Arakan Army meets for talks with Tatmadaw in Wa capital 

The military and the Arakan Army (AA) met for talks in the Wa capital of Pangsang last week in what observers said was a key step towards a potential peace deal, the AA has revealed. 

The two sides discussed holding by-elections in Rakhine state as well as the national peace process at the December 9 meeting,  said the AA’s spokesperson Khaing Thu Kha.

“Our main focal points were: making the by-elections happen, the peace process and ensuring a ceasefire between both sides,” he said. 

The meeting, which was held in territory controlled by the United Wa State Army and was not publicised at the time, lasted for about an hour. 

On December 2 the AA revealed that its representatives had held an online meeting with Tatmadaw officials, during which both sides agreed to in-person talks. 

The military has yet to make a statement on either of the meetings. Tatmadaw spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Htun did not answer calls seeking comment. 

Than Soe Naing, a political analyst, said the latest meeting was cause for optimism. 

“This has opened a new door through which armed ethnic groups could begin the journey towards joining the National Ceasefire Agreement. So I can only assume this is something we need to be welcoming of,” he said. 

To maintain momentum, he added, authorities should hold by-elections in areas of Rakhine state where voting was cancelled on November 8 because of conflict. 

The AA should also release three National League for Democracy lawmakers who it detained ahead of the election, he said. 

Fighting between the AA and the military has killed hundreds and displaced more than 200,000 in the past two years. 

Clashes stopped shortly after last month’s election, and thousands of displaced people have since been able to return home as a result. 

Hla Maung Shwe, an advisor to the government’s Peace Commission, said that recent meetings in Naypyitaw between the government, military and members of parliament included discussions about negotiations with the AA and the Northern Alliance, of which the AA is a member. 

“According to the news media, over 70,000 IDPs have returned to their homes as there have been no clashes for over a month – and they can reap their crops,” he said. “ This is good, we welcome it.”

The government declared the AA a terrorist organisation in March, a designation that led to it being excluded from talks with government officials. 

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