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Two of several ethnic armed group holdouts commit to signing NCA

Burma's commander-in-chief, Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing, centre, poses with members of the New Mon State Party following a meeting on Tuesday in Naypyidaw. (Photo: Office of the Commander-in-Chief)

The New Mon State Party and Lahu Democratic Union will sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, marking the first time that ethnic armed organisations have acceded to the accord since eight initial non-state signatories joined the previous government and military in formally agreeing to its terms over two years ago.

A statement posted to the Office of the Commander-in-Chief’s Facebook page on Tuesday read: “Tatmadaw [Burma’s military] Commander-in-Chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing received a delegation led by Nai Htaw Mon of the New Mon State Party, which will sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement [NCA], this morning in Bayintnaung Hall, Naypyidaw, and discussed the smooth completion of tasks regarding signing of the NCA and follow-up actions.”

NMSP and LDU leaders also met with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday, according to a joint statement from the groups that confirmed their intention to sign the NCA.

To date, only eight non-state armed groups are NCA signatories. About a dozen others, including some of the country’s largest, have yet to commit to the accord. Among the non-signatories, a handful have largely been spurned by the government as Naypyidaw has sought to codify a negotiating framework for resolving Burma’s numerous and long-running civil conflicts.

The NCA was signed by the initial eight groups on 15 October 2015 under the former military-backed government, just weeks before a general election in which it was voted out of office in a landslide victory for the National League for Democracy. The current administration has not radically altered the approach of its predecessor with regard to the peace process, maintaining that accession to the NCA is a key condition for full participation as negotiations move forward.

On Monday, a member of the government’s Peace Commission said plans to hold the third iteration of the “21st Century Panglong Conference” — its marquee peace process forum — had been pushed back. Originally scheduled for the end of this month, the summit will instead be held in February, he said, citing ongoing efforts to get more non-signatories to join the NCA as one reason for the delay.