Ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) signatory to Burma’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) have come out against a recent government statement that they must report international aid sent to areas under their administration.
In a press conference marking the end of a three-day meeting of the Peace Process Steering Team (PPST) in Chiang Mai, Thailand on Saturday, spokesperson Nai Aung Mangae said that the government’s position violates Article 25 of NCA. The article states that EAOs can receive aid “from donor agencies both inside and outside the country for regional development and capacity-building projects.”
The move by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, declared on October 4, suggests that all UN aid to ethnic armed organizations or ethnic political parties be reported to the government negotiation body the National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC).
“We will send a letter to the President and the NRPC,” Nai Aung Mangae said. “[The statement] means we need to get permission from them. It should not be like this. We will send an official letter, saying that both sides need to cooperate and work together,” he explained.
Members of the PPST described the announcement as having a negative impact on mutual trust and creating further deadlocks to negotiations.
“We already asked the government whether it is a recommendation or a block. We want to work freely,” Saw Mra Razarlun, of the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), told SHAN. “If the government wants to make an effective peace process with EAOs, they should not block EAOs from getting more international aid.”
Nai Aung Mangae, who also works with the New Mon State Party (NMSP), said that even though deadlocks have persisted during the four years since the initial signing of the NCA in October 2015, some mutual trust has been regained through discussion.
The Restoration Council of Shan State’s (RCSS) Col Sai Nguen described the government as having placed “slight restrictions” on NCA-signatories in recent years.
Saw Mra Razarlun described stronger constraints.
“We don’t have any physical power in our hands. There is very little. We need to try many things,” she said.
Representatives of NCA-signatory EAOs attended the PPST meeting from October 10-12, discussing issues ranging from the upcoming fourth anniversary of the signing of the NCA, the peace process after the 2020 elections, the building of a federal Union, and an end to fighting in Rakhine and northern Shan states.
The EAOs that signed the NCA are: the ALP, NMSP, RCSS and the All-Burma Students Democratic Front, Chin National Front, Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, Karen National Liberation Army/Peace Council, Karen National Union, Lahu Democratic Union and the Pa-O National Liberation Organization.