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Representatives from the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) armed group met with the Burmese government’s Internal Peace-making Committee (IPMC) on Thursday in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai where they discussed the draft framework for a nationwide ceasefire agreement which was agreed upon by 16 other ethnic armed groups of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) in Karen State’s Lawkheela last week.
The SSA-S was the only participant at the Lawkheela Conference which refused to sign the agreement.
An SSA-S spokesperson, Sai La, told DVB that his organisation had sat on Thursday morning with an IPMC delegation led by Minister Aung Min who travelled to Chiang Mai this week to receive the draft agreement from the NCCT.
“The government delegation was in Chiang Mai to receive the draft agreement and we met with them for a discussion,” he said. “They informed us that – as the draft agreement covers a wide range of subjects including the framework for political dialogue – they will have to take the document back to the central government in Naypyidaw before offering any answers.”
Sai La said that the SSA-S met separately with the Burmese government delegation because they have no representatives in the NCCT.
He said the IPMC invited the group to join the planned talks in Hpa-an in the second week of February when discussions on the nationwide ceasefire draft will take place between the government and the ethnic alliance.
Sai La said his group agrees to the draft framework in principle; however it wants to seek opinion from the Shan population and political parties before making any decisions.
Nyo Ohn Myint of the Myanmar Peace Centre, which reports to the President’s Office, described the meeting between the IPMC and the SSA-S as productive.
“In my opinion, it was a very productive meeting,” he said. “The leaders of both sides see eye to eye with regard to the nationwide ceasefire. [SSA-S leader] Lt-Gen Yawd Serk expressed himself frankly, saying that he wishes to see a ceasefire agreement signed in the near future,” said Nyo Ohn Myint.
The SSA-S broke away from the Mong Tai Army (MTA) when the latter surrendered to the Burmese government in the mid-1990s. The group has signed regional and union-level ceasefire agreements with Thein Sein’s government in 2011 and 2012, but has nevertheless engaged in more than 100 clashes with the Burmese army during that time.