First Ever Talks to Be Held Between CNF and SPDC
By Salai Bawi Lian Mang – March 12, 2007: A delegation of Chin National Front (CNF) is leaving this afternoon for Chin State to hold talks with Burmese military regime, State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). The CNF delegation, led by Dr. Sui Khar of the party’s Secretary of External Affairs is comprised of 10 members including commanders from the party’s armed wing Chin National Army (CNA).
In a statement issued by the CNF Central Executive Committee today, the party expressed appreciation to the peace commission for their efforts and assured the Chin people that the delegation will bear in mind the desire of the entire Chin people when talking and negotiating with the SPDC. The CNF also assures their alliance that they will emphasize the interest of ethnic nationalities and to achieve a meaningful national reconciliation.
It is still unknown who will represent the SPDC in the talk.
The talk was originally scheduled to take place on March 15, 2007 at the capital of Chin state Haka, but the SPDC changed the location at the last minute to at Rih town a newly established border town sitting on India-Burma border trade road. The reason for the shift is not known.
News of possible talk between the CNF and the SPDC has been the talk of the town among Chin community around the word since the beginning of this year.
However, the news could only be confirmed when a group of Chin Peace Commission arrived in Aizawl to accompany the CNF delegation a few days ago. The peace commission was led by Pu Chawn Kio one of the Chin elders and influential person among the Chin community.
The talk between the CNF and SPDC is a result of more than a decade efforts by the Peace Commission.
In 1994, one of the Chin pastors from the Zomi Baptist Convention, the biggest Chin Christian institution, approached CNF and met with the party vice chairman. However, the effort was failed and the pastor himself became internally displaced person, fearing to comeback to Chin state, and living in Rangoon since then.
In 1996, a group of Chin Christian pastors led by the late Rev. James Sang Awi formed Chin Peace Commission in Haka. Since then, the peace commission has time to time met with the CNF in the then CNF headquarters Camp Victoria , Thailand , India , Bangladesh and in the United States .
The Chin Peace Commission reportedly had direct access to the ousted SPDC intelligence chief and Prime Minister Gen. Khin Ngunt during his heydays.
In spite of the marathon efforts by the Peace Commission, the talk between the CNF and the SPDC never was materialized. One of the obstacles was a precondition placed by the SPDC, which required that the CNF laid down its arms “in exchange for peace.” That was unacceptable from the CNF side. And the effort of Chin Peace Commission reached nowhere.
In 2004, Gen. Khin Nyunt was ousted and Rev. James Sang Awi, founding member and leader of the Chin Peace Commission passed away in Rangoon on his way home from his visit to USA last October.
In November last year, a new leader of Chin Peace Commission Pu Chawn Kio showed up in Thailand with a new message. He met with Dr. Sui Khar of CNF and said that the SPDC is willing to talk without precondition.
Preparation for talks between CNF and SPDC so far has gone well this time. According to one source, the SPDC has picked the date for the talk after consultation with their astrologer.
Consulting the astrologer is a common practice of Burmese Generals but it is not clear whether it is the advice of the astrologer that the SPDC changed the location of the talk from the Capital Haka to a small border town Rih at the last minute.
The SPDC come into power after the bloody coup in 1988 and the CNF was formed to fight against the military dictatorship for self determination of the Chin people and for restoration of democracy.
The present leadership of the CNF is made up mostly of former students and graduates who fled a brutal military crackdown in 1988.
Even though the CNF does not have a strong armed force to combat almost five hundred thousands strong Burmese army, they have skillfully and ably rally the supports of international actors and Chin people from around the world for their political agenda.
Top leaders of CNF have been taking the lead role in political activities among Chin political parties and actively participated, along with Burmese democratic forces and the non-Burman Ethnic Nationalities, in the efforts to restore democracy and freedom in Burma.
If the talk really is taking place as scheduled, this will be the first time since the formation of CNF 19 years ago. Moreover, this will be the first time that the Chin and Burmese will have a formal talk politically and militarily between the two founding nations or ethnic groups of present day Union of Burma.