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The Karen National Union (KNU) has said it will sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the Burmese government.
The Karen rebel group announced the decision at the end of its Central Standing Committee emergency meeting on 15 August. In its statement, the KNU said 44 out of 50 Central Standing Committee members attended the emergency meeting, including Chairperson Gen.Mutu Sae Poe; Vice-Chairperson Naw Zipporah Sein; General Commanding Officer Gen. Saw Johnny; and Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Baw Kyaw Heh.
“We decided to sign the agreement mainly because we agree with the final draft of the NCA reached in the ninth round of negotiations between the ethnic armed groups´ Senior Delegation (SD) and the Union Peace-making Work Committee (UPWC),” said KNU General Secretary Saw Kwe Htoo Win in an interview with DVB.
At the last round of peace talks, held in the first week of August, the UPWC and the SD issued a joint statement saying the parties had reached a compromise on the NCA draft, except for one issue: the ethnic coalition insists on including six groups that are at the moment engaged in hostilities with the Burmese military in the Kokang Special Region and areas of northeastern Shan State. Naypyidaw has rejected the request.
Meanwhile on Monday, the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF) also released a statement, marking their intent to sign the NCA after a meeting of their Central Committee this weekend. They stated that they will “endeavour to ensure that the ethnic armed organisations, which are unable to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement due to some circumstances for now, will have access to guarantees of cessation of hostility and political assurances on the peace process with equality and dignity.”
The KNU and the ABSDF now agree to sign the agreement despite the fact that all its partner groups are not included.
The KNU’s Kwe Htoo Win said, “Ethnic armed groups that agree with the NCA will sign it with the government, while those who decide not to sign it yet should still be allowed to take part in the peace process. We will help negotiate with those groups that are currently trying to reach bilateral agreements with the government, allowing them to take part in the NCA in the future.”
The KNU general secretary told DVB that the alliance of ethnic militias will meet with President Thein Sein on 22- 23 August, when they will each present their individual decisions on the NCA and discuss any further means to finalise the agreement.
After almost one and a half years of negotiation, the UPWC and the ethnic armed groups’ Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team signed a preliminary NCA in Rangoon on 31 March this year.
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