Ceasefire Cited as Ethnic UNFC Alliance Suspends Two Members

By Nyein Nyein 12 November 2015

RANGOON — The ethnic alliance known as the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) has temporarily suspended two of its member groups, the Chin National Front and Pa-O National Liberation Organization, after they were among eight signatories to a so-called nationwide ceasefire agreement in mid-October.

The decision came following a three-day emergency meeting of the UNFC, which ended on Thursday, with leaders of the spurned groups claiming their suspensions were in the violation of Article 28 of the alliance’s constitution.

Khun Okkar, a Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO) patron and UNFC secretary, said: “We signed the NCA [nationwide ceasefire agreement] first, without proceeding [uniformly] as an alliance, that’s why.”

The UNFC, formed in late 2010 to represent most of Burma’s ethnic armed groups during peace negotiations with the government, has 11 active members, and this week’s emergency meeting in Chiang Mai, Thailand, was attended by senior leaders of the groups.

Article 28 of the UNFC’s constitution covers the suspension or termination of groups’ membership, which can only be done through the alliance’s annual council meeting or at a separate conference held every two years.

Salai Lian Hmong Sakhong, a CNF leader, told The Irrawaddy that the move was not in accordance with the UNFC charter.

“They [the UNFC] did a thing that they should not do. They said they are angry that we signed the NCA—the text we all agreed in drafting,” he told The Irrawaddy.

Many UNFC members are also members of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), a body that supplanted the council in ethnic armed groups’ peace negotiations with the government. The Oct. 15 signing of the “nationwide” ceasefire in Naypyidaw included eight non-state armed organizations including the CNF and PNLO, but several of the country’s biggest ethnic rebel groups opted not to sign, bristling at the government’s unwillingness to allow for a more inclusive accord.

Lian Hmong Sakhong said a CNF representative who was present at the meeting this week objected to the decision because “it is against their own constitution and such an act could lead to disunity, and it is like a stabbing in the back.”

Khun Okkar said a UNFC decision on whether or not to fully suspend the two member groups would come after the alliance’s annual federal council meeting next month.

Khu Oo Reh, the UNFC general secretary, declined to comment on the issue, saying a statement would be released later on Thursday.

The eight ethnic armed groups that signed the ceasefire accord last month, including the CNF and PNLO, also held a separate summit in Chiang Mai this week.