UNFC Claims to be United Behind NCA at Urgent Meeting

By Nyein Nyein 4 April 2017

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Members of the ethnic bloc the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) pledged to stay united and said they were committed to the government’s nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) at an emergency meeting in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, this week.

The seven-member bloc discussed the current political situation for ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) in relation to the July 2016 Kachin Independence Army (KIA)-led Mai Ja Yang summit’s basic principles of a federal state, and decided to postpone the UNFC conference until June this year, according to attendees.

The meeting was held amid suspicion of a rift within the bloc as the comprising groups disagreed over signing the NCA and its role in the peace process.

Members of both the UNFC and the Northern Alliance—the KIA and the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N)—attended a United Wa State Army (UWSA)-led summit in the Wa Self-Administered Zone’s capital of Panghsang in February. At the summit, the groups called for the NCA to be replaced, contrary to the UNFC’s nine principals leading to all member EAOs signing the accord.

Last week, the government announced that five UNFC EAOs—the Karenni National Progressive Party, the New Mon State Party, the Arakan National Council, the Lahu Democratic Union and the Wa National Organization—would sign the NCA, although the groups later said it had not been officially decided.

General Sai Htoo of the political arm of the SSA-N, the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP), told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that his group “would not leave the UNFC, although we have desires to work together with the Wa,” referring to the UWSA-led political negotiation committee.

Vice chairperson of the UNFC Nai Hong Sar said, “the KIA and the SSA-N are still on the NCA path, although they are allied militarily with the northern armed groups.”

He said the UNFC remained united in their commitment to the nine principles and recent negotiations with the government had seen some developments.

Nai Hong Sar said the UNFC delegation needs further negotiation with the government on tripartite talks—between EAOs, the government, and political parties —and with the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee over mechanisms such as the clarification of drafted terms of reference.

The ethnic bloc also changed its stance on the demand that all ethnic armed groups be invited to sign the NCA.

“We couldn’t stand firm on our all-inclusion policy as three groups—the Arakan Army, Ta’ang Nationalities Liberation Army and the Kokang’s MNDAA (Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army)—are now not following the NCA path,” said Nai Hong Sar, who is also the vice chairman of the New Mon State Party.

“It [the argument for all-inclusivity] has changed according to the current situation,” he told reporters.