- By Shin Min
A new step in the direction of perpetual peace and stability has been made in Myanmar. The New Mon State Party (NMSP) and Lahu Democratic Union (LDU) signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) at the Myanmar International Convention Centre –II in Nay Pyi Taw on 13 February, 2018.
The is one of the first steps which can lay the foundation for a Democratic Federal Republic which will emerge in the future for national reconciliation and union peace.
That auspicious day coincided with the birthday of our Independence architect Bogyoke Aung San, which was celebrated on a grand scale across the country.
It was pleasing to see this auspicious day in which ethnic national races signed the Panglong Agreement, which could result in a new chapter in Myanmar’s history.
The journey to our national reconciliation and Federalism is not always smooth. The path to peace is a long-distance journey based on resolute spirit and faith. There have been ups and downs, fits and starts and there have been many twists and turns in the peace process. All Myanmar nationals watched this signing ceremony with high hopes and enthusiasm.
At the signing ceremony of the NCA, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said, “This is the decision to make the first step to jointly lay the foundation stone of the Democratic Federal Republic that will emerge in the future for national reconciliation and union peace.
The NCA is the beginning of the Peace Process, the beginning of the political dialogues and the beginning of reduction of armed conflicts; it is the beginning of the political process that will result from the resolution of political problems through negotiations, discussions and the joint search for solutions.
At the same time, in the NCA there are agreements for formulating policies and frameworks for political dialogues and for initiating various steps of political dialogues for the emergence of political dialogues that will result in the establishment of the Democratic Federal Republic”.
A Good Prospect
After regaining independence in 1948, Myanmar suffered the consequences of insurgencies and unrest mainly due to mistrust, hatred and the evil effects of armed conflicts. Successive governments spoke with ethnic armed groups to halt the unrest, which lasted for many decades. As a result, the government and ethnic armed groups agreed to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in 2015.
At the UPDJC meeting, Peace Commission’s secretary U Khin Zaw Oo said, “Peace Commission and Delegation for Political Negotiation (DPN) of United Nationalities Federation Council (UNFC) held a total of 18 meetings — nine formal meetings and nine informal meetings — within an 18-month period. Meetings were also held periodically with ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) who have not yet signed the NCA.
If I am asked whether other groups can sign the NCA in 2018, I will have to say yes. I can’t say which group, but there are many possibilities of more groups signing the NCA. We still have more than 10 months left, and we’ll negotiate to reach a consensus.
The UPDJC will start in the coming few days. Holding national-level political dialogues will be discussed. We will also continue to work with groups who are unable to hold national-level political dialogues. Once this part is done, the Union Peace Conference can be held.
An agreement formed
The recently signed version of the NCA, which consists of seven sections and thirty-three articles, has further strengthened the bond between the union government and the ethnic armed organisations. The crux of the NCA is that political differences will not be solved through military force, but with political dialogue, which will emerge as the norm for resolving issues. The EAOs have always been taking care of their respective regions’ development, and now the signatories will be cooperating to develop education, healthcare, society, economy, conserving the natural environment, conserving the language and culture of Myanmar’s ethnicities, upholding the rule of law in each region and combating drug trafficking throughout the country.
The State Counsellor said yesterday that she heard news of the people from the NCA signatories’ regions celebrated with joy upon hearing the news that the NCA was being signed. “This is a prominent change they are showing that they will not be treated as ruthless organisations anymore”, she said.
No longer astray
The Ministry of Home Affairs issued an announcement on 11 February that the New Mon State Party and Lahu Democratic Union have been removed from the list of unlawful organisations and that they are not terrorist organisations either. At the signing of the NCA, NMSP Chairperson Nai Htaw Mon promised that he will do his best to build a united federal state with both the signatories and non-signatories of the NCA.
The State Counsellor has said that there is no one right way of devising a federal system. It depends on the environment, history and needs of the country and its people. She said everyone in the country needs to discuss and plan together for the shared future. She said the country needs to be united in spirit, for only a united people can build a federal country, and to do that we need to build trust and understanding amongst ourselves first. “Which is why I heartily welcome and encourage the remaining ethnic armed groups to come join us in political dialogue and discussions,” she said.
In conclusion, the NCA is a step forward in achieving lasting peace, and our door is always open for our ethnic brothers and sisters who have yet to sign the NCA.
Win Ko Ko Aung and Zaw Htet Oo