ENAC Briefing No. 4
During the December Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) Coordination Meeting, Minister U Aung Min called for the NCA to be signed on Union Day, February 12, 2015. However, members of the Ethnic Armed Organizations’ Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) have said that Union Day is too soon to complete the NCA, and the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) also clarified that it is unlikely that the NCA could be signed on Union Day.
There are five main reasons why the NCA will not be signed on Union Day 2015:
1. The negotiations over the text have not moved forward. The September round of talks led to greater disagreement between the parties due to the Burma Army representatives revisiting previously agreed upon points. The NCCT brought proposals on most of the remaining issues to the Union Peace-making Work Committee (UPWC) representatives at the December Coordination Meeting, but the UPWC has still not communicated any decisions on these proposals to the NCCT.
2. Remaining points in the text are important and will take time to get right. For instance, there is still no agreement on the code of conduct or the monitoring mechanism, two pieces of the NCA that will be necessary for it to be a meaningful agreement. Disagreements remain over the roadmap for political dialogue and the wording of the basic political principles, such as federalism.
3. The negotiation process does not encourage expedited decision making. There is a limited amount of time prior to February 12. The NCCT and UPWC are the negotiating organizations for the two sides, but they are not the final decision makers. The EAO leaders and UPCC will need to review and decide whether to sign any final NCA text.
4. The increased Burma Army offensives in Kachin and northern Shan States have damaged trust. The parties have still not come together to discuss the cause of the November 19, 2014, attack on the KIA cadet academy or figure out how to prevent such incidents in the future. The fighting has since escalated and involved human rights violations, weakening confidence in the army’s commitment to the NCA process.
5. The government insists on limiting international observers and witnesses. To improve trust in the process, the NCCT has proposed that regional and western countries serve as witnesses to the NCA and that some members of the Peace Donor Support Group join China and the UN as observers to the negotiations.
Although the NCA will not be signed on Union Day, the government will invite EAO leaders to attend ceremonies in Naypyidaw and potentially join a statement or agreement other than the NCA. The UNFC’s chairman proposed to President U Thein Sein that the parties sign an “Agreement Regarding the Formation of the Federal Union” to confirm their commitment to establishing a Federal Union and to build confidence in the NCA process. It has also been suggested that President U Thein Sein could make a Peace Proclamation based on some of the points already agreed in the NCA text. Alternatively, the parties might support a Peace Pledge that includes a selection of commitments toward the peace process. Since the NCA will not be finalized in time, it is hoped that Union Day can be used to help reach a full NCA by building trust and not purely for show or as a way to avoid signing the full agreement. There is still time to achieve the NCA, if the parties are committed and address the challenges outlined above.