The peace process may be short on groundbreaking victories of late, but that doesn’t mean the negotiations are on the decline, a secretary of a peace body said last week.
“I can say this, our peace process is not moving backward. It is still moving forward. Now we are just having difficulty moving on to the next step,” said Sai Kyaw Nyunt, secretary of the political parties’ faction of the Union Peace and Development Joint Committee (UPDJC).His insistence on the sustained momentum of the peace process came during a seminar in Mon State on April 6. Around 300 people attended the event, called, “Federalism, Peace Process and Coordination between Political Parties and CSOs”.
Analysts and commentators have recently called attention to the “stalled” workings of the peace process, with negotiations seeming to make no headway, and fighting escalating on the country’s northern fringes. One longtime observer, Bertil Lintner, last week said the process had descended into “farce” after State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi prematurely announced that five more ethnic armed groups intend to sign the nationwide ceasefire agreement. At least one group included in the announcement rejected the claim, saying they were not yet ready to make a decision.
One participant at the April 6 seminar questioned why the much-delayed, second 21st-century Panglong Peace Conference has not established a firm convening date yet, as well as why no new groups have agreed to ink the NCA, joining the eight that originally signed the only nominally nationwide agreement.
Sai Kyaw Nyunt did not respond to the questions directly, but did encourage patience in the face of continued peace diplomacy.
“There are steps [being taken] that will help move it [the peace process] forward. On the UNFC’s [United Nationalities Federal Council] side, we have been informed that they have decided to proceed to engage with the process in accordance with the NCA. If we can negotiate like this, than we move on to the next steps,” he said.
The UNFC – a coalition of ethnic armed groups – has agreed to sign the NCA if a series of preconditions are met, including the full inclusivity of all ethnic armed groups at future Panglong Conferences. The government has accepted these conditions “in principle”.