Despite State Counselor’s Announcement, UNFC Members Undecided on NCA Signing

By Nyein Nyein 31 March 2017

CHIANG MAI, Thailand – Members of the ethnic armed alliance the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) said they have not yet confirmed that five of their seven groups will sign the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) with the government, despite the State Counselor announcing it on state-run television on Thursday evening.

Nai Hong Sar, the vice chairman of New Mon State Party (NMSP) said, “we are surprised to hear that news, as we have not officially decided upon it yet.”

“I wonder if there has been any misinformation relayed to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” he told The Irrawaddy on Friday.

“The government should have consulted with us first,” said Tar Aik Nyunt, secretary of the Wa National Organization (WNO). He said that the UNFC members would have a meeting next week in which they would decide whether to sign the NCA.

The five UNFC members which Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said had agreed to sign the NCA are the NMSP, Karenni National Progressive Party, Arakan National Council, Lahu Democratic Union and the WNO. Not listed as potential signatories were two militarily strong UNFC members—the Kachin Independence Organization and the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army-North.

The UNFC has been negotiating with the government on a nine-point proposal. They have said if the government agrees to comply with their terms, they will sign the NCA.

During their Delegation for Political Negotiation (DPN) meeting with the government’s peace negotiator in early March, the nine-point proposal was agreed in principle, but with slight changes in wording.

NMSP said they no longer hold on to the policy of “all inclusivity,” which was held primarily to pave the way to bring in the three active armed groups in the country’s northeast—the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Arakan Army—to the peace table.

Nai Hong Sar said these three groups have backed an announcement made in connection with the United Wa State Army’s ethnic summit in Panghsang in February stating that they want a new ceasefire pact to replace the NCA.

Nai Win Hla, the central committee member of the NMSP, told The Irrawaddy that they, the executive members, aim to sign the NCA, but first need the go-ahead from the NMSP’s central committee.

“We all now have agreed in principle to signing, but we will ask for approval at our central committee members meeting in late April,” he said.

Nai Wing Hla said that the NMSP’s policy has always been to work together with other bilateral ceasefire groups for political dialogue, since their own group had a bilateral ceasefire with the government in early 2012. But in order to show solidarity, they had decided to stand in line with the UNFC’s position.

“We followed the all-inclusive policy of the alliance, but now we have dismissed it,” he added.

At the time of publication, The Irrawaddy was not able to reach the KNPP for comment on a potential NCA signing yet, nor other DPN representatives or government spokesperson U Zaw Htay.

Irrawaddy reporter Hintharnee contributed to this report.