Following a series of skirmishes and clashes over the past year, representatives of the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) and the Ta’ang National Party (TNP) held their first meeting on Monday in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai.
On the RCSS/SSA side, the talks were attended by the group’s chairman, Lt-Gen Yawd Serk, Vice-chairman Gen. Sai Yi, Brig-Gen Pong Khur, Sao Khuensai and Sao Puenkham. The Ta’ang were represented by TNP central committee members Tar Hla Pe and Tar Aye Maung, as well as Buddhist monks Panyathiri and Htikkha Nyanna.
Fighting between the two ethnic militias broke out on November 27 last year, just weeks after the RCSS/SSA had joined seven other ethnic armed groups in signing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the Burmese government.
The main Ta’ang armed force in the area, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), was excluded by the government from joining the peace process or from signing the NCA in October 2015. Since then, both the TNLA and RCSS/SSA have frequently accused one another of trespassing or conducting incursions into each other’s territory. Hostilities have continued ever since.
“We are not different. We are brothers and sisters,” said Shan army leader Yawd Serk in his opening speech. “Throughout history, we never fought each other.
“I believe that the Palaung [Ta’ang] people and monks do not wish to create problems among us,” he said. “We [the Shan] also do not want it to happen.”
He said that if they do not engage in negotiations, any small problem could develop into a large one.
“If we meet with each other regularly, the problems that we are facing will be reduced,” he added.
According to the TNP’s Tar Hla Pe, his delegation had come to this meeting in Chiang Mai to act as mediators, and to help resolve problems between the RCSS/SSA and the TNLA, as well as to discuss matters of development in the region.
“Let us not focus on past problems,” he said. “Rather, I think it would be better to concentrate on ways we can work together in the future.”
Following Monday’s talks, he said that the meeting had been successful, adding that he was confident both sides would talk again soon and cultivate a close relationship.
By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)
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