No Guarantee Not to Secede: Ethnic Armed Group Leaders

By Lawi Weng 13 September 2018

MON STATE — Ethnic armed groups cannot make a promise never to secede from the Union as Myanmar does not yet have a real democracy or federal union, according to ethnic leaders.

Members of the 10 ethnic armed groups who have signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), who make up the group called ‘NCA-S EAO’, held a four-day meeting in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand on Sept. 8 to 11, at which ethnic leaders agreed to revert to their former stance based on the Panglong Agreement with leaders vowing not to undo what the historic leaders, including Gen. Aung San, made written agreements on.

The ethnic leaders in attendance gave several reasons for not being able to guarantee they will not secede from the Union.

“The first reason is that our older leaders made a written agreement. They wrote it with their hands and we will not delete it with our feet. If we do, we won’t be able to escape the blame our ethnic people will lay on us,” said Nai Hong Sar, vice chairman of the New Mon State Party who attended the NCA-S EAO meeting.

“The second reason is that we have not yet seen what type of rights the government will give our ethnic people, and we don’t even know yet what type of federalism the government would establish. Also, the current democracy doesn’t appear to be a real one yet, he said.

“If we have to agree whenever the (army) pressures us, our future movements may be restricted. Therefore, we all agreed to take a stand and not give them the promise,” he said.

While peace negotiations are ongoing in some respects, they say the Myanmar Army continues to oppress ethnic people in the country, and this has influenced the sentiment among ethnic leaders that they cannot make this commitment to the Myanmar Army.

The Myanmar Army has not allowed discussion on political issues at the peace conferences because the ethnic leaders refuse to make the promise never to secede from the Union and, according to the ethnic leaders, this is why the peace talks are in a deadlock.

Ethnic leaders said that the army should reconsider this restriction because peace negotiations cannot move forward otherwise.

A statement issued by the NCA-S EAO on Sept. 11 said that ethnic leaders and the Myanmar Army need to meet as soon as possible in order to overcome this current deadlock.

Ethnic leaders from the NCA-S EAO also requested a meeting with State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to discuss with her how to find a solution to the impasse in the peace process.

The NCA-S EAO has decided to hold an ethnic summit in the future to which they will also invite non-signatories of the NCA. The summit is intended as a forum for discussions on how to build a new Myanmar that has equal rights for ethnic peoples, democracy, and a federal system.