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The draft framework for a nationwide ceasefire – the result of a summit between ethnic leaders in Karen State last week – has been approved by the representatives of 16 ethnic armed organisations, but awaits endorsement from the Shan State Army–South (SSA-S) and the United Wa State Army (UWSA).
Representatives from 17 of the 18 ethnic groups comprising the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) convened last Tuesday in Lawkheela [also known as Lay Wah], headquarters of the Karen National Union (KNU) in eastern Burma. The SSA-S is the only group in attendance that has yet to sign onto the plan, claiming that their leadership needs a bit more time.
“We have yet to sign the agreement, as we only saw the draft on our arrival,” said Sai La, SSA-S spokesman. “Our leadership have yet to give word.
“We view the peace process in two parts – a nationwide ceasefire and political dialogue,” he said. “We don’t have a problem with the nationwide ceasefire. In fact, the framework is exactly the same as our policy, but regarding political dialogue, we need to ask opinions from political parties and organisations.”
The UWSA, also yet to sign onto the draft treaty, was the only other invitee that did not attend the summit – when and if they intend to sign the agreement is still unclear.
The Lawkheela conference was the latest in an ongoing series of peace talks geared towards ending the sporadic civil conflict that has plagued Burma for nearly six decades. While most of the country’s ethnic militias have signed bilateral peace pacts with the central government, the current peace process aims to secure ceasefires across the nation and establish a working plan for political reconciliation.
Last week’s conference was held in advance of the upcoming peace talks scheduled for February in Hpa-an, the Karen State capital, between the NCCT and a delegation of Burmese government negotiators.