The ethnic umbrella organization, the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), will meet with the government’s Peace Commission for informal talks this week and has also, separately, invited delegates from the Northern Alliance to discuss cooperating, according to a spokesperson.
Nai Aung Ma Nge, from the UNFC, said the meeting with the government representatives would focus on the bloc’s nine-point roadmap listing their preconditions ahead of signing the nationwide ceasefire agreement.
“We don’t have much time to prepare since we are meeting on the 20th, so we haven’t discussed anything [among ourselves] in detail yet. We will just review the remaining points [from the previous meetings],” Nai Aung Ma Nge said.
The UNFC leaders gathered on July 17 ahead of the upcoming talk with the government delegation.
Nai Aung Ma Nge said that any outcomes from the informal meeting will be sent to respective leaders from both sides.
This will be the UNFC’s first meeting with the government peace negotiators since fissures within the bloc resulted in ethnic armed organizations like the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) leaving the grouping, leading to questions of its continued influence.
In addition to the meeting with the government, the UNFC has also indicated a willingness to negotiate with the Federal Political Negotiation Consultative Committee (FPNCC), a new alliance of ethnic armed groups from northern Myanmar led by the United Wa State Party (UWSP).
The KIA joined the FPNCC shortly before resigning from the UNFC.
The FPNCC is mostly comprised of groups known as the Northern Alliance, which are currently engaged in fighting the Tatmadaw in Kachin and Shan states.
Initially, the FPNCC announced that it would be forging a new model for the peace process, one that would side-skirt the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) in order to ostensibly secure a better political deal for the ethnic autonomy. However, the FPNCC appears to have started backtracking, which the UNFC has taken as a sign of potential for common ground.
“In their last letter, they said they will follow the NCA path … We are following the NCA path so it’s encouraging to hear that they will also follow it,” said Nai Aung Ma Nge.
“We can only speak about how we might cooperate with them after our chairman meets with them,” he added.
“We are all working for ethnic rights. We may follow different paths but our goal is the same so there are many things we can cooperate in.”
He added that the FPNCC has not yet responded to the invitation for discussions however, so it remains unclear if and when a meeting will take place.