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The Burmese government says it has reached a compromise on all but one remaining issue with ethnic delegates after they sat for peace talks in Rangoon this week.
The stumbling block concerns the inclusion or exclusion in the proposed Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) of six ethnic armed groups: the Kokang militia known as Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA); the Ta-ang National Liberation Army (TNLA); Arakan Army (AA); Wa National Organisation (WNO); Lahu Democratic Union (LDU); and Arakan National Council (ANC).
But while the alliance of ethnic groups’ Senior Delegation (SD) insists that the six must be included in any truce, Naypyidaw remains firm that they cannot be signatories while they are engaged in armed conflict with government forces.
Hostilities broke out in the Kokang Special Region in February between the six allies and the Burmese army and have been ongoing throughout the peace talks.
On Friday, the two opposing delegations – the government’s Union Peace-making Work Committee (UPWC) and the ethnic armed group’s SD (following on from its original negotiating team, the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team, or NCCT) – issued a joint-statement after two days of talks at the Myanmar Peace Centre in Rangoon.
The statement, issued by the UPWC headed by Minister Aung Min, and the SD led by Karen National Union’s Naw Zipporah Sein, said that both sides “have reached a compromise on all outstanding points on the draft ceasefire accord, with the exception of the issue concerning the ethnic group signatories to the agreement.”
Speaking at a press conference at the end of Friday’s summit, Pu Zing Cung, deputy head of the SD, said, “We have reached compromise on which officials are to sign the agreement –the president, the military commander-in-chief and representatives of the government, and the highest ranking leaders of each ethnic armed group, such as their chairmen, vice-chairmen and chiefs-of-staff.
“Regarding witnesses, at the previous meeting we agreed to have the UN, ASEAN and China witness the signing, but at the latest meeting we were informed that ASEAN, as per its own policy, cannot be a witness. However, the UN, China, India and Thailand will be on board.”
UPWC chief negotiator Aung Min has suggested signing the NCA by September, as the government will be preoccupied with preparations for the November general election thereafter.
Read more background on CEASEFIRE TALKS