NCA Signatories, Abstainers Welcome New Leadership

By Kyaw Kha 17 March 2016

RANGOON — Both signatories and non-signatories of Burma’s so-called nationwide ceasefire agreement have welcomed the country’s new president- and vice presidents-elect.

The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of nine ethnic groups that have opted out of signing the accord with the outgoing government, described the election as a harbinger of positive developments to come as Burma moves toward peace.

“I am happy that a genuine civilian has become president. He is also the representative of the NLD [National League for Democracy], which won the election with the people’s support. And we view this as a positive sign. We believe it will contribute to democratization and bringing national unity,” said UNFC vice chairman Naing Hong Sar.

On Tuesday, NLD nominee Htin Kyaw was elected president by the Union Parliament, winning 360 votes. Myint Swe, nominated by the military, received 213 votes, and Henry Van Thio, also an NLD nominee, received 79 votes, making them vice president Nos. 1 and 2, respectively.

While a large portion of the population has welcomed Burma’s new president, there has been some criticism over the two vice presidents, both of whom have military service experience.

Naing Hong Sar said the UNFC had no comment about the two men and that it accepts the decision of the voting parliamentarians. He also said he believed that a truly nationwide ceasefire agreement could be achieved with the NLD at the helm. About a dozen ethnic armed groups have opted out of signing or been excluded from the ceasefire by the outgoing government.

“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has said before that she will focus on national unity and try to include all [ethnic armed groups] in the NCA [nationwide ceasefire agreement]. I believe this will come true,” he said.

The Delegation for Political Negotiation (DPN), which is comprised of the leaders of the nine UNFC member groups, met on Wednesday in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to discuss future peace talks with the incoming NLD government.

Kwe Htoo Win, general secretary of the Karen National Union (KNU), told The Irrawaddy that NCA signatories, of which the KNU is one of the largest, also welcomed the recent election of the president and vice presidents.

“Selecting the president should not be about who he is, but about what he can do and his capabilities. It seems that the NLD has chosen [the president and vice president] with consideration to national reconciliation. We accept anyone who has goodwill for the country and who is able to serve the interests of the country,” Kwe Htoo Win said.

Kwe Htoo Win added that while the new government is responsible for convincing non-signatories to sign a ceasefire agreement, President Thein Sein’s outgoing government as well as current NCA signatories must continue taking part in the peace process.