Wa to Host Ethnic Summit for Non-Signatory Ceasefire Groups

By Kyaw Kha 26 October 2015

RANGOON — A number of ethnic armed groups that have not signed the government’s ‘nationwide’ ceasefire agreement will convene in Panghsang, the capital of the Wa Special Region, at the beginning of next month.

According to the summit’s organizing committee, the United Wa State Army (UWSA) will host 11 other armed groups for a three day discussion commencing on Nov. 1.

“The meeting will focus on the views of ethnic armed groups on the election and how we, ethnic armed groups, should engage with the new government,” Zhao Xiaofu, a UWSA spokesperson, told The Irrawaddy.

Panghsang hosted a similar summit in May, attended by 12 groups including the Karen National Union (KNU). At its conclusion, representatives issued a statement calling on the Burmese government to demonstrate its commitment to the peace process by ceasing hostilities against three insurgent armies in the northeast and west of the country.

The three groups—the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Kokang-based Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Arakan Army—were blocked by the Burmese government from participating in the ceasefire accord, signed in Naypyidaw on Oct. 15.

A ethnic conference in the Karen State village of Law Khee Lar, held in June to consider whether to ratify the text of the government’s draft ceasefire agreement, saw the emergence of a split in the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), as representatives of member organizations debated whether to withhold support for the accord while the three groups were excluded.

The KNU was the largest ethnic armed group to support signing the ceasefire accord without requiring the government allow the three groups to participate. It has not been invited to the November summit, along with the seven other groups that signed the Oct. 15 agreement.

Hla Maung Shwe, a senior advisor with Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), told The Irrawaddy that ethnic armed groups which did not sign the ceasefire agreement would be able to sign at a future debate and participate in planned political dialogue with the next elected government.