Important Developments in Myanmar’s Peace Process
This briefing highlights the recent progress made towards reviving the formal peace process by the ten ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) that have signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). There are two important outcomes from the meeting that the Peace Process Steering Team (PPST) held from August 21 to 25, 2019 in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Firstly, a positive outcome is the reform of the PPST membership from eight to ten EAOs. Until the last PPST meeting, the full members of the PPST consisted only of the original eight EAOs that signed the NCA on October 15, 2015. The other two NCA-signatory EAOs, the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Lahu Democratic Union (LDU), which signed the NCA in 2018, had not yet become full members of the PPST. For that reason, they were officially referred to as the PPST+2; the eight original members of the PPST plus the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Lahu Democratic Union (LDU). However, the NMSP and the LDU also became full members of the PPST during the last PPST meeting. From now on there will no longer be a PPST+2, but only one PPST with 10 full members. Although some members have made reform proposals for restructuring the nature of the PPST group, with the exception of the addition of membership, no new structural reforms have been made at the last meeting. More importantly, after openly negotiating their internal differences, they came together and united in the PPST with one voice in the end, which displays their shared commitment to maintaining unity among themselves, while continuing to pursue their common goal of establishing a common Union of Burma based on democracy and a federal system.
The second outcome is the collective decision of the PPST members to revive the formal peace process to generate substantive progress. At the very least, they have dual objectives of both resolving outstanding issues that cause impasses in the political dialogue and negotiating some of the federal principles they have already proposed for the Union of Burma before the 2020 general elections. In order to lead the efforts to implement the decisions of the PPST, two negotiation teams were formed. One negotiation team will focus on political affairs, while the other will concentrate on military affairs. The political negotiation team consists of ten members, one from each of the ten armed groups, with Col. Sai Ngern of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) as their Team Leader. On the other hand, a six-member military affairs negotiation team led by P’doh Saw Hser Gay of the Karen National Union (KNU) will focus on military matters, including compliance and monitoring aspects of ceasefire agreements.
Taking the matters of implementation forward, representatives of the two negotiation teams will meet with government representatives in the second week of September 2019. If this meeting goes well, there is hope for a resumption of the formal peace process, including the reconvening of the Union Peace Conference (21st Century Panglong). If the process moves ahead as expected, there is a possibility that the next Union Peace Conference will be held this year.
At the end of the PPST meeting, the leaders of the NCA-S EAOs also issued a statement in which they raised their concerns about the ongoing fighting in Rakhine State as well as the escalation of military clashes between the Myanmar military and the three Brotherhood Alliance members Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Arakan Army (AA), and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) elsewhere, and urged both sides to resort to the peaceful means of dialogue to reduce and resolve the ongoing armed conflict and military clashes.
 The PPST is a collective executive body established by the ten members of the NCA-S EAOs to provide collective leadership as well as to oversee the overall operations of the NCA signatories as they lead Myanmar’s peace process.