Mon Leader Slams Divisions Over Ceasefire Signing

By The Irrawaddy 1 October 2015

A leading member of the New Mon State Party has hit out at the decision of some ethnic armed groups to sign the nationwide ceasefire agreement, calling the decision-making process undemocratic.

Of the 19 ethnic armed groups represented at a three-day meeting in northern Thailand which began on Monday, only seven indicated they would sign the much debated pact.

“Only a minority will sign the ceasefire agreement. But we, the majority, had to [allow] their wishes for the sake of unity. It is not democratic,” said Nai Htaw Mon, chairman of the New Mon State Party (NMSP). “It is our weakness that we have to follow the interests of the minority.”

Speaking at the ethnic summit in Chiang Mai on Wednesday, the NMSP chairman said ethnic leaders should look beyond narrow business interests and personal gain and consider ethnic unity.

“We shouldn’t focus on our own interests. We shouldn’t forget our roots. We shouldn’t forget our ethnic fellows,” Nai Htaw Mon said.

The NMSP is one of a handful of major ethnic armed groups, alongside the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP) and the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), that have withheld support for a ceasefire that the government hopes to conclude in October.

The seven groups backing the agreement are: the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF); Arakan Liberation Party (ALP); Chin National Front (CNF); Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA); Karen National Liberation Army-Peace Council (KNLA-PC); Karen National Union (KNU); and the Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO).

Nai Htaw Mon warned that those ethnic groups committed to signing the pact should temper their expectations of the incumbent quasi-civilian government.

“As [the government] didn’t amend the constitution, can we be sure that we will get what we want? We have to consider it carefully,” he said.