RANGOON — The Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee (JMC), formed one month after the signing of Burma’s so-called nationwide ceasefire pact (NCA), has received around 500 complaints of violations, mostly from Shan State and Karen State.
Since the November 2015 formation of the JMC, both the Burma Army and the ethnic NCA signatories have closely monitored the ceasefire areas covered by the agreement, which was signed by the government and eight of the country’s more than 20 non-state armed groups in October.
The JMC does not, however, cover the non-NCA signatories’ areas, where fighting remains ongoing between government troops and ethnic armies, such as the Ta’ang (Palaung) National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO), the Arakan Army (AA) and the ethnic Kokang group known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).
The complaints reported to the JMC involve many incidents of extortion and some gunfights, and have largely been filed by the Burma Army against ethnic armed groups, and vice-versa, according to staff from the once government-backed Myanmar Peace Center (MPC). Yet locals have also filed some complaints against both sides.
Dr. Min Zaw Oo, the director of Ceasefire Negotiation and Implementation—a department which receives support from the MPC—and one the 26 members of the Union-level JMC, said that while the JMC has been able to resolve dozens of complaints, more terms of reference (ToRs) need to be drafted which would provide unbiased ways of addressing the problems which are brought forward.
“All the solutions and the verifications must come in accordance with the standard operating procedures, which we call Terms of Reference (ToRs),” he said, “We now have about 50 pages of ToRs, but we still have to draft about 200 more, in order to avoid biases during solutions,” he said.
JMC members represent armed groups and civilians, but Min Zaw Oo told The Irrawaddy that they lack staff capacity to handle, sort out, and verify the complaints.
Until now, the expenses of operating the JMC have been covered by the MPC’s budget. While it appears that the MPC—a relic of the former Thein Sein government—might soon close, JMC staff will continue their work for the next three months, their mandate extended in this interim period as Burma settles in to new national leadership.
In January, the JMC formed state-level committees in eastern and southeastern Burma. Two regional JMCs are located in respective areas of Shan State controlled by two different signatories, the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA-S) and the Pa-O National Liberation Army/Organization (PNLO). Another committee is located in Tennasserim Division, in the Karen National Union’s (KNU) territory.
Two more state or regional JMCs will soon be formed in Karen and Mon states, also in areas where the KNU is active.
Min Zaw Oo said he may continue to work within a future JMC working group or maintain his current position, if it is an option under the new government, which was sworn in on Wednesday and is led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD).
The new ruling party has not yet revealed who will take on the position of chief peace negotiator under an NLD government, a role which was held by Aung Min, the MPC director and former Minister of the President’s Office under the previous administration. Aung San Suu Kyi now holds the same ministerial role; it is possible that she could lead future negotiations with non-state armed groups.
Burma’s President Htin Kyaw reiterated in his inauguration speech that peace building remains an NLD government priority along with national reconciliation and the establishment of a federal and democratic constitution.