Ethnic Leaders Question Govt Commitment to Dialogue

By Lawi Weng 21 October 2015

RANGOON — Ethnic leaders say they doubt the government’s commitment to political dialogue with insurgent groups, despite participating in last week’s “nationwide” ceasefire agreement in Naypyidaw.

Observers have argued that the government’s continued attacks on ethnic armed groups who did not sign the Oct. 15 accord threatened the chances of securing a lasting peace.

Sai Nyunt Lwin, a spokesman for the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, said that the Burma Army’s repeated attacks on the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) both before and after the accord was signed would reduce the chances of non-signatories from joining the ceasefire agreement at a later date.

“Fighting will not help us to have peace. They need to use negotiations instead of armed force,” he said.

Nearly 3,000 people have fled their homes after a Burma Army offensive against the SSA-N, the armed wing of the Shan State Progressive Party, began on Oct. 6.

Lt-Gen Yawd Serk, the chairman of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), which signed the Oct. 15 agreement, echoed Sai Nyunt Lwin’s call for an end to the attacks on the SSA-N.

He told an audience in Mandalay over the weekend that the government’s hopes to attract other armed groups to the ceasefire agreement at a later date would be unworkable while the Burma Army continued its operations in territory under the control of Palaung, Shan and Kachin rebel groups.

Under the terms of the Oct. 15 ceasefire accord, signed by eight of the country’s 21 non-state armed groups, participants have until Dec. 14 to agree upon a framework for political dialogue for future peace negotiations, which must commence by Jan. 13.

The Burmese government prevented five armed groups from participating in the ceasefire accord, three of which were in a state of active conflict with the Burma Army. Several other groups who had been part of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) subsequently boycotted the Oct. 15 agreement, announcing that they were unwilling to participate unless all ethnic armed groups who wished to participate in the accord were permitted to do so.

Nai Hong Sar, the NCCT leader and vice-chairman of the New Mon State Party (NMSP), said the government had behaved disingenuously by excluding some groups from participating in the ceasefire accord, and failed to recognize the motives of Burma’s ethnic minorities in their quest to secure their political and human rights.

“Every ruling government in our country has tried to make peace with ethnic armed groups, and the (ethnic armed groups) have showed that they want peace,” he said. “But (the government) has played dirty politics in the way they have tried to solve these conflicts.”