Seven armed ethnic groups in Myanmar will meet on Sunday with a government official to decide on a date this month to sign a nationwide cease-fire pact ahead of general elections on Nov. 8, a peace negotiator said.
The government has extended an offer to sign the accord to 15 armed ethnic groups, but at a three-day meeting this week in Chang Mai, Thailand, only seven of the 19 groups in attendance agreed to ink the deal because of the government’s refusal to make the nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) all-inclusive.
Nevertheless, Aung Min, minister of the Myanmar President’s Office and chairman of the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), will meet on Sunday in Yangon with representatives from all 15 groups to whom the government extended the offer to decide the date on which the seven will sign the NCA, said MPC spokesman Hla Maung Schwe.
“What I know is that the government understands it will sign the NCA in mid-October, as the armed ethnic groups have requested to do it that time,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
The seven groups have already signed pre-agreements with the government, but the documents do not contain details about final guarantees over business, the military and national politics, he said, adding that the final NCA will contain this information.
“More groups will agree to sign the NCA after this meeting,” he said.
The government of President Thein Sein has been pushing for the NCA to be signed before nationwide general elections on Nov. 8 to end decades of civil war and pave the way for political dialogue.
“I don’t think the signing of the NCA will affect the elections, but people who live in the regions of the ethnic armed groups that sign the NCA will be able to vote peacefully,” Hla Maung Schwe said.
“Every group must follow all the rules and keep the promises they have made in the NCA after they sign it,” he said.
Special Delegation dissolved
At their meeting in Chiang Mai, Thailand, leaders from the 19 armed ethnic groups also dissolved the Senior Delegation team that had been formed to discuss changes to the NCA with Thein Sein’s administration and temporarily replace the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) coalition of 16 of the groups.
The NCCT will now come back into force to work with the country’s armed forces to draw up a military code of conduct, create a joint committee to monitor the NCA, and hold political talks.
The seven groups that have agreed to sign the NCA are the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front, Arakan Liberation Party, Chin National Front, Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, Karen National Liberation Army-Peace Council, Karen National Union and Pa-O National Liberation Organization.
The nine that have declined so far to sign are the Arakan Army, Arakan National Council, Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), Karenni National Progressive Party, Lahu Democratic Union, New Mon State Party, Shan State Progressive Party, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and Wa National Organization.
Two major armed groups – the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang and United Wa State Army – were not at the meeting, and have previously said they will not sign the NCA.
Three other groups – the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and Arakan Army – are still engaged in fighting with government troops and have been excluded from the NCA.
Gen. Gwan Maw, second-in-command of the Kachin Independence Army, the military wing of the KIO, which has decided not to sign the NCA, said the groups that will not sign the accord had requested the addition of one point to the document – that the NCA be all-inclusive.
“We don’t understand why the government won’t accept our request that we, all the ethnic groups, want to sign the NCA,” he told RFA. “We have a plan to hold a meeting with the seven groups that are going to sign and the groups those are not, but we still don’t know the date of the meeting.”
The KIA has recently been involved in fighting with the Myanmar army in Kachin state’s Mansi areas, while the Ta’ang National Liberation Army has clashed with government troops in Kyaukme and Kutkai townships in Shan state.
Armed ethnic group leaders and government negotiators reached a tentative agreement to sign a draft NCA on Sept. 9, but disagreed on which groups to include in the final accord.
The signing of the NCA would end decades of civil war in Myanmar and pave the way for political dialogue with the government.
Reported by Thiha Tun and Khet Mar for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.