Analysts: Junta meetings with ethnic groups was just for show

Myanmar’s military rulers held peace talks with five ethnic armed groups in the capital Naypyidaw this week, but the meetings produced no agreement and several analysts criticized the talks as an attempt by the junta to deceive the international community.
ASEAN – Southeast Asia’s main regional bloc – has repeatedly urged Myanmar’s junta to find a peaceful solution to the crisis that erupted after the military ousted an elected government on Feb. 1, 2021. 
The United Nations and human rights groups say the junta’s security forces have killed thousands of civilians and the post-coup strife has displaced an estimated 1.5 million people.
The junta announced that regional stability, humanitarian assistance and a proposal to amend the 2008 constitution was discussed during the June 26-28 meeting. 
But political analyst Than Soe Naing said the primary aim of the three-day meeting was to gain some kind of political advantage or territorial stability – not peace, 
“The military council tries to pretend to be building peace by means of these talks,” he said. 
Junta officials have previously discussed changing the constitution to address a requirement that elections be held no later than six months from the end of emergency rule. Myanmar’s army declared a state of emergency following the 2021 coup.
The Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), Pao National Liberation League (PNLO), Lahu Democratic Union (LDU), Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and the Karen National Liberation Army-Peace Council (KNLA-PC) met with a delegation led by a Lieutenant General Yar Pyae, a member of the military council.
The five ethnic organizations were among the 10 that signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, which was introduced in 2015 in an effort to put an end to many years of fighting over minority rights and self-determination.
But the peace process hit snags in the years that followed, and was all but destroyed by the unpopular junta’s 2021 coup. 
Myanmar junta’s peace negotiation team holds talks with five ethnic armed group members of ceasefire signatory Peace Process Steering Team, June 26, 2023 in Naypyidaw. Credit: Myanmar military
Pretending to build peace 
Although the groups intended to hold an all-inclusive discussion this week, there were no real results, said Col. Saw Kyaw Nyunt, secretary general of the KNLA-PC.
When such a dialogue was suggested this week, junta officials did not respond with any encouragement, he said. 
“We want these conflicts to end,” Saw Kyaw Nyunt said. “What I mean is that we want to create an all-inclusive dialogue where all parties involved can participate. That’s our wish.”
ASEAN officials and others in the international community have encouraged the junta to engage with Aung San Suu Kyi, the jailed head of the deposed National League for Democracy who has been the face of Myanmar’s democracy movement for several decades.
Junta officials have met at least twice with her in recent months to enlist her help in peace negotiations with the armed resistance. Radio Free Asia previously reported that she rejected the idea of talks during visits on May 27 and June 4 at Naypyidaw Prison.
National Unity Government presidential spokesman Kyaw Zaw said that for meaningful talks to take place, the junta must first release all political prisoners and cease all acts of violence. 
“I want to say that the military council holds these peace talks just for its own interests,” he said. “Such discussions cannot have any meaningful results.”
RFA attempted to reach junta spokesman Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun for comment on Thursday but was unsuccessful.
Translated by Myo Min Aung. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.


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