State counsellor to meet with UNFC as support for NCA falters

The state counsellor has agreed to meet with a key bloc representing ethnic armed groups this week, as momentum for signing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement appears to have flat lined.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is also head of the National Reconcilliation and Peace Center will join the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) in Nay Pyi Taw on March 1.

Ethnic armed organizations have increasingly distanced themselves from the peace deal hammered out under the U Thein Sein administration and signed by eight organizations in 2015. Despite pressure from the National League for Democracy-led government, no additional groups have so far joined.

At a recent summit held in the United Wa State Army’s Pangkham headquarters, seven non-signatories agreed to bypass the NCA, and push for a new route to peace. The February 22-24 summit concluded with a nine-point, joint statement, part of which accused the NLD-led government of undermining the historic Panglong Agreement and its guarantees of the right to self-determination and of a democratic federal union.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has frequently reiterated her call for ethnic armed groups to join the NCA, including most recently at the 70th anniversary of Union Day in Panglong, southern Shan State.

The Joint Monitoring Committee has joined the effort to lobby ethnic armed groups to endorse the NCA, and has promised to help negotiate an end to conflicts if the organizations join the pact.

“If non-signatory organizations sign the NCA, we can be sure that conflicts will decline in their respective areas,” said U Min Zaw Oo, executive director of the Union-level Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC-U).  “Our team, the JMC, can certainly help to reduce conflict. We’ve done such things in the past … We can strongly guarantee this.”

In addition to the Union-level JMC, there are four state-level committees, one each in Kayin, Mon and Shan states and one in Tanintharyi Region. The JMC is responsible for implementing the NCA in the signatories’ territory, including monitoring for possible violations of the truce, and ensuring all parties adhere to a code of ethics. If disputes do arise, the JMC is tasked with negotiating a peaceful resolution.
U Aung Naing Oo, a central executive committee member of the Mon Regional Democracy Party, said that the ethnic armed groups should not be unduly pressured to sign the NCA, warning that such a move could backfire. Preconditions must first be negotiated, and if the groups understand such negotiations are binding, then and only then are they likely to sign, he said.

Translated by Zin Linn
Edited by Laignee Barron for BNI