The Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA-S) will sign Burma’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) on October 15, Lt. Gen. Yawd Serk announced today.
“We believe the NCA is a bridge to solve the [country’s] political problems and become a genuine federal state,” the armed group’s leader said.
“I encourage all groups to join,” he added, explaining that widespread participation would make the ceasefire more “meaningful.”
S.H.A.N reported on Tuesday that the RCSS/SSA-S had been deliberating at its headquarters on whether to sign the controversial agreement. The decision comes as another major Shan armed group, the Shan State Political Party/Shan State Army-North (SSPP/SSA-N), faces renewed clashes with the Burma Army after announcing withdrawal from the NCA.
“For us, we are not going to sign if all armed groups are not included,” said SSPP representative, Lt. Col. Sai La, in a phone interview with S.H.A.N. “If any group is left out, the fighting will happen.”
Today, three government battalions faced off with SSPP/SSA-N troops in central Shan State.
“They have ordered SSPP/SSA-N to withdraw from the area, otherwise they will attack our headquarters,” Sai La said.
Lt. Gen. Yawd Serk also commented on the ongoing fighting between the Burma Army and ethnic armies.
“I will not agree if the government supports those who sign the NCA, but attacks the other groups who do not sign,” he said.
The RCSS/SSA-S leader echoed earlier statements by Myanmar Peace Center senior adviser U Hla Maung Shwe, who told S.H.A.N. last month that, even with a ceasefire, “no one can guarantee” that fighting would not take place.
An end to active armed conflict will not happen immediately, acknowledged Yawd Serk, who hopes it will “gradually reduce.”
As a peacebuilding measure, the RCSS/SSA-S has requested the establishment of more liaison offices through which problems can be discussed in lieu of fighting.
They also called for government efforts to demilitarize its presence in 24 of Shan State’s 50-plus townships.
Providing a list of locations where the RCSS/SSA is active, the group advised that “the government should not deploy their troops by any means” to these areas, in order to avoid clashes.
Despite the presence of a previously signed ceasefire enacted in late 2011, the RCSS/SSA-S noted that the Burma Army has “not complied with” the agreement, and that the years since have been punctuated by armed clashes, of which, the Myanmar Peace Monitor reports, there have been over 70.
Eight groups have now committed to signing the NCA next week, out of 20 organizations who originally requested inclusion in the process, and 15 who were invited by the government.
The signatories will include the RCSS/SSA-S, the Karen National Union (KNU), Democratic Karen Benevolent Party (DKBA), Karen National Liberation Party-Peace Council (KNLA-PC), Chin National Front (CNF), All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF), Pa-O National Liberation Party (PNLA) and Arakan Liberation Party (ALP).
By SAI AW / Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.)
(Edited in English by Simma Francis)