The leaders of 11 armed ethnic groups that did not sign a nationwide ceasefire accord with the Myanmar government last month have called for an end to military offensives in the country during a three-day summit just a few days before citizens head to the polls to elect government representatives.
The summit, held at the headquarters of the United Wa State Army — Myanmar’s largest ethnic rebel group — in Pangsang, Wa Special Region, ended Tuesday with the groups issuing a seven-point statement urging the government army to stop its offensives in the northern and eastern parts of the country.
“We urge the current government to stop military offensives and to create good opportunities for national reconciliation,” the statement said. “We also reject resolving problems by fighting and urge that they be resolved through political means. We all wish to move forward to political dialogue together with a new government that will be born after the election.”
“We also urge an end to the fighting in the northern and eastern parts of Myanmar and to make peace in the China-Myanmar border area by discussing together with government, military, armed ethnic groups and representatives from the Chinese government,” it said.
Clashes between government troops and ethnic armies have forced tens of thousands of villagers to flee their homes and resulted in some casualties among government soldiers and rebel troops. Some ethnic regions have controversially cancelled elections for security reasons.
The government signed a so-called nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) with eight armed ethnic groups on Oct. 15 in an attempt to bring peace to the country before the Nov. 8 general elections and proceed with political dialogue in the developing democracy early next year. More than half of the country’s rebel groups, however, did not sign the document.
Besides the UWSA, the others groups that participated in the summit in eastern Shan state included the Kachin Independence Organization, Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army, New Mon State Party, Karenni National Progressive Party, National Democratic Alliance Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Arakan Army (AA), Karen National Defense Organization and Kayan New Land Party.
The Naga Nationalist Socialist Council was also invited, but representatives said they could not attend because the distance to the summit was too far to travel, Democratic Voice of Burma reported.
The conference was the second one organized by the UWSA, which hosted a six-day summit in May to discuss a draft NCA and call on the government to include all ethnic rebel armies in the final accord.
After that conference, representatives had issued a statement urging Myanmar’s army to cease fighting with the MNDAA in Shan state’s Kokang region, the TNLA in northern Shan state, and the AA in eastern Myanmar’s Rakhine state, and called for an end to human rights violations committed by government troops in ethnic areas.
Several ethnic armies have been fighting with the government since Myanmar gained independence from Britain in 1948, and the ongoing unrest is seen as hindering economic development in the impoverished country.
Ethnic groups represent around 40 percent of Myanmar’s 52 million people, but say they suffer military abuses and discrimination.
In the meantime, the leaders of eight armed ethnic groups that signed the NCA discussed development schemes during a two-day workshop that began Tuesday in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
They focused on the development of a federal system, the sharing of natural resources, the resolution of land problems, and the roles of military and armed ethnic groups.
“This workshop is being held to discuss the reform process to foster the country’s development,” Phado Kwe Htoo Win, secretary general of the Karen National Union (KNU), told RFA’s Myanmar Service. “We have been studying the current economic and administrative situations in Myanmar [as well as] the political experiences of Indonesia and Pakistan to see how we should proceed.”
The other groups attending the workshop are the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front, Arakan Liberation Party, Chin National Front, Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, Karen National Liberation Army-Peace Council, Pa-O National Liberation Organization and Shan State Army-South.
Reported by Thinn Thiri and Aung Moe Myint for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.