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Aung Min, President’s Office minister and the government’s chief negotiator at peace talks, has said that the signing of a ceasefire deal will not include all ethnic groups, and that only those ethnic armies approved by Naypyidaw will be invited to join the peace process.
The minister on Saturday said the Thein Sein administration is prioritising a nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) with the ethnic armed groups who have been involved in negotiations from the beginning.
Aung Min made the comments to an audience of government ministers, representatives from seven ethnic armies and members of 64 political parties at the Inya Lake Hotel in Rangoon following a workshop on peace and reconciliation.
The government will reach out to Kokang, Palaung and Arakanese militias that are currently still engaged in hostilities against the Burmese army as a secondary step, Aung Min said.
“Any NCA would be delayed if we waited for these three groups,” he said, noting that the groups have not been involved in the rounds of official negotiations that have taken place over the past year.
He called on the Kokang’s Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Palaung’s Ta-ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Kachin-based Arakan Army (AA) to stop fighting.
An alliance of more than a dozen ethnic armed groups, represented by the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team, or NCCT, met last week at the Wa army headquarters in Panghsang, after which the bloc released a statement calling on Naypyidaw to include all ethnic militias in the ceasefire talks.
Responding to Aung Min’s comments, the NCCT’s Hkun Okker reaffirmed the bloc’s stance, noting that the terms of the NCA explicitly state that all groups within the NCCT – which includes the MNDAA, TNLA and AA – must be party to the deal for it to be effected.
Hkun Okker insisted that the terms of the draft NCA, signed on 31 March, specifically note that it should be signed “altogether” by the ethnic armed groups.
“The text in the proposed NCA says that the agreement is to be signed ‘altogether’ by the armed groups,” he said. “However, it does not say ‘concurrently’, which means that each and every group must be included in the NCA, but that they do not necessarily have to sign it at the same time.”
The NCCT is scheduled to sit for another round of talks at the end of May, proposed to be held at Law Khee La, the headquarters of the Karen National Union, where they will deliberate the most recent developments.