Fifteen ethnic armed groups are expected to be invited to sign Burma’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in the first week of October.
But the other five groups who comprise the membership of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), founded in 2013 to negotiate an end to longterm active conflict with government forces, will be left out of the ceasefire agreement.
Hesitation regarding the signing of the NCA largely stems from an ethnic demand that all ethnic armed forces be allowed to join the ceasefire for it to be truly “nationwide” and “inclusive,” as the agreement has been widely described.
However, the Burma government will only allow groups that have already signed bilateral ceasefires to sign the NCA.
The six organizations excluded from the signing are the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Arakan Army (AA), Lahu Democratic Union (LDU), Arakan National Congress (ANC), Wa National Organization (WNO).
The Burma Army alleges that the three excluded armed groups—the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the ethnic Kokang’s Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Arakan Army (AA)—are involved in continued clashes with government forces, making them ineligible for participation in the NCA.
If these groups were allowed to sign the accord, they would receive certain benefits reserved for other signatories, including the retaining of arms for self-defense, removal from the national list of unlawful organizations, joint implementation of a code of conduct, joint monitoring of the ceasefire to prevent recurrence of clashes and participation in political dialogue.
The other three groups have been excluded by the government under the pretense that they have no significant armed wings. This includes the Wa National Organisation (WNO), the Lahu Democratic Union (LDU) and the Arakan National Council (ANC).
An August 2015 report from Euro-Burma Office (EBO) describes the government’s view of these groups as “not combatants.” It would allegedly remain possible for them to join a political dialogue at a later date. This is somewhat in contrast to a S.H.A.N. report earlier this month revealing government threats to exclude groups from political talks if they refuse to sign the NCA.
As for the other three excluded groups, the AA, MNDAA and TNLA, the EBO report explains government claims that these organizations were formed after the peace process began four years ago. The government view is that “including them will encourage a proliferation of more groups.”
EBO states that the activities of armed groups like the MNDAA “are seen [by the government] as a deliberate provocation to wreck the peace process.”
The Burma Army has stated publicly that they will not accept ceasefire talks with the groups allied with the MNDAA.
On August 5, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Arakan Army (AA) released a joint statement inviting the government to hold ceasefire talks. They received no response.
It is possible that the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) will be included as a signatory in early October, if it has finalized its own separate ceasefire agreement at the state and union levels.
On September 15, the Myanmar Times reported that the government would eventually allow for the participation of all armed groups, but that such inclusiveness would happen “step-by-step.”
The formalization of such steps for excluded groups is yet to be seen.
By SAI AW / Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.)