The very existence of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) ethnic alliance has been called into question by the departure of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), say Burma observers.
The KIO reportedly etched a draft resignation letter last week, according to an official who requested anonymity, speaking to Shan Herald.
Alongside its ally the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA), the KIO have recently attended talks in Wa army headquarters, Panghsang, where they forged close relationships with the members of the so-called Northern Alliance—Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Arakan Army (AA), and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).
Does it then follow that if the KIO leaves the UNFC, will the SSPP/SSA follow suit?
“I think the UNFC is founded on the principle of ‘political allies,’” said That Hmu, an ex-student army combatant and now a senior member of the Democratic Party for New Society. “It does not help them at the negotiation table with their counterparts the Burmese military. They have been cornered and pressured; they have been crushed to pieces.”
The SSPP/SSA’s Maj-Gen Sai Htoo recently told reporters that his group has no intention of leaving the UNFC. Some observers, however, have raised eyebrows and will continue to monitor the Shan army’s progress in talks with the Northern Alliance.
Meanwhile, the Burmese government remains confident that five members of the UNFC—the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), the New Mon State Party (NMSP), the Arakan National Council (ANC), the Wa National Organization (WNO), and the Lahu Democratic Union (LDU) —will ultimately sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).
Burma ethnologist Nai Banya Aung from Mon News Agency said, “The NMSP’s meeting will come to an end today, 8 May, while the KNPP will hold theirs on May 10. The decision on whether to sign the NCA depends on the outcome of those meetings.”
The NMSP maintains that the adoption of the NCA should only be taken when all members of the UNFC are in consent.
“There will be a meeting between the Delegation for Political Negotiation (DPN), a negotiating team formed by the UNFC, and the government’s Peace Commission (PC) on May 14 – 18. By then, we will have a better picture of how close to signing the NCA they are,” said Nai Banya Aung.
The government, of course, insists that the NCA is the only pathway to peace. It has agreed “in principle” to the UNFC’s 9-point plan, but has not committed to accepting it.
And observers also question whether the Arakan National Council/Arakan Army (ANC/AA) will eventually sign the NCA or follow the UWSA-led political approach.
In the meantime, both the NMSP and KNPP have requested that the NCA treaty be updated to incorporate the UNFC’s 9-point proposal. If the government and military insist that no amendments are permitted to the original document, then it seems unlikely that there is much they can do.
We can conclude that, under any circumstance, the five remaining members of the UNFC must seriously consider signing the NCA. However, in the immediate term, that prospect is unlikely.
By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)
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