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Armed groups that signed last year’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) have criticized the Burmese military’s uncompromising attitude towards smaller non-signatory groups, calling it counterproductive to the country’s ongoing peace effort.
Three groups — the Ta’ang Nationalities Liberation Army (TNLA), Kokang’s Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Arakan Army (AA) — were excluded from last year’s talks and are currently fighting with government forces in western and northeastern Burma.
“We regarded the NCA talks as not completely successful because it didn’t include these three groups,” said Mi Su Pwint, a central committee member of the All-Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF), one of eight groups that signed the ceasefire agreement.
Speaking ahead of a meeting of NCA signatories to be held in the capital Naypyidaw on Friday, Mi Su Pwint said the stance taken by Burma’s top generals at a press conference held on 13 May, at which the three groups were told they would have to disarm if they wanted to be included in future talks, would deter others from joining.
“The remarks by the army leaders can be detrimental to the ongoing effort by other ethnic armed groups and the government to get everyone on board in the peace process,” he said.
“In our opinion, we must open talks with these groups regardless of the situation on the ground, and try to understand their position and persuade them to join the dialogue.”
Mahn Nyein Maung, a central committee member of the Karen National Union (KNU), the largest NCA signatory, said dialogue with armed groups is the only way to bring about peace in Burma and urged the government to help mediate between the groups and the Burmese Army.
“I don’t see any other way. If the Tatmadaw [Burmese armed forces] won’t acknowledge these armed groups in the dialogue then it is the government’s responsibility to act as a mediator. Being ethnic armed groups, we don’t have the power to decide the outcome,” he said.
“If the Tatmadaw is uncooperative then the responsibility lies with the government to deal with this deadlock.”
In a joint statement released on Saturday, the three groups also called on the government to play a more prominent role in the peace process.
We “earnestly urge [the Burmese] government led by the National League for Democracy … to stop ongoing wars in the lands of the ethnic nationalities and resolve political problems by political means, through genuine political negotiations and dialogue,” the statement said.