Myanmar’s government and ethnic rebels have agreed on a first draft of a nationwide cease-fire accord, negotiators said Tuesday at the end of four days of peace talks in the country’s former capital Yangon.
Negotiators from the government’s Central Peace Making Work Committee and the rebel groups' 16-member National Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) said they had “agreed on a first draft of a single text,” according to a joint statement issued after Tuesday’s meeting.
The two sides did not make public the text of the draft, however, saying only that they had discussed the nationwide cease-fire agreement “with transparency and friendliness” and agreed to meet again in the first week of May to deliberate further.
The statement also said negotiators agreed to sign the accord and move toward political dialogue as soon as possible.
The government’s top negotiator Aung Min, a minister from President Thein Sein’s office, said the two sides had discussed seven chapters that would be included in the agreement.
“To get to a single draft … that was agreeable to all groups, we continued our discussions on the topics and content and seven chapters that were discussed in previous talks. Then we agreed on the text,” he said at the end of the meeting.
The agreement was reached after the talks at the Myanmar Peace Center, originally scheduled to run April 5-7, were extended an extra day.
Negotiators from the two sides had written up their own versions of the agreement before the meeting, which was aimed at merging the separate drafts into a single text.
Representatives from five non-NCCT rebel groups—the United Wa State Army, the Restoration Council of Shan State, the National Democratic Alliance Army, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang, and the All Burma Students Democratic Front—had joined the talks, as had some Myanmar lawmakers and military representatives.
Ethnic leaders, who have called for greater autonomy under a federal union and control over natural resources in their areas, have demanded that political dialogue be conducted before they join the nationwide cease-fire, while the government has said the pact must be a precondition for any political talks.
“Our major aim is to create a federal union, but it is a little bit difficult for them [to accept],” NCCT representative Khun Okka told RFA’s Myanmar Service after the four days of meetings.
Lian Hmung Sakhong, a representative from the NCCT’s Chin National Front, said that during the talks negotiators had discussed guidelines for activities of rebel and military troops after the signing of a nationwide cease-fire, including forming a monitoring committee to ensure troops follow rules laid out in the agreement.
The local Irrawaddy journal reported Monday that the talks had been complicated by demands from Myanmar’s military for the incorporation of its own six-point statement into any future nationwide cease-fire deal.
The NCCT and the government agreed last month to form a joint committee to draft a single text for a nationwide cease-fire agreement, which President Thein Sein has pushed to have signed since last year in a bid to speed up reforms after decades under military rule.
In talks in the northern Myanmar’s Kachin state in November last year, NCCT members committed to signing the nationwide cease-fire agreement and began work with the government to outline its details.
The meeting marked the first time in decades that Myanmar government representatives had met with so many rebel groups within the country’s borders.
Both sides have agreed to hold high-level talks again in Hpa-an, the capital of Karen state, to set up a date for the signing of a nationwide cease-fire in Naypyidaw, but the meeting has been repeatedly delayed.
Reported by Thiha Tun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar and Khin Maung Soe. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.