By Zin Linn
On 23 December, President Thein Sein’s cabinet-member and peacemaking-team leader Aung Min has revealed that he is ready to meet the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), the alliance of 11 armed groups, during a meeting with Hkun Okker, PaO National Liberation Organization (PNLO) president, in Bangkok, Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.) reported today.
“This is a major departure from its initial ‘group-wise’ approach,” said the 65 year old PaO leader, whose PNLO is a member of the UNFC. “The policy has apparently proved a waste of time and resources with most of the groups that he had met.”
Burma’s 11 ethnic groups have made a historical accord in a conference at an undisclosed venue along the Thai-Burma border in mid-February. They reached an agreement unanimously forming an umbrella alliance called the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC).
President’s special peace envoy, Aung Min has triumphed only one truce with the Restoration Council of Shan State / Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) led by Lt-Gen Yawdserk, whose delegation signed a ceasefire accord with Shan State Government on 2 December.
Aung Min, who is also Minister of Railway Transport, met the Karen National Union (KNU) in Maesot on 21 December and the New Mon State Party (NMSP) in Sangklaburi the following day. Nyo Ohn Myint , an executive of the National League for Democracy-Liberated Area (NLD-LA), acted as moderator during the meetings with KNU and NMSP.
At that time Aung Min was still apparently sticking to the group-wise approach stance.
“He said the government would hold talks with dialogue only at the third stage of the three-stage peace process,” said a Karen source.
The three stages are Ceasefire, Development and what is known as “Panglong-like Conference”.
The UNFC, formed in February, is made up of Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), Chin National Front (CNF), Lahu Democratic Union (LDU), Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF), Wa National Organization (WNO), National Unity Party of Arakan (NUPA), Shan State Progress Party / Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA), KNU, NMSP and PNLO.
The ethnic alliance has yet to meet and make a decision on its imminent remarkable meeting with government’s special envoy Aung Min.
The UNFC has selected six Central Executive Committee members and 10 Central Committee members. Gen Mutu Saypo of the Karen National Union (KNU) becomes Chairman and Lt Gen Gauri Zau Seng of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) Vice Chairman-1, Maj Gen Abel Tweed of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) Vice Chairman-2, and Nai Hongsa of the New Mon State Party (NMSP) General Secretary) respectively.
In a statement issued on last 17 February, the UNFC said part of its basic principles and aims are to work for a better recognition of the ethnic armed groups, for ethnic equality, rights and self-determination, and for a genuine democratic federal Union of Burma.
At the same time, government’s envoy Aung Min had also a 30-minute meeting with former leader of All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF) Dr. Naing Aung on 21 December. During the meeting, Dr. Naing Aung proposed a 4-point agenda for cease-fire talks, in keeping with a statement issued by him, according to sources in Mae Sot.
The four points are to implement an all-inclusive rebuilding programme, to bring to end human rights violations, not to hurt civilians in fighting, and to release all political prisoners including rebels who are regarded as special prisoners.
Political analysts are watching the peace activities of Aung Min with great expectation for good results.