COVID-19 Pandemic Stalls Burma’s Peace Process Further

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By KANTARAWADDY TIMESTuesday, April 28, 2020

Burma’s already-stalled peace process has been faced with new obstacles during the COVID-19 pandemic, insiders have said.Ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) signatory to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) discussed cooperation with the government in fighting the coronavirus during one of their first video conference on the issue on April 3.

There does not appear to have been any major collaboration, with clashes between the signatory EAOs and the Tatmadaw continuing, particularly in Shan State between the RCSS and government troops in late March.

“We have to solve the problem of the COVID-19 pandemic very carefully; at the same time, we have to try to move forward the existing peace process,” the RCSS’s Col Sai Nguen said in a speech over the video conference regarding the current balance.

The EAOs held the eighth NCA implementation and framework negotiation team meeting earlier this month. Among the topics being discussed are the fourth round of the Union Peace Conference, which was expected to take place the first four months of 2020 but now is on hold indefinitely because of the ban on large gatherings during the pandemic.

Comrade Myo Win of the All Burma Students Democratic Front, said that peace talks are simply not possible in the current conditions.

“It’s impossible for our EAOs to complete political dialogue and hold public meetings in April during the outbreak of COVID-19,” he told told Kantarawaddy Times.

The last major in-person meeting held in relation to the peace process was the 18th meeting of the Union Peace and Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) in Naypyidaw in mid-March. It had been two years since the last UPDJC meeting.

The UN Secretary General António Guterres later called for a global ceasefire on March 23 to focus on fighting the coronavirus; it was backed by multiple EAOS in Burma, but the government forces dismissed the demands.

“This is crucial time of human beings and for the world,” Mer Tier, a peace process monitor in Karenni State, told Kantarawaddy Times, pointing to calls by the UN to “reduce military budget and end the war,” which have yet to be acted on by the armed forces in Burma.

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