Myanmar’s powerful military will not accept any revisions or amendments to a nationwide cease-fire agreement it signed in October 2015 with eight ethnic armed groups in order to accommodate remaining militias that have refused to sign or have been excluded from the pact, the country’s deputy commander-in-chief of the armed forces said Monday.
During a meeting on the implementation of the nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) in the capital Naypyidaw, Vice-Senior General Soe Win ruled out any changes to the NCA as part of the government’s efforts to end decades of civil wars that have stymied Myanmar’s political and economic development.
The meeting comes as the military, government peace envoys, and representatives from ethnic armed groups prepare for another round of negotiations.
“Asking ethnic armed groups to sign the NCA is not asking them to abandon their weapons, but some groups have misunderstood this,” Soe Win said. “I want the leaders from the groups that have signed the NCA to explain this point to the people from non-NCA groups who have misunderstood this or who pretend not to understand it.”
The current government under de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi is spearheading efforts to bring nonsignatories to the NCA on board through a series of talks known as the 21st-century Panglong Conference.
The first conference was held late last August and early September, but the second round of talks originally scheduled for February has been postponed twice.
The government now expects to hold the second round of discussions on May 24 with government and military representatives, various political parties, ethnic armed groups, and a United Nations secretary, said Colonel Khun Okka of the Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO), who also attended the meeting along with Aung San Suu Kyi and General Mutu Say Pho of the Karen National Union (KNU).
Continue working for peace
Mutu Say Pho urged all stakeholders to continue working for peace despite the current challenges of bringing the opposite sides to the negotiating table.
He also said that political problems cannot be resolved by asking for approval of various points that were brought to the meeting for discussion rather than by face-to-face talks.
“Nonsignatory groups to the NCA are watching our implementation of the agreement and the difficulties of implementing it,” he said. “We need to show them how much attention we have devoted to the NCA and how far we can implement it.”
Seven ethnic rebel groups that have not signed the NCA held their own talks on April 15-19 in Pangkham, the administrative capital of territory controlled by the United Wa State Army (USWA), Myanmar’s largest nonstate militia. At the meeting’s conclusion, the militias decided to form a new committee to collectively negotiate with the government.
The country’s peace process has been hindered by ongoing clashes between the armed forces and ethnic militias primarily in northern Shan state and neighboring Kachin state.
Reported by Win Naung Toe for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.