RANGOON — Members of various ethnic armed groups have congratulated the National League for Democracy (NLD) on its landslide victory in Sunday’s poll, urging the party’s chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi to prioritize peace when the next government assumes office.
Maj. Sai Hla of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), a major ethnic Shan rebel group that was one of the signatories to a multilateral ceasefire agreement inked last month, told The Irrawaddy he expects Suu Kyi to live up to her word.
“She said she will help to make the peace process better. It seems she understands the process is not [finished]. We have high expectations that she will drive the process better [than the government]. She needs to show us what she promised,” he said.
The current peace process involving the government affiliated Myanmar Peace Center is not as successful as ethnic armed groups had expected, Sai Hla said.
“It is necessary that any government in power is willing to understand the ethnic conflict and cooperate with ethnic organizations. They should have sympathy towards ethnics. Otherwise, the problem will never end.”
Eight armed groups signed on to a so-called nationwide ceasefire agreement in Burma’s capital on Oct. 15 after almost two years of negotiations. However several major ethnic armed groups, including the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N), have withheld their signatures.
James Lum Dau, a political advisor and a central committee member of the KIO, told The Irrawaddy that Suu Kyi’s leadership would be crucial in taking the peace process forward.
“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is a leader that we respect. As she will be above the President, we expect that she will successfully lead the peace process,” he said, referring to Suu Kyi’s comments that she would be the head of a new NLD-led government, despite not formally holding the presidency.
“We didn’t see any significant achievements under the facilitation of the [MPC]. They were not really relevant in the peace process. It now very much depends on the initiatives of the new government.”
The Karen National Union (KNU) signed the Oct. 15 pact, despite deep rifts in the group’s leadership over becoming a signatory, with some top leaders doubting the government’s sincerity while ongoing conflict has continued in ethnic areas.
Naw Zipporah Sein, vice chairperson of the KNU, told The Irrawaddy by email that she was satisfied with the NLD’s victory as it was time for the democratic government the Burmese people had been yearning for.
“I believe that the new government led by the NLD will not be worse than the military government. The leadership of the NLD who will come to power also will need peace and will continue the peace process,” Zipporah Sein said.
She said the NLD would likely not ignore the root causes of Burma’s decades-long civil war and would prioritize solving political issues through negotiation and compromise.
“I believe the NLD will bring changes… in three main areas: national peace and reconciliation, constitutional change, and the rule of law,” Zipporah Sein said.
The ethnic Ta’ang (Palaung) rebel group, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, which has been engaged in recent and ongoing conflict with the Burma Army in northern Shan State, has also embraced the NLD’s electoral triumph in the hope of positive change for Burma’s ethnic nationalities.
“We welcome this victory and we expect the National League for Democracy will realize the formation of a federal union and the peaceful co-existence of ethnic minorities and all the people of Burma,” the TNLA said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
The 11-member ethnic alliance, the United Nationalities Federal Council, also plans to issue a statement welcoming the NLD’s win in the coming days, according to the group’s general secretary Khu Oo Reh.