State Counselor Addresses Shan State Conflict by Calling for Groups to Sign NCA

By The Irrawaddy 23 November 2016

RANGOON – As fighting continued for the fourth day on Wednesday in northern Shan State, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi urged ethnic armed groups to join the government peace process by signing the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).

The call to sign the NCA came after Muse town was jointly attacked by ethnic Kachin, Ta’ang and Kokang armed groups. The State Counselor emphasized peace efforts made by the government-backed National Reconciliation and Peace Center to reach out to non-signatories of the NCA—who make up the majority of ethnic armed groups in the country—in order to “to build an all-inclusive peace process.”

“In order to immediately end the armed conflict, I strongly urge the armed groups to join the government’s peace process by signing the NCA,” said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s announcement.

This would involve “working together with civil society to find ways and means to strengthen the monitoring mechanism that would ensure non-violation of the ceasefire agreement,” the statement said.

The State Counselor said that she hoped “all relevant stakeholders” would “take part in the 21st Century Panglong Conference on equal terms,” which is slated to be held in February 2017.

From Sunday, Nov. 20, attacks on security posts in Muse and Kutkai townships by a “Northern Alliance” of four armed groups—the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Ta’ang (Palaung) National Liberation Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Arakan Army—have left at least ten people dead, 30 injured and more than 5,000 displaced. Muse’s 105th mile trading zone has been closed due to the clashes and trucks remain stuck en route.

The State Counselor shared her condolences and sympathy with the victims of the fighting and said that the “cut-off flow of trade, transport and communication” due to the attacks on border outposts and infrastructure was “detrimentally affecting the socio-economic lives of the civilian population in the area.”

The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the political wing of the KIA and a leading member of the seven-member ethnic alliance the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), released a statement on Wednesday saying that the Northern Alliance’s attack “is solely a limited war” carried out in response to the Tatmadaw’s recent military pressure.

The KIO said they “are taking caution neither to destroy things in the public’s interest nor to undermine the national reconciliation process.”

The UNFC—whose members have criticized the NCA for its lack of inclusivity—joined the previous Union Peace Conference in late August and also took part in the recent political dialogue framework review meetings. The coalition’s Delegation for Political Negotiation has participated in five meetings with government peace negotiator Dr. Tin Myo Win, both in Chiang Mai, Thailand and in Rangoon, Burma.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy-led government have been under the heavy criticism for not standing up for ethnic demands, particularly while the Tatmadaw’s offensives against the ethnic armed groups have been ongoing.

NLD lawmakers with whom The Irrawaddy spoke this week said that the current conflict has confronted the NLD government “with difficulties” and has “damaged its political image.” It has happened, the parliamentarians said, “because our military is not under the civilian government’s control.”

Htet Naing Zaw contributed to this report from Naypyidaw.