The Government of Myanmar (Burma) signed a long-awaited "nationwide cease-fire agreement" (NCA) with eight armed ethnic groups on 15 October which was witnessed by representatives from the European Union, the United Nations and diplomats, as said by the state media. It is a part of challenge to end decades of civil war along with ongoing democratic change.
According to the state media,
presence of President
U Thein Sein, the
agreement was signed by Vice President Dr Sai Mauk Kham,
Vice President U Nyan Tun, Speaker of Pyithu
Hluttaw Thura U
Shwe Mann, Speaker of
Amyotha Hluttaw U Khin
Aung Myint, Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Senior General Min
Aung Hlaing, Chairman
of Karen National Union-KNU Saw Mutu Say Poe, Chief of
Staff of the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army-DKBA Saw Lah Bwe, Chairman of
Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation
Army-Peace Council Saw Htay Maung, Chairman of Chin National
Front-CNF U Pu
Nang Lian Thang, parton of pa-o
national Liberation Organization-PNLO U Khun Okka, Chairman of All Burma
Students' Democratic Front-ABSDF Yebaw Than Ge,
Vice Chairman of
Arakan Liberation Party
U Khaing Soe
Naing Aung and Chairman of the
Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS/Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) U Yawd
In addition, the government has made a promise to remove signatories from a list of terrorist groups in the country. And the government also said that the cease-fire agreement will open the door for the rest ethnic armed-groups who are asking for all-inclusiveness.
Win Htein, spokesperson and representative of the NLD, also presented as a witness at the NCA signing ceremony. But, he declined to sign the cease-fire agreement saying the agreement could not reasonably be called "nationwide" for lack of all-inclusiveness.
Before signing the accord, President U Thein Sein delivered a speech.
"Today is a historic and significant day for Myanmar. The road to future peace in Myanmar is now open", he said. "Since independence, Myanmar has faced numerous internal armed conflicts. Because of these conflicts, thousands of combatants from both sides lost their lives and hundreds of thousands of civilians living in conflict zones suffered under the ravages of war. Those affected are none other than our fellow ethnic nationals and citizens."
Moreover, he also added, " Therefore, although some organizations are currently not ready to sign, the government decided to conclude the NCA with the vanguard group of organizations that were ready to proceed. However we will continue with our efforts to bring the remaining organizations into the process. The door is open to them. Since the NCA is based on the terms that these organizations have negotiated and agreed to, the implementation of the NCA is in accordance with their intent."
On the other hand, the Women's League of Burma (WLB) cautioned incessant Government Army offensives in Shan and Kachin State are blocking key armed groups from signing a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.
"We do not trust Naypyidaw's peace process. It's clearly just a game to divide the ethnic groups, while continuing to attack them," WLB's Naw Wahkushee said in a media statement - A non-inclusive Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement will not Bring Peace, released on 13 October, 2015.
"The NCA is not only non-inclusive for the ethnic groups, it's also non-inclusive of women," she said, referring to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.
The WLB's statement says, "In the past week, even after the announcement of the signing, Naypyidaw has sent in massive troop reinforcements and launched new offensives in Kachin and northern Shan State, with serious human rights abuses inflicted on civilians. This has led to fresh displacement, adding to the over 200,000 already displaced in northern Burma. Camps for internally displaced in northern Burma are already facing critical humanitarian shortages due to Naypyidaw's restrictions on access, and funding cuts from international donors. New displacement is placing further burdens on the camps, with women and children bearing the brunt of the hardship. WLB fears that the NCA signing will lead to further funding cuts for displaced populations throughout the country, and possibly forced return, as the international community strengthens its support for Naypyidaw."
According to the Shan Herald Agency News, since October 6, less than ten days before the signing of the NCA, the Burma Army has been launching artillery shells into territories largely under the control of the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army-North (SSPP/SSA-N), causing widespread civilian displacement. The attacks intensified on October 11, targeting the SSPP/SSA-N headquarters in Wan Hai, Kesi Township; the armed group is among many others who opted out of signing the NCA, citing a lack of inclusivity.
In a statement released on 15 October 2015, the Shan CBO coalition described the NCA as a "divide-and-rule tactic" intended to "temporarily pacify" some ethnic armies while "crushing others."
Meanwhile, Refugees living in camps in northern Shan State's Kutkai Township remain uncertain if they will be able to vote due to what they say is the township election commission's failure to inform them as to which station they can cast their ballots at. A problem further complicated by an inaccurate voting list, as well as a general lack of security at polling stations, the Managar News Agency reported.
Kutkai Township has seven refugee camps, Kutkai KBC, Nam Phat Kar Village KBC, Karlai KBC, Kutkai Catholic, Karlai Village, Mai Yu Lay Village and Panku Ywar Thit Gyi. Each refugee camp has around 150 eligible voters. Although the election commission said the voter list of refugees will be posted at the respective ward and village sub-commission offices on October 14, no accurate voter list has been posted for most of the refugee camps. This has led to concern amongst the refugees that they won't be able to vote in the election.
According to Burma News International (BNI), balloting in next month's election will not take place in 211 village tracts in Kachin state. Although voting has also been suspended in other states including in Karen and Shan states, Kachin State will have more non-voting areas than any other state in the country. In accordance with Section 10 (f) of the Union Election Commission law, the Union Election Commission (UEC) released on October 12th a list of areas where voting has been cancelled. The majority of the areas and village tracts where voting has been canceled are part of Injangyang, Sumprabum, Momauk, and Waingmaw constituencies.