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Ethnic leaders on Tuesday announced they had approved a single-draft Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) after eight days of negotiations at Karen National Union (KNU) headquarters in eastern Burma.
The Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), comprising representatives of 16 armed ethnic groups plus the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF), said they have made ‘some amendments’ to the draft NCA, which they will now submit to the Burmese government.
“During the talks at [KNU headquarters] Law Kee La, we reviewed the NCA draft and approved it with some amendments,” said Zipporah Sein, the KNU’s vice-president who has been elected by the NCCT to now lead a committee to negotiate those amendments with the government.
In a joint statement on Tuesday, the NCCT noted that the bloc should not now be disbanded, but rather restructured into a committee that continues dialogue with the government, including any disparity between the sides over amendments to the draft NCA. Zipporah Sein will head the 15-member committee tasked with seeing this through, the statement said.
While Zipporah Sein will serve as chairperson of the committee, Dr Laja of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and Pu Zing Cung of the Chin National Front were appointed deputy chairs.
Other negotiating team members include: the KIO’s vice-chief of staff Maj-Gen Gun Maw; the New Mon State Party’s Nai Hongsa; Pa-O National Liberation Organisation’s Col. Hkun Okker and its chairman Khun Myint Tun; Arakan Liberation Party’s Khin Soe Naing Aung; the ABSDF leader Myo Win; and an unnamed member of the Ta-ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).
One point of contention is sure to be the inclusion of the TNLA and its allies – the ethnic Kokang’s Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Arakan Army (AA) – in the ceasefire accord.
While the ethnic bloc insists that any NCA should be inclusive of all its members, Naypyidaw refuses to recognise the three militias as they are still engaged in armed conflict with Burmese government forces in northeastern Shan State.
“The government may have a policy not to include the MNDAA, TNLA and AA in the nationwide ceasefire deal, but we [NCCT] have a resolution dating back to the first Law Khee La conference in January 2014, which specifically notes that all NCCT member organisations are included in the deal,” said Zipporah Sein.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday, NCCT’s Nai Hongsa reiterated the line. “We do not accept the government’s suggestion to leave behind certain groups,” he said. “We are a united ethnic force and we stick by our policy of having every member included in the ceasefire.”
The Law Khee La summit, held from 2 to 9 June, was joined by 108 representatives from 17 different armed groups, 11 NCCT members, five NCCT technical assistance members and 190 other individuals invited to the event, including the United Nations’ Special Envoy to Burma Vijay Nambiar, China’s Special Representative on Asian Affairs Sun Guoxiaing, and Yuji Muri representing the Nippon Foundation, which is acting as an envoy for the Japanese government.