal peace negotiations were stalled partly due to the Karen National Union’s postponement of its participation in the political dialogue in October 2018 and the RCSS’s boycott of the Joint-Ceasefire Monitoring Committee the following month.
It hampered the peace conferences where the negotiators were due to further discuss genuine federal principles, including issues of equality, self-determination and drafting state constitutions.
Padoh Saw Tah Doh Moo, the secretary of the Karen National Union (KNU), told The Irrawaddy that the group was “back on the path of formal talks. We paused our participation in the formal talks as there were uncertainties on how to move forward, now they have been sorted out.”
“Over a year of informal talks worked,” he said, as the government and the Tatmadaw (military) accepted that building a stronger ceasefire was vital and “therefore we get back on track with the formal talks”.
Gen. Yawd Serk urged the rebel groups’ negotiation teams – formed to deal with the framework for political dialogue and build a stronger ceasefire – to respect the decisions of all sides’ leaders.
Leaders from all sides had performed “their duty” and pledged to move forward the peace process, referring to the JICM, they had agreed to implement the NCA principles and set a timeframe for future peace conferences, the general said.