The New Mon State Party (NMSP) has an isolated armed group in the southern part on the country in Mon State. The group has not signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) despite Myanmar Army pressure. The military seized at least four army bases from the NMSP in previous months, according to party leaders. The Irrawaddy’s Lawi Weng interviewed Nai Hong Sar, the NMSP vice chairman and former chairman of the ethnic alliance the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC).
What is the latest update on the peace process? When will you sign the NCA?
We need to talk a bit more with the National Reconciliation and Peace Center. Our Delegation for Political Negotiation will meet with them on Wednesday. When we agree upon the eight points to implementing the NCA, then we will sign it. We know we need to solve our armed conflict; we will not avoid signing the NCA.
So, you can’t say exactly when you will sign?
Right. I cannot say when for sure.
You met Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. What did you discuss with her?
A: We mainly discussed how the Myanmar Army seized out bases and restricted our movement. It shouldn’t do so and we lost trust while we were negotiating signing the NCA because of its actions. Trust is needed to build peace. She said she understood and that there should not me oppression when building peace but that she couldn’t control the military based on the 2008 Constitution.
She was frustrated with the lack of improvement with the peace process, despite her National League for Democracy (NLD) working hard for it. I said there were various points to a successful peace agreement.
First, all people and groups should be able to participate in political dialogue. When South Africa built peace, they let all parties participate. We cannot make peace during conflict. We all need to participate to halt conflict.
We also need a completed political framework in order to have dialogue. We cannot skip this step and prior to one Panglong peace conference, ethnic armed groups in Rakhine and Shan states could not have national-level meeting with people in their townships.
We were unable to attend the peace conference, not having signed the NCA. What if we disagreed with things that were discussed in a previous conference? It would be difficult to amend them later for new attendees. It is better to go step-by-step. She did not respond to my suggestions.
Why do you think the Myanmar Army seized bases from your armed group?
To force us to sign the NCA.
Why did they block your troops from training or even marching on Mon Revolution Day?
We asked military officials this. They said they didn’t want us to show military strength while making peace with the government. We said we wouldn’t cause trouble.
You have participated in peace negotiations under former President Thein Sein and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. How do they differ?
U Thein Sein and the military had the same form. But, the NLD government and the military are different. It was easy to deal with during U Thein Sein’s government in the case of peace agreements. It became difficult under Daw aung San Suu Kyi’s government.
What is your view on how Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is running the government?
She is trying to approach national reconciliation with the military. But many ethnic leaders have a different viewpoint regarding her actions and trust her less because of it.
What is the relationship between the UNFC and the Northern Alliance armed groups?
We still communicate with them. We negotiated with them [in reference to the NCA]. We also used to work with the Arakan Army, Kokang and Palaung before. But they have a different stance than us now.
Did you discuss the Northern Alliance with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi?
If the Myanmar Army forced your armed group to sign NCA what would you do?
It will not be a good situation if we are forced to sign the NCA. But we have reached many agreement toward signing and if they agree to our proposed points, we will sign. It took a long time to even reach this level of trust. We don’t want fighting. It causes a lot of civilian suffering.
How are you preparing in the case that they force you to sign the NCA?
If our people can’t accept the military actions and we cannot get our rights through political means, there will be another armed struggle.
What do you think about how Daw Aung San Suu Kyi dealt with the crisis in Rakhine State?
I don’t know enough to say but I do know she needs to be careful in solving this conflict. If there isn’t justice, it will be a problem later.