RCSS Blames Ethnic Army Representatives for Stalled Ceasefire

By Nyein Nyein 23 February 2015

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — The head of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) has further distanced the rebel group from other ethnic factions, blaming the impasse over the nationwide ceasefire agreement on the political concessions sought by members of the United Nationalities Federal Council.

During a press conference in Thailand on Monday, Lt-Gen Yawd Serk, the RCSS chairman, also said that the RCSS would continue to directly negotiate with the Burmese government if a nationwide peace accord did not come to pass.

The RCSS, the political wing of the Shan State Army-South, was one of the four signatories of a “Deed of Commitment for Peace and Reconciliation” on Union Day earlier this month, which pledged a commitment towards achieving lasting peace in Burma.

President Thein Sein had earlier called for a comprehensive nationwide ceasefire agreement to be concluded by Union Day, an aspiration scuttled by renewed fighting in the Kokang Special Region, clashes between government troops and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, and continuing disagreements between government negotiators and the ethnic army’s Nationwide Ceasefire Coordinating Team (NCCT).

Yawd Serk told the media that the delay was due to the NCCT’s attempts to devise a comprehensive political framework with the ceasefire agreement before it is signed. He said his organization signed the Union Day deed of commitment because it intends to continue independently seeking a peaceful resolution to ethnic conflict.

“[The RCSS is] free from any ties of alliance and we acted according to our policies,” he said. “It is a new page of our history to be moving forward to a political dialogue.”

Prior to Union Day, the RCSS and the Karen National Union (KNU), another signatory of the deed of commitment, met with the Mongla National Democratic Alliance Army and the United Wa State Army. Attending the Union Day commemoration, RCSS leaders met with Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, the speakers of the Union Parliament and members of the public in Shan State.

According to the RCSS chairman, the meeting with the army chief helped to resolve old misunderstandings.

“We were able to tell him that, for instance, the RCSS were not responsible for the death of four forestry staff in Linkhay in Dec. 2014, as we were accused of being,” he said.

Speaking of the current clashes between the Burma Army and the ethnic Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army in Laukkai, Yawd Serk said that the Burmese government and Burma Army should “have a big heart” for the insurgents.

“We are not taking sides, and the Kokang conflict area is out of our area of control,” he said, referring to an accusation in the Union Parliament last week that the RCSS was supporting the rebels.

Yawd Serk added that his party would be happy to intervene in the conflict by brokering negotiatons between the parties.

The RCSS signed a bilateral ceasefire with the Burmese government in 2012, with both parties agreeing to implement 31 separate agreements. Three years on, Yawd Serk said only three components of the ceasefire had been implemented, including the opening of liaison offices, allowing open meetings with the public, and authorizing regular meetings with other political parties.

Though the Union Day deed of commitment only bound signatories to further political dialogue, the signing has already provoked a divide in the KNU leadership. The party’s central committee last week issued a statement saying that KNU chair Mutu Say Poe did not have authority to sign the commitment.