Getting a diverse array of organizations to agree to anything is a challenge, but getting all ethnic armed groups on the same page about a ceasefire is a feat of incomparable proportion, the chair of an ethnic coalition acknowledged this weekend.
Addressing leaders of ethnic armed groups in Chiang Mai, head of the United Nationalities Federal Council General N’ Ban La discussed stumbling blocs preventing an en masse signing of the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).
“The path we are taking with the NCCT [Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team] on the issue of signing the NCA is very complicated and profound. Diversity and different ways of thinking in each [ethnic armed] organization is the reason why we haven’t been able to sign the ceasefire agreement in unison,” Gen N’ Ban La, who is also vice chair of the Kachin Independence Organization, said at the April 8 to 9 summit.
He added that competing interests between the government and the Tatmadaw are also of concern.
“As you all know, two governments are running Burma now. They are not united, so there are disagreements during the discussions and we have to overcome various difficulties,” he added.
He urged the ethnic armed group leaders to resolve any situation that could divide ethnic people.
Deputy leader of the Peace Process Steering Team (PPST) Lieutenant General Yawd Serk urged the ethnic leader to take advantage of the current political climate and continue to forge ahead with talks based on the 1947 Panglong Agreement’s guarantee of federalism.
The historic accord crafted by independence hero Bogyoke Aung San promised ethnic autonomy in a federal Union in exchange for ethnic leaders’ help expelling the colonialists. Bogyoke Aung San’s daughter, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, has pledged to continue the modern day peace talks in a “Panglong spirit”.
“We need to assess the advantages and disadvantages of the NCA,” Lt Gen Ywad Serk said on the first day of the Chiang Mai summit.
Gen N’ Ban La also sought advice from other ethnic leaders on the current fighting taking place in the northern part of the country near the Chinese border.
“Now, the northern groups need to unite. If not, we will face more losses,” he said.
The Northern Alliance – a coalition of the Kachin Independence Association (KIA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Assocation )TNLA), the Arakan Army (AA) and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) – has been engaged in fighting with the Tatmadaw in northern Shan and Kachin states since last November.
The Tatmadaw has labeled members of the Northern Alliance “terrorist groups” and will not let them participate in peace negotiations until they agree to surrender their arms.
Translated by Thida Linn
Edited by Laignee Barron