An ethnic Mon group is considering signing the Myanmar government’s nationwide cease-fire accord before the next round of peace conference negotiations, an official from the organization said on Wednesday.
The New Mon State Party (NMSP) will decide before the third session of the 21st-century Panglong Conference, said Nai Win Hla, a member of the central executive committee of the New Mon State Party (NMSP).
The series of peace talks is an effort spearheaded by de facto national leader Aung San Suu Kyi to end decades of ethnic separatist civil war in Myanmar. The next meeting is expected to be held sometime between October and December.
“Mon State’s chief minister has urged us to sign the NCA [Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement] as soon as possible, and we are trying to do it,” Nai Win Hla told reporters after a meeting between NMSP representatives and state government officials.
Nai Win Hla said that he and NMSP deputy secretary General Zweya have met with Mon State Chief Minister Aye Zan to discuss the matter.
NMSP leaders asked Aye Zan to give them three months to decide whether to sign the accord, because the group is trying to persuade other members of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) to sign the NCA, he said.
The UNFC is the umbrella organization for militias that have not signed NCA with the Myanmar government. The other members of the UNFC include the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), Shan State Progress Party (SSPP), Arakan National Council (ANC), and Lahu Democratic Union (LDU).
Wednesday’s meeting was the third gathering of NMSP members and Mon state government officials since the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) government came to power in April 2016.
The NMSP also requested that Aye Zan support its call for the Mon language to be included on the state school curriculum and provide financial assistance to teachers. It also questioned the presence of Myanmar army soldiers in Mawlamyine district in southeastern Myanmar’s Mon state.
“We agreed, but we have to talk about this issue with the Union minister,” Aye Zan said, referring to Nai Thet Lwin, the central government’s minister for ethnic affairs.
Both parties have now agreed to meet every month to discuss the NMSP possibly signing the NCA.
“They seem willing to sign the NCA as a UNFC member,” said Aye Zan. “They will decide by holding a meeting of the central executive committee if they encounter difficulties.”
“We will meet with the NMSP, and I believe it will sign the NCA if we meet regularly,” he said.
The NMSP has also requested a meeting with State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.
Tensions with national army
The opposition party and its armed wing, the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA), have fought the Myanmar army under various names since 1949, a year after the country declared its independence from colonial ruler Britain.
The NMSP signed a cease-fire pact with the government in 1995, but the accord was invalidated when the party refused to transform itself into a border guard unit under government control. The NMSP was not among the eight ethnic armed groups that signatory the government’s NCA in October 2015.
Tensions between the NMSP and the national army flared in February when the party ignored an order by Colonel Aung Lwin, minister of security and border affairs in southeastern Myanmar’s Kayin state, banning weapons and military parades at the 70th Mon State Day organized by the NMSP.
After the NMSP held a military parade at a ceremony in Japun Yedwin village near the border with Thailand, government soldiers seized two border tax collection stations on the Myanmar-Thailand border controlled by the MNLA and searched a communications office in Ye township.
Reported by Kyaw Lwin Oo and Kyaw Soe Lin for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.