Ceasefire to Be Signed by Some Armed Groups in October, Others Abstain

By Lawi Weng 5 October 2015

RANGOON — A long-awaited ceasefire agreement between the government and ethnic armed groups will be signed on Oct. 15, negotiators said, though the pact will not be the “inclusive” agreement many ethnic groups had hoped for.

Seven ethnic armed groups have committed to signing the pact while other key stakeholders will abstain, calling into question whether the pact can truly be considered “nationwide.” A number of powerful armed groups, including the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), will not accede.

The Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) is also likely to sign the accord despite recent apprehension following aerial attacks by the Burma Army , but the group is not among the core that has made a public commitment to the Oct. 15 ceremony in Naypyidaw.

The seven signatories will include the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF), Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), Chin National Front (CNF), Democratic Karen Benevolent Party (DKBA), Karen National Liberation Party-Peace Council (KNLA-PC), Karen National Union (KNU) and Pa-O National Liberation Party (PNLA).

As outlined in the draft, a political dialogue will commence within 90 days of officiating the accord, regardless of how many groups are signatories. Those that do not sign the agreement will have the right to observe political discussions but will not be allowed to participate, including three that are currently in active conflict with the government.

Hla Maung Shwe, an official from the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), said negotiators will continue to refer to the agreement as a nationwide peace deal, despite the absence of about half of the armed groups involved in the peace process.

Speaking to reporters in Rangoon on Sunday, KNU general secretary Kwe Htoo Win said other armed groups will be able to join the pact when they are ready.

“In order to instill the NCA [nationwide ceasefire agreement], we have agreed to sign it. We are the frontrunners, and other groups will join us later,” he said, explaining that while some stakeholders do not yet trust the government, the process must move forward to establish assurances.

“Our political policy is that we believe we need to talk at the table to solve our conflict, we cannot solve this with guns… We believe this NCA could build trust. Based on actions taken by the government, we will trust them.”

The government’s chief peace negotiator, Union Minister Aung Min said on Sunday that the Burma Army does not intend to take military action against those groups that do not sign the pact, stating the government’s commitment to continue working with them toward eventual ascension of the ceasefire.

“Our government does not intend to fight with the undecided groups who do not sign the NCA,” Aung Min said. “Based on our bilateral agreement, we will seek peace together. If fighting breaks out, we will find a solution.”

Several international observers are expected to attend the signing ceremony, including the Euroean Union and representatives of the governments of regional neighbors. Burma’s President Thein Sein and Burma Army Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing have also been invited to sign the document but have not made a public commitment to do so.

Several ethnic armed groups have explicitly requested that the president and army chief sign the ceasefire to add assurance that fighting on the ground will stop once a deal is struck. MPC officials have said that the accord will only be signed by Aung Min, but that other political figures will be present at the signing.