Shan Armed Group Reconsiders Participation in Ceasefire Monitoring Body

By Nyein Nyein 2 November 2018

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — The Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) said it would stop participating in every level of Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee discussions at least until the armed group’s senior leaders meet next week, claiming the committee was not abiding by the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).

The RCSS has already skipped two meetings of the committee since announcing on Oct. 7 that it was assessing the body’s alleged problems and considering ways to fix them. On Thursday it said its senior leaders would discuss whether to keep participating when they meet in the second week of November.

RCSS spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Sai Meng told The Irrawaddy that it would only be possible to continue with peace negotiations when the government and military “reconsider their agendas for the NCA.”

He cited the military’s insistence at a recent three-way peace summit that armed groups disavow secession and endorse a single national army as some of the key hurdles.

The RCSS says the military is failing to live up to not only the NCA, but to a bilateral ceasefire and code of conduct it signed with the group as well.

“So we want to change the [committee’s] standard operating procedures and the intervention from outside experts,” said Lt. Col. Sai Meng, noting that the participation of independent experts was currently very weak.

Since the NCA was signed in 2015, the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee has been charged with mediating disputes among the signatories. The RCSS and military have lodged multiple complaints against one another, the later mostly accusing the former of extortion and forced recruitment.

Lt. Col. Sai Meng said much of the NCA has yet to be implemented in part because the signatories keep accusing each other of violating the agreement.

He said the RCSS has released the soldiers it has detained over the years while RCSS members the military has arrested — he claims they were all unarmed — have been put on trial (The RCSS’s code of conduct with the military says its members may travel unmolested so long as they are not armed).

“We think our members who travel without weapons should not face such detention and charges,” Lt. Col Sai Meng said.

The RCSS says it has asked the military to release its members many times, to no avail. It has also asked the military to release some civilians it arrested in August 2017 and charged for possessing walkie-talkies and rudimentary weapons, also without success.

The RCSS’s latest move is but the latest setback for the national peace process.

Last week the Karen National Union (KNU) said it was temporarily suspending participation in peace negotiations in order to consult with its members on whether to continue taking part.

As a result of the RCSS and KNU decisions, next week’s meeting of the armed groups’ Peace Process Steering Team — chaired and co-chaired by the KNU and RCSS, respectively — has been postponed.