Three armed ethnic groups threatened to pull out of Myanmar’s draft nationwide cease-fire agreement on Tuesday in light of continued military offensives by government troops, complicating a fragile peace deal that if finalized could end decades of civil war in the country.
The Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Arakan Army (AA), submitted a resignation from the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), a coalition of 16 armed ethnic groups that signed a draft peace deal with the government’s Union Peace-Making Work Committee (UPWC) in late March. The two negotiating parties agreed on most of the content of the draft accord, although some areas of disagreement remained.
The move by the three armies came during the six-day summit of armed ethnic groups at the headquarters of the United Wa State Army in Pangsang, Shan state, to discuss the proposed peace deal, prompting the participants to call a special meeting to decide whether to accept their resignation.
Progress on moving towards a final nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) has been stymied in recent weeks by fighting between government troops and the MNDAA in Shan state’s Kokang region, the AA in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state, and the TNLA in northern Shan state.
Even though all three groups are NCCT members, the government does not recognize the MNDAA and AA as such, and the TNLA has not signed a bilateral cease-fire agreement with the government. Before the summit, which began on May 1, the government had put pressure on the ethnic groups attending the summit to exclude the trio.
“The government forced the ethnic leaders not to invite us, and it has ignored us in politics,” Lieutenant Colonel Nyo Tun Aung, deputy commander-in-chief of the AA, told RFA’s Myanmar Service. “We have to raise our political standard, and we also have to do many other things. That’s why we have applied to resign from the NCCT.”
He said the groups at the summit would decide on the issue during a special meeting.
Nyo Tun Aung also pointed out that the AA was not at the ceremony when the draft NCA was signed, and the government did not want to include it among the signatories of the final NCA.
“The government and ethnic armed groups still need to discuss many important issues such as military placement,” he said. “It also depends on how much military and the government would agree to and accept from these discussions. The AA really wants peace.”
President Thein Sein has signaled that his government is ready to finalize an NCA, but that it is “waiting for the outcome from the ethnic summit,” the online journal The Irrawaddy reported.
In the meantime, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the political wing of the Kachin rebels, has accused the government army of failing to join in the monitoring of ongoing clashes in northern Myanmar’s Kachin state.
Fighting broke out there last month between the government army and Kachin Independence Army soldiers in Tanaing and Hpakant townships.
The government army said Monday that it would not help monitor the clashes, although it previously agreed to do so, said Lamine Gwan Jar of the Peace-talk Creation Group, which acts as a go-between for Kachin rebels and the national government.
“Because it was conveyed to us by a lower-level official, we don’t know if it is true or not,” he said. “We don’t want not to have these kinds of clashes in the future, and we think it is good to monitor the areas where clashes have occurred.”
Reported by Khin Khin Ei and Kyaw Myo Min of RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.