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ENAC Briefing No. 16

7 May 2016

-In October 2015, the so-called Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) was signed by the Thein Sein government and eight ethnic armed organizations (EAOs). The agreement is not “nationwide” in any sense, as the EAO signatories represent only a minority of EAOs in Burma. Additionally, conflict between the Burmese military and EAO non-signatories continues, especially in northern Shan State and Kachin State, belying any sense of peace resulting from the “nationwide ceasefire.”

Since the landslide victory of the NLD in the November 2015 elections, the people of Burma have waited to see how the NLD government would approach the flawed NCA and the peace process in general. As the new government consolidated power after taking office, non-signatory EAOs waited to see how and when NLD would initiate ceasefire talks. Non-signatory EAOs include the following organizations: United League of Arakan/Arakan Army, Arakan National Council, Kachin Independence Organization, Karenni National Progressive Party, Lahu Democratic Union, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, New Mon State Party, Palaung State Liberation Front, Shan State Progressive Party, and Wa National Organization.

On April 27th, State Counselor Suu Kyi met with the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC), which is composed of both military and signatory EAO representatives and charged with implementing the NCA. By meeting with the JMC before reaching out to or inviting non-signatory EAOs to join the peace process, Suu Kyi lends legitimacy to the NCA. At the meeting, Major General Saw Isaac Po of Karen National Union, who serves as JMC Vice Chairman, urged Suu Kyi to meet with non-signatory EAOs.

On May 4th, when meeting with Dr. Tin Myo Win, expected to be the Suu Kyi’s liaison to EAOs during the peace process, signatory EAOs once again urged the State Counselor to include non-signatories in the peace process. Another meeting between Suu Kyi and signatory EAOs is planned for May 10th, but no invitation has yet been extended to the non-signatories.

Rather than embracing all EAOs, NLD’s focus seems to be on expediency, as demonstrated by the quick succession of meetings with NCA signatories and Suu Kyi’s recent call for a 21st century Panglong conference within two months. This is exactly the wrong approach to pursue, as EAOs’ highest priority throughout the peace process has been the inclusion of all EAOs. The first step towards a truly nationwide ceasefire is for Aung San Suu Kyi to meet directly with non-signatory EAOs without further delay.

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