The troubled second round of peace talks that began on May 24 in Naypyitaw got a needed boost of credibility, when the newly formed Federal Political Negotiation Consultative Committee (FPNCC) agreed to attend. The last-minute move capped months of uncertainty that shook rebel alliances reshuffled the complex web of armed groups.
The FPNCC is led by the powerful United Wa State Party (UWSP). Its other members are the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the Shan State Progress Party, the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Arakan Army (AA) and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).
“It seems that there will be restrictions on the participation of the seven northern rebel groups, but they are invited to attend the opening and closing ceremonies. We had invited the UNFC to attend every day of the conference, but they declined to come,” said Dr Aye Maung of the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC).The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) is the other major rebel bloc in the country. Its leadership declined to join the peace conference without the rights of full participants.
“They offered us a “special invitation,” which might sound nice, but is really just another way of saying ‘observer.’ We’ve decided that we will not attend if there is no equality in negotiations,” said Nai Hongsar, vice chairman of the UNFC.
In a statement issued the day before the conference began, the UNFC said that although its members would not attend, they continued to support political dialogue in the name of building a federal democratic union. The statement said that the council supports the spirit and framework of the negotiations, known as the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference.
The weeks before the peace conference saw a hectic reshuffling of rebel alliances, as former coalition members found themselves at odds over participation in the conference. Of the seven members of the UNFC, two—the KIO and WNO—have chosen to leave the group, and two—the KIO and SSPP—have joined the FPNCC, in the case of the SSPP, without leaving the UNFC.