Myanmar, Northern Alliance negotiators meet in China

Myanmar, Northern Alliance negotiators meet in China

Government officials and representatives of the four ethnic armed groups in the Northern Alliance met in China over the weekend in an effort to revive truce negotiations.

U Thein Zaw, vice chair of the Peace Commission, led the government side at the talks in Kunming, China, on Sunday.

The two sides agreed to resume truce negotiations in the last week of January. No other details were available.

Also at the talks were former Lieutenant General Khin Zaw Oo, U Moe Zaw Oo and U Zaw Htay, spokesperson of the President Office.

Sunday’s meeting in Kunming occurred a week after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with senior government officials, including State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

Alliance members – the Arakan Army, Ta’ang National Liberation Army, and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army are fighting government forces in their respective territories. The Kachin Independence Army is not involved in the fighting.

After the last meeting by the two sides on September 17 in Kyaingtong town in Shan State, the government said it hoped to sign bilateral ceasefire agreements with the alliance, but instead of signing a truce, the two sides agreed on seven points as the basis for further negotiations.

Talks between the two sides have been postponed twice, and the government announced earlier in the month that negotiations were suspended indefinitely.

China has been helping the Myanmar government in the peace process since the ruling National League for Democracy took power in 2016.

Political analysts said China is involved in the peace process to ensure implementation of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure projects. They said Myanmar is important to China because of its location between the Indian Ocean and China’s Yunnan province, which makes it a gateway to South Asian countries such as India and Bangladesh, and a main link in the BRI.

Sai Nyunt Lwin, vice chair of the Shan National League for Democracy, said it is important for China to ensure peace in Shan.

“Clashes occur frequently between the Tatmadaw (military) and ethnic armed groups in northern Shan,” he said. “This area needs to be peaceful for the BRI projects to start.”

During his visit earlier in the month, Wang asked the government to speed up construction of projects in the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, which is a part of the BRI.