A meeting between a team of negotiators from Burma’s ethnic armed groups and the government’s peace negotiating team, due to be held in the Karen State capital of Hpa-an, has been postponed for the second time, according to an ethnic leader.
The National Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), which includes representatives from 14 armed groups, was originally set to meet with the government negotiators in December, but ethnic groups said they needed more time to coordinate and said the talks would take place this month.
The Hpa-an talks are meant to be the next step toward the government’s aim of having a nationwide ceasefire signed with all groups, which has been repeatedly put back.
Nai Hong Sar, the head of the NCCT, told The Irrawaddy that the talks would now take place in February, as ethnic groups are still yet to finalize their collective position.
“We need to take time for more mutual discussion,” said Nai Hong Sar. “Therefore, we decided to move it to next month, tentatively on Feb. 20.”
The decision to postpone comes after the NCCT leader held talks on Jan. 11 with Deputy Minister Aung Thein, who works under President’s Office Minister Aung Min—the government’s chief negotiator.
Members of the government-linked Myanmar Peace Center, led by Aung Thein, were in Chiang Mai, Thailand, last week to talk about a draft agreement that is still being discussed between the ethnic armed groups.
“We are still at the discussion level and will wrap it up on Jan. 16 and 17. Then we’ll take it [the draft] to an ethnic conference in Law Khee La,” said Nai Hong Sar, referring to a base in a Karen National Union controlled area near the Thai-Burmese border, also known as Lay Wah. The meeting between the ethnic groups will take place on Jan. 20, he added.
Nai Hong Sar said both sides had agreed to move the Hpa-an meeting to next month to spend more time on the draft.
The NCCT first met with government negotiators in the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina in early November after an ethnic armed groups’ conference held in Laiza, the Kachin Independent Organization’s headquarters on the Chinese-Burmese border, in October.