Armed Forces Chief Thanks NCA Signatories for ‘Constructive Cooperation’

By Saw Yan Naing 30 June 2016

RANGOON — Burma Army Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing thanked ethnic armed groups that signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) last year for their “constructive cooperation,” while indirectly criticizing other groups.

The armed forces chief alluded to NCA non-signatory groups “expanding their forces.” He urged them to eschew “dogmatism” and adopt a “peaceful” approach through “political” means. This was suggestive of the military’s ongoing distrust of certain ethnic armed groups, whose participation is key for a comprehensive and sustainable peace deal.

Min Aung Hlaing was speaking in Naypyidaw on Wednesday at a meeting with the Peace Process Steering Team (PPST), which represents the eight NCA signatory armed groups.

“Thanks to the constructive cooperation of the ethnic armed organizations […] throughout the first term of multiparty democracy, we could reach a certain road and sign the [NCA],” Min Aung Hlaing said, according to a statement that was posted on his Facebook account on Wednesday.

Min Aung Hlaing said that if all concerned parities—both NCA signatories and the majority of ethnic armed groups that did not sign the NCA—cooperate according to “the Union spirit,” without upholding “dogmatism,” then “victory” will come “peacefully and speedily.”

“All need to believe in one another in restoring peace and stability [to] the country in line with liberty, fraternity and equality,” he said.

PPST members at the meeting represented the Karen National Union (KNU), the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), the Chin National Front (CNF), the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), and the ethnic Burman-majority All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF).

PPST members also met with State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyidaw on Tuesday, where it was agreed that the Union Peace Conference—now branded by Suu Kyi as the “21st Century Panglong conference”—would be held in the last week of August.

Min Aung Hlaing said on the Wednesday meeting that the military “fully wishes to achieve success” in the Union Peace Conference.

He also said that, although ethnic armed groups can make demands in accordance with their needs, there are also some “requirements” with regards to “responsibility,” “accountability” and “a sense of duty.”

He reiterated the military’s adherence to the Three National Causes: “non-disintegration of the Union,” “non-disintegration of national solidarity” and “perpetuation of sovereignty.”

In the meeting, PPST chairman Saw Mutu Say Poe, who also chairs the KNU, explained the PPST’s plans of including the NCA non-signatory groups in the peace conference.

Regarding the NCA non-signatories, Min Aung Hlaing said that the military “welcomes and are waiting for their signing of the NCA.”

He said that the military does not want to see fighting between “national brethren,” but it has to protect the government administration, and people’s lives and property.

However, he said that ethnic armed groups need to achieve their goals through “political means,” since the military has opened a political platform for them to engage in national affairs.

“Place and land are not important. It is important that they receive public support and work sincerely on their political goals. They need to put national interests at the fore without partisanship, racism and regionalism,” he said.

However, he said, “Some [ethnic armed] groups are reinforcing their strongholds and expanding their forces out of concern. If they have self-confidence, they need not do so, but should take a peaceful approach instead.”

He stressed the importance of public support and said that the military was attempting to win the public’s trust.

After the meeting, Min Aung Hlaing presented gifts to the PPST delegates and posed for photographs.