RANGOON — Ethnic armed group leaders have questioned State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s silence two months into a Burma Army offensive in Kachin State and her push for all groups to sign the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).
The State Counselor has put pressure on the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC)—a coalition of seven ethnic armed organizations—to sign the NCA this month, but the UNFC’s vice chairman has maintained that more time is required to achieve full inclusivity and meaningful peace.
“Her wish is for us to sign it as soon as we can,” the UNFC’s Nai Hong Sar told The Irrawaddy. “As for us, we don’t want to buy time at this point, but there is no concrete solution. If we sign it, we know that there will be problems.”
He added that, “We have doubts as to why she is rushing the peace process.”
At a meeting in October with the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC), Daw Aung San Suu Kyi reaffirmed that non-signatories should sign the NCA as soon as possible, and then participate in the second installment of the Union Peace Conference scheduled for February 2017.
“Our country has strived for peace for decades. All should participate in the conference, and should not stay outside and buy more time,” she said at the event.
Peace talks between the government’s National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC) and the UNFC have been ongoing. Out of eight discussion points, four were agreed upon in October, and four remain unresolved. The UNFC maintains that once all eight are addressed satisfactorily, the coalition will consider signing the NCA.
The issue of all-inclusivity is one that vice chairman Nai Hong Sar has continued to emphasize; with the eight current NCA signatories as the only participants in a political dialogue, he said that the peace process will have little value.
“There will not be real peace if only some groups are allowed to join a ceasefire and others are being fought against,” he said, referring to Burma Army offensives in the north of the country.
‘What Do They Want?’
According to some ethnic armed group leaders, there is divergence between the approaches of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy and the Burma Army when it comes to the peace process.
This has been particularly apparent in the ongoing military offensive against the Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/A).
On Oct. 25th, the 56th anniversary of the KIO’s formation, Lanyaw Zawng Hra, the organization’s chairman, spoke on the occasion, saying that it appeared that the Burma Army was trying to eliminate all ethnic armed opposition through the use of force.
Lanyaw Zawng Hra’s speech was also critical of the NLD, questioning the leading party’s silence regarding the military offensive despite past promises to work with ethnic nationalities to build a federal system in Burma.
He said that the KIO wanted to solve political problems with political dialogue, and that had been why the organization had joined the 21st century Panglong peace conference at the end of August. But the Burma Army continued to launch attacks on KIA outposts while the government tried to implement the peace process.
If these attacks continue, the KIA may not sign the NCA, according to UNFC leaders; the issue was reportedly raised during peace talks in October in Rangoon.
“If the KIA does not sign the NCA, then the other members of the UNFC will not sign it either. We will stand as an allied force and we need to protect each other,” said Nai Hong Sar, who also pointed out that different views are apparent on the government’s side, between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the Tatmadaw.
“What do they want? Do they want to get the upper hand? Or are they worried that their army will have no value if there is no more fighting?” the UNFC vice chairman asked, in reference to the Burma Army.
Without agreement from the military, Nai Hong Sar added, the State Counselor and her government will have difficulty working for the country. She cannot turn her back on the army’s demands, either; we understand her circumstances, he said.