At the eleventh hour, leading Burmese political figures Aung San Suu Kyi, Naw Zipporah Sein and Min Ko Naing have pulled out of the signing ceremony for a historic ceasefire agreement.
Opposition leader and pro-democracy icon Suu Kyi will not act as a signatory witness at the signing of the so-called nationwide ceasefire agreement, or NCA, in Naypyidaw on Thursday, according to a senior leader in her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD).
Win Htein, an NLD central executive committee member, told DVB that he will witness the event on behalf of the party.
“I alone will be attending the event, but only as an observing witness. We [NLD] will not be signing,” he said.
Senior Delegation member Naw Zipporah Sein, the vice-president of the Karen National Union (KNU), on Monday stated that she would not attend the ceremony because of the government forces’ continued military advances into ethnic territory.
In a letter to the government’s chief negotiator Minister Aung Min, she said, “With respect, I must respond [to the invitation to the NCA signing ceremony] by saying that I cannot attend, because by doing so may imply that we are celebrating the clashes taking place in northern Burma.”
Leading members of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, Mya Aye, said he and two other leaders, Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi, were invited to attend as witnesses, but Min Ko Naing has declined.
“Three of us – Ko Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi and I were invited. We discussed it, and Ko Min Ko Naing will not be attending on this occasion, as the signing is not inclusive of all organisations. Ko Ko Gyi and I will attend on behalf of the group, and sign as witnesses,” said Mya Aye.
Ethnic party coalition United Nationalities Alliance was also verbally invited to the event but will not attend, according to spokesperson Sai Nyunt Lwin.
Meanwhile, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy has yet to confirm whether it will witness the accord. Executive members of the Shan party are set to meet on Tuesday to discuss the matter. Their leader, Hkun Htun Oo, stated last month that he would refuse to witness the deal if it excluded any rebel groups.
Three ethnic militias – the Kokang, Palaung and Arakan armies – have been excluded from the NCA by the government on the basis that they are still engaged in hostilities with the Burmese army in northeastern Shan State.
Only eight armed groups are now scheduled to join President Thein Sein, Commander-in-Chief Snr Gen Min Aung Hlaing and other government heads at the inking of the accord in two days’ time in the Burmese capital in front of foreign dignitaries and diplomats.
The groups set to sign are: Karen National Union; Democratic Karen Benevolent Army; KNU-KNLA Karen Peace Council; Arakan Liberation Party; Pa-O National Liberation Organisation; Chin National Front; Shan State Army-South (Restoration Council of Shan State); and All Burma Students Democratic Front.
The government’s Union Peacemaking Working Committee agreed to the invitation of United Nations’ envoys and delegations from neighbouring countries China, India and Thailand as witnesses, a condition proposed by the ethnic alliance’s Special Delegation.