Signing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) is not an agreement to disarm, the New Mon State Party (NMSP) said in a statement issued to mark the 71st Mon National Day.
Thousands of ethnic Mon in Myanmar and abroad celebrated their national day today in Mon State and other parts of the country including Yangon, where NMSP leaders explained their decision to formally participate in the peace process.
“To participate by signing the NCA does not mean we will disarm or that it is even our goal,” said the statement from the NMSP.
The NMSP intends to walk down the road of political dialogue by attending the upcoming Panglong peace conference, as only by working together with other ethnic political groups and democracy forces can we amend the 2008 constitution, which has written by the former military regime, be successfully amended to reflect the interests of all, the statement said.
NMSP leaders promised the government at a meeting in Napyitaw last month that they would sign the NCA in February. The Lahu Democratic Union (LDU), another ethnic group, also pledged to sign the accord at the same time.
Some ethnic Mon have voiced disagreement with the decision by the NMSP leadership to commit to the NCA instead of waiting to sign it with the four other members of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC). Because of this, the NMSP wanted to take the opportunity to explain its political stand on Mon National Day.
In its statement, the group’s leaders said they tried to stand with their UNFC allies but some of the members had opted to side with the Northern Alliance armed groups, insisting on their inclusion in the peace process as a condition for signing the NCA. Furthermore, the NMSP’s base is in an isolated area in southern Myanmar, making it difficult to cooperate with other ethnic armed groups in the alliance.
“Our goal is to have democracy and a federal system under which all ethnic people have equal rights and self-determination,” the statement said.
The NMSP signed its first ceasefire agreement in 1995 under the military dictatorship of U Than Shwe. They then signed a second ceasefire in 2012 during the time of the U Thein Sein’s government.
But dealing with the NLD government and the two former governments was different, party leaders said. The NLD government and the military have the same view that all ethnic armed groups need to sign the NCA. Therefore, it is difficult to deal with them, said Nai Ong Ma-Nge, an NMSP leader, who gave a speech at the 71st Mon National Day held in Mahachai, just outside Bangkok.
Some ethnic Mon questioned why the NMSP had agreed to sign the NCA without first seeking the opinions of the Mon people.
Nai Ong Ma-Nge said that if the NMSP does not sign the NCA those who deal with the party can be charged with unlawful association at any time. Therefore, he said, his group went to meet the government in Naypyitaw on Jan. 23, and told administration representatives they would call a public meeting before signing the NCA.
Yesterday, the Myanmar government released five NMSP members who had been imprisoned in Kyaikmayaw town ahead of the NMSP signing the NCA.
The Office of State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi also sent a letter to the NMSP to express her government’s best wishes on Mon National Day. Her letter expressed the desire that the Mon would cooperate with other ethnic groups to work toward a federal system in the country.