In a large shakeup that could spell trouble for the peace process, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the Wa National Organization (WNO) have resigned from the powerful ethnic bloc, the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC).
The UNFC formerly comprised of seven ethnic armed groups that had not yet signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).
The resignation of the KIO/KIA and the WNO/WNA comes amid a growing rift among ethnic armed groups over the signing of the NCA. The UNFC and a delegation led by the chair of the government’s Peace Commission met in Chiang Mai, Thailand on April 28 to discuss signing the NCA and attending the second session of the Union Peace Conference, also called the 21st-Century Panglong Conference.
At the same time, another faction formed under the United Wa State Army (UWSA) is pushing for a rejection of the NCA, and a redrafting of the ceasefire agreement. This faction of seven gathered at the UWSA’s headquarters in Panghsang/Pangkham in April. At the meeting, four of the ethnic armed group leaders, including from the KIA, forged the Union Peace Dialogue Committee, a new bloc for negotiating a solution for peace outside the NCA.
An official from the UNFC confirmed the KIA and the WNA have both submitted letters of resignation.
“It’s true that a resignation letter has been submitted. The UNFC hasn’t made any decisions yet so I can’t speak in great detail. I can only speak about the details after a meeting has been held,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
In a released copy of its resignation letter, the WNA said that it was difficult to cooperate with allied ethnic armed organizations at the moment due to on-going political and military changes.
The UNFC is slated to meet again with government peace negotiators between May 14 to 18.
Translated and edited by Burma News International