State Counselor Wants all to Sign NCA Before February Peace Conference

By Saw Yan Naing 28 October 2016

RANGOON — State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has called for ethnic armed groups currently outside of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) to sign the accord before the next “Panglong” peace conference, scheduled for February.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was speaking during a meeting in Naypyidaw on Friday of the

Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC), a body comprising of government, military and ethnic armed group representatives that, under the terms of the NCA, is charged with holding political dialogue over a federal restructuring of the state.

At the insistence of the military, signing the NCA is a prerequisite for ethnic armed groups taking part in the political dialogue—a central component of Burma’s peace process aimed at ending over 60 years of civil conflict in Burma.

The State Counselor—who chairs the UPDJC—said that she wanted to accelerate the peace process and urged all respective ethnic armed groups not to stall or attempt to buy time.

Out of more than 20 ethnic armed groups in Burma, only eight signed the NCA in October of last year, the largest being the Karen National Union and the Restoration Council of Shan State.

According to sources in Naypyidaw, the state counselor also recommended that ethnic armed groups engage in more face-to-face trust building with each other.

The UPDJC conclave continues on Saturday in Naypyidaw, although without the participation of the state counselor.

Several of Burma’s largest ethnic armed groups, such as the United Wa State Army and the Kachin Independence Organization have not signed the NCA. Other ethnic armed groups such as the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (Kokang) and the Arakan Army—who have engaged in fierce conflict with the Burma Army over the last two years—were prevented from signing the NCA.

During a meeting in Rangoon earlier this month with the National Reconciliation Peace Center, the government’s peace negotiation body, leaders of the United Nationalities Federal Council—an alliance comprised of groups that have not signed the NCA—requested to take part in the political dialogue process without signing the accord. However, the government’s peace body told them that this was contrary to the NCA.

Additional reporting from Htet Naing Zaw in Naypyidaw.