Leaders of Myanmar’s armed ethnic groups on Tuesday amended a draft nationwide cease-fire accord during an eight-day summit at Karen National Union (KNU) headquarters in the eastern part of the country after a special 15-member team was formed to discuss changes and supplements to the document, an official who was appointed head of the team said.
“Leaders from all groups have accepted the points that we added to draft nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA), and we have to discuss these [new points] in the future,” said Zipporah Sein, the KNU vice president, who was elected by the the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordinating Team (NCCT) coalition of 16 armed ethnic groups to lead the committee.
The NCCT, which signed a draft peace deal with the government’s Union Peace Working Committee (UPWC) on March 31, wants the team be restructured into a committee that negotiates the amendments with the government, according to a report by Eleven Myanmar media group.
“The government has to work on the agreements we already have if it really wants to have a nationwide cease-fire,” she said.
Government negotiators previously informed the NCCT that it planned to sign the final NCA this month with subsequent political dialogue conducted in late October or early November around the time of this year’s general elections, Eleven Myanmar media group reported.
Although the NCCT and UPWC have agreed on most of the accord’s content, some areas of disagreement remain.
The group headed by Zipporah Sein is insisting that the final NCA include the three ethnic groups with which the government is still at odds because of ongoing military clashes in northeastern Shan state—the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the ethnic Kokang’s Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Arakan Army (AA).
CSOs call for more financial aid
In a related development, about 80 civil society organizations (CSOs) issued an open letter on Monday—the fourth anniversary of the current conflict in Shan state—urging foreign governments and organizations to continue providing financial assistance to the more than 100,000 war refugees in 127 displaced person camps in Kachin and Shan states.
Many of the organizations are reducing their donations to CSOs that administer the humanitarian aid to people in the camps, said Khon Ja of the Kachin Peace Network.
“The draft NCA was signed, so the international community prefers to help fund refugees as they return home, not for use in camps,” she told RFA. “They also didn’t think that the war would be that long.”
The Australian government said Monday that it would not provide A$40 million to treat HIV, malaria and tuberculosis, which it has given to CSOs Cambodia in past years, Khon Ja added.
The Kachin Peace Network spends about U.S. $12 on each of 120,000 refugees in the region to provide rice, cooking oil and salt, she said.
“We will not be able to spend that amount after June because donor organizations will reduce by half their funding to these refugees,” she said. “There are no funds for their health care or education for their children. Many have died because of a lack of nutrition and health care, especially because there is no money for hospital referrals.”
Reported by San Maw Aung, Thiha Tun, Aung Theinkha, Thiri Min Zin and Moe Klyar Oo for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.