Ethnic group leaders have agreed to hold a conference of armed ethnic groups following the agreement of a draft Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).
The government’s Union Peace-Making Working Committee (UPWC) and the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) formed of ethnic armed groups’ representatives agreed on the text of the NCA in meetings last month. The draft now needs to be signed off by the leadership of the respective groups before being signed.
Dr. Salai Lian Hmong of the Chin National Front said it is important to hold a conference for ethnic armies before the final signing of a ceasefire, and it is likely to take place during April. Leaders agreed on holding a conference in a meeting on 2 and 3 April.
“It could be that we sign the drafted text on the NCA with the government. We need work on this process, so we called for the conference.
“To sign the ceasefire, it is important to have an armed ethnic groups conference. We are preparing to hold it before the end of April – between 20 and 30 of April.”
The conference will be the fourth such summit held by armed rebel groups. Previously, two were held at the headquarters of the Kachin Independent Organization (KIO) in Laiza, and one at the headquarters of Karen National Union (KNU) in Lawkeela.
Salai Lian Hmong said the conference will also focus on preparing the framework for political dialogue following the signing of an NCA.
“The NCA says that the framework for political dialogue must be agreed within 60 days of signing the agreement. So we need to prepare for that.”
The location of the upcoming conference has not been confirmed.
On 31 March, at the Myanmar Peace Center in Rangoon, delegates from both sides agreed on a single text of the NCA in the presence of President Thein Sein. The news has been met with cautious optimism.
However, the United Wa Solidarity Party (UWSP), Kokang armed group the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army, the Ta-ang National Liberation Front (TNLA), and the Arakan Army were absent from the event.
There are queries over the whether the NCCT would sign an NCA without these groups.
“The NCCT will keep to its policy of inclusivity of all groups. But the government has the right to voice their will. So, we need to negotiate on the issue,” said Saw Mra Razar Lin, chairperson of the Rakhine Women’s Union and an NCCT member.