Seven non-signatory armed ethnic groups to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) have called for a new peace process, saying the current NCA-based process is ineffective.
Senior officials from seven groups including members of the Northern Alliance that is currently at war with government troops, attended the conference held from February 22 to 24 in United Wa State Army’s (UWSA) stronghold of Pangkham.
Despite being invited, Karenni National Progressive Party and New Mon State Party did not attend, but sent their statements.
A joint statement released after the conference said the NCA-based peace process is obsolete and a new peace pathway was a necessity.
Currently, signing the NCA is a prerequisite for subsequent political dialogue with the government (including Tatmadaw) and political parties.
However, UWSA and its ally National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), better known as Mongla group, have so far stayed away from signing the ceasefire pact.
They said they had years of ceasefire documents signed with the previous military government and felt there was no need to sign further ceasefire agreements with the government.
The joint statement from the armed ethnic organisations said the incumbent administration led by the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party is undermining the historic peace document of Myanmar, which served as a key achievement for the country’s independence.
“We do not accept the intention of the Myanmar government that is trying to replace the historic Panglong treaty with the NCA. The ethnic armed organisations that attended the conference call for replacement of NCA with a fairer and more just ceasefire document,” said the statement.
The NLD has kept the national reconciliation drive as one of its priorities and having a “21st Century Panglong Conference” was its main objective for internal peace in Myanmar.
After winning the election in November 2015 and taking office last year, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the chair of the ruling party resumed the peace process of the predecessor government ‘the same way’ it was done before.
The ruling party held the 21st Century Panglong Conference that is equivalent to Union peace conference in the NCA, at the end of August of 2016 in Nay Pyi Taw.
The UWSA’s low-ranking delegation walked out of the conference for alleged discrimination by the government.
The Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC), including the government, is expected to hold the 21st Century Panglong Conference before the end of March.
Non-signatory armed ethnic groups including the UWSA and its ally NDAA have said they will not attend the conference if invited as “observers”.
They have also called for the intervention of China and United Nations to Myanmar’s peace process.
Quite often seen as pro-China factions along the China-Myanmar border, the UWSA and NDAA enjoy their own autonomous enclaves.
The two groups have largely refrained from participating in peace negotiations when former president U Thein Sein invited a group of armed groups for ceasefire talks after he took office in 2011.
Similarly, before signing the NCA with eight groups in October 2015, the former president invited a group of armed ethnic organisations including the two allies, but they rejected the invitation.
Though the two groups have shown no interest in signing the NCA, they have often called for political dialogues with the government. Their main demand is for the government to upgrade their enclave from being a self-administered
division to a state.
Except for groups such as the Arakan Army, Ta’ang National Liberation Army and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, the rest of the groups that attended the Pangkham summit have signed bilateral ceasefire agreements with the former administration.
In the joint statement last week, the non-signatory groups called for political dialogues with the government, without signing the NCA.
“We call for political dialogues based on the existing bilateral ceasefire agreements between the armed ethnic organisations and the government, and hence the building of a federal union,” said the joint statement.
The armed groups have also called support for the neighboring China’s “One Belt One Road” policy, claiming that it would benefit the lives of ethnic people in the states.
“China’s One Belt One Road policy can be implemented successfully in Myanmar and would have benefits for ethnic states,” said the joint statement.