The Tatmadaw has agreed to discuss the potential formation of a federal army, one of the ethnic armed groups’ key demands in the ongoing peace process.

The pledge came as the ethnic armed groups, the government and the military discussed the last few sticking points in the latest draft of the nationwide ceasefire accord at the Myanmar Peace Center in Yangon on August 15-17.

“The government] has accepted the federal military demand in principle. The details will be discussed during the political dialogue. The military has also agreed to it,” said U Naing Han Thar, the leader of the the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team.

While the Tatmadaw has said it will discuss the possibility of a federal army, they made it clear that they don’t want it to be labelled as such.

Major General Gun Maw of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) said the military had insisted on the title of Pyidaungsu Tatmadaw or union military, instead of the federal military, the title that the ethnic armed groups had pushed for.

“[The agreement] is to discuss the formation of the Pyidaungsu Tatmadaw in the political dialogue, not the restructuring of the Tatmadaw under the title of the Federal Tatmadaw,” he explained.

The title still needs the approval of the government’s Union Peacemaking Working Committee led by the president, said U Hla Maung Shwe, a member of the technical team from Myanmar Peace Center.

Maj Gen Gun Maw said that he believed the government and military commanders will endorse the agreement.

“We have found that the military’s sentiments have changed, especially in this round of meetings. We have seen that the military officials have held very patient discussions,” he said.

The military had continuously opposed a federal military structure, arguing that the current military fairly represents the country.

But ethnic groups continue to view the military as overly representative of the country’s majority ethnic group, the Bamar.

“Only if the military is restructured into a new one representing all races, will they [ethnic groups] see it as their own military,” said U Sai Paung Nut, the chair of the Wa National Democratic Party.

“The current military includes a considerable number of ethnic people but the influence of the Bamar is still huge,” said U Man Aung Pyi Soe, the vice-chair of the Palon-Sawor Democratic Party.

When the restructuring of the military is discussed in the political dialogue, the future of existing ethnic armed forces will also be discussed, U Naing Han Thar said.

But ethnic leaders admitted that there is still a considerable amount of work to be done on the issue, as it is still unclear what a federal military would look like. Details on the specific structure remain scarce.

“[The ethnic groups] just want the military to be in line with the federal principles when the country is transformed into a federated structure,” said Dr Tun Jur, chair of the Kachin Democracy Party.