Chiang Mai (Mizzima)
The Burmese government is holding fast to its policy of only engaging in cease-fire talks with ethnic armed groups individually.
The government is avoiding a discussion with the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), a broad-based ethnic coalition that is seeking to negotiate a countrywide cease-fire to be followed by talks on national reconciliation and peace.
Karen National Union Vice Chairman Pado David Tharkapaw told Mizzima on Thursday that the government’s recent order instructing cease-fire groups to negotiate individually with state or regional governments is simply its ongoing “divide and rule” tactic.
“We want to talk with them as an alliance group. Talking individually is the policy of the past government. But they are following this same path. It is also a tactic for buying time and to break up our unity,” he said.
However, he said that the ethnic armed groups are united and there are no differences or disagreements among them. The coalition will continue its fight for the emergence of a genuine federal union and national reconciliation, he said.
La Nan, the Joint Secretary of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), said the government is following the same old policy of the Burmese socialist party led by former dictator General Ne Win. The current government also uses the term “armed insurrection,” he said, when what is at stake are issues of governance, more political autonomy and human rights. Differences cannot be settled through the use of arms, he said, but only through a political dialogue.
The UNFC sent a letter to President Thein Sein on August 17 calling for a political dialogue and a halt to all ongoing military offensives in ethnic areas. Copies of the letter were also sent to US President Barack Obama, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and ministers in China, Thailand, India, and the European Union.
General-Secretary Nai Han Thar of the New Mon State Party said it would only prolong ethnic problems if the government refuses to talk to the ethnic coalition group.
“If we could work together, talk together, the work could be completed soon. If they delay this, they will not benefit anyone,” Nai Han Thar told Mizzima.
The United Wa State Army (UWSAP) has not yet spoken out about the government’s position on separate cease-fire negotiations because it is awaiting a decision by their central committee, said UWSA spokesman Aung Myint. The UWSA is not a full UNFC member.
The UNFC was formed on February 17, 2011, with 12 cease-fire and non-cease-fire groups to work for the creation of a federal union. Among them, six are primary members and six are associate members.
The UWSA, KIO, New Mon State Party (NMSP), Shan State Army – North (SSA-N), and National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) or Mongla group had cease-fire agreements with the military regime, but they have regrouped as the UNFC after failing to achieve their right to self-determination.
This article was published first in Mizzima News Agency