The leader of the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S), officially known as the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), has said that it will not be signing a nationwide ceasefire agreement as it already entered into a “deed of commitment” with the Burmese government on Union Day, 12 February.
Speaking at a press conference at the Thai-Burmese border on Monday, the Shan army’s Commander-in-Chief Lt-Gen Yawd Serk said: “The SSA/RCSS will not be signing any nationwide ceasefire agreement as we believe there will not be another opportunity to sign an agreement like the one we signed on 12 February. We do not think the president [Thein Sein] would be open to signing another agreement either, and as we are not part of any alliance we are looking to find peace through an independent channel of our own. We are now looking to engage in political dialogue with the government to resolve the political problems.”
Representatives from over 50 political parties and four armed groups signed the five-point “deed of commitment for peace and national reconciliation” with the government in Naypyidaw on Union Day. In addition to the SSA/RCSS, three Karen armed groups – the Karen National Union (KNU), Democratic Karen Benevolent Army and the KNU Peace Council – put pen to paper.
However, a faction of the KNU, led by Deputy-chairperson Zipporah Sein, last week denounced the signing of the deed by two of the group’s representatives.
Zipporah Sein has also said that governmental attempts to single out individual armed groups for separate deals, as opposed to working on a single ceasefire pact with the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), could lead to misunderstandings amongst ethnic armed groups.
The Union Day agreement included commitments on all sides to: resolve political issues via political means without resorting to military force; the facilitation of an all-inclusive political dialogue; and – seemingly contrary to Yawd Serk’s remarks on Monday – a pledge to work towards the signing of a nationwide ceasefire agreement.
The SSA-S first agreed ceasefire terms with Naypyidaw in 2011, and expanded conditions and cooperation in 2012.
Yawd Serk told reporters on Sunday that the Shan group wished to work towards implementing the myriad points on that agenda – items that include the setting up of liaison offices, drug-trade suppression, taxation, prisoner releases and troop demarcations – through “building mutual trust with the government”.
Regarding the current hostilities in northeastern Shan State’s Kokang region, Yawd Serk he could not comment “as there are internal issues since 2009 lying behind the conflict”. He added that the SSA/RCSS was not aligned with either side but was willing to assist in a mediating role if called upon.