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PEACE DEAL SIGNED — President extends olive branch to those who haven’t signed

KNU Chairman  Saw Mutu Sae Poe
KNU Chairman Saw Mutu Sae Poe
KNU/KNLA-PC Chairman Saw Htay Maung
RCSS/ SSA-S Chairman U Yawd Serk
ALP Vice Chairman
U Khaing Soe Naing Aung
PNLO Chairman U Khun Myint Tun
ABSDF Chairman Yebaw Than Ge
DKBA Chief of Staff Saw Lah Bwe
CNF Chairman U Pu Nang Lian Thang

THE GOVERNMENT and eight ethnic armed groups on Thursday signed a nationwide ceasefire agreement, which was witnessed by representatives from the European Union, the United Nations and diplomats.
In the 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 Sae 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 Serk.
Before the signing, President U Thein Sein delivered a speech, which went as follows:
“I extend my warm greetings to leaders of ethnic armed organisations; national and international witnesses; diplomatic corps; representatives of government, parliament, and Tatmadaw [army]; leaders of political parties; representatives of civil society and special guests gathered here at this Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) signing ceremony.
Today is a historic and significant day for Myanmar. The road to future peace in Myanmar is now open, he added.
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.
Since my government took office and initiated democratic reforms, we realised that the reforms would not succeed without peace. Therefore, we proposed ceasefire talks in August 2011. Over the next two years, the government concluded bilateral ceasefire agreements with 14 ethnic armed organisations. Agreements that led to significant de-escalation of armed conflicts in Kachin State were also signed.
However, sustainable and lasting peace in our country cannot be achieved by ceasefires alone. Political dialogue is required to address our deep-rooted issues. Furthermore, arrangements are needed to strengthen ceasefires during the period of political dialogue. We recognised that a peace process accepted by all major forces was required.
Therefore, there was a concerted effort to negotiate a broadly accepted Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). Although groups that were not recognised by the government took part in the negotiations, all sides participated in the effort to achieve a mutually acceptable outcome. Indeed, most of the provisions in the NCA are based on proposals made by the ethnic armed organisations in their negotiations with the government.
Because of the concerted endeavours, patience, good will, and sacrifice of representatives of the government, parliament, Tatmadaw and ethnic armed organisations, all parties reached agreement on the text of the NCA.
The government believes that it is more important to achieve an outcome that is accepted by all than the number of signatories. With the understanding that it is essential to leave a product of peace as a foundation for future generations, the government made the commitment to finalise the NCA.
Therefore, although some organistions are currently not ready to sign, the government decided to conclude the NCA with the vanguard group of organisations that were ready to proceed.
However we will continue with our efforts to bring the remaining organisations into the process. The door is open to them. Since the NCA is based on the terms that these organisations have negotiated and agreed to, the implementation of the NCA is in accordance with their intent. If requested by the remaining organisations, the government will coordinate and facilitate their participation in the various stages of the peace process.
The leaders of government and Ethnic Armed Groups who are signatories to the NCA should be proud of their accomplishments. However, history will judge the value of the NCA not by the number of signatories, but by how effectively the terms of the NCA are implemented.
Mutual trust will be built on the tangible progress of the implementation of the terms in the NCA. The participation of the remaining organisations also depends on how quickly the terms are realised.
The next steps in the peace process all look ahead. There is no turning back. Therefore, the NCA-based peace process will become the only path for achieving sustainable and lasting peace in the future new Myanmar. The NCA is a lasting heritage for future generations. For this reason, we included youths in our invitations to this ceremony, and we made our pledges in front of them.
According to government records for 2014-15, 10 percent of Myanmar’s population live in areas of direct conflict. Up to 40 percent of the population live in areas impacted by conflicts. As soon as the NCA is signed, and tasks under the terms of the agreement are implemented, 70 percent of those affected will begin to enjoy the fruits of peace within a short time.
To monitor de-escalation of fighting, the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee (JMC) will be formed. Once fighting stops, people living in conflict areas will be able to live their lives in peace and security.
As conditions improve, the government will be able to increase development work. Priority will also be given to international assistance and investments that benefits the people in the region.
Additionally, the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) will be formed to facilitate political dialogue, as provided in the NCA.
We have in our hands a significant achievement. The Ethnic Armed Organisations have assented to the Three Main National Causes of non-disintegration of the union, non-disintegration of national solidarity and perpetuation of national sovereignty. At the same time, the government has accepted the demands of the Ethnic Armed Organisations to establish a union based on the principles of democracy and federalism. This agreement paves the way for a future that previous successive governments in Myanmar have failed to secure. Our responsibility now is to implement the terms of the NCA to ensure our goals are realised. For all of us, the NCA is a legacy we leave for future generations.
From this day on, we share the responsibility of defining our future. We will together write history and share the historical burden of victory and defeat. The NCA we sign today represents the mutual trust between us, and a legacy for future generations. Furthermore, the agreement unequivocally shows our sincerity and good will.
In conclusion, on behalf of the government and the people of Myanmar, I wish to acknowledge and thank all those involved in the drafting, negotiations and signing of the NCA. I urge all to endeavour from this date of signing of the NCA until we have accomplished all the tasks. Let us together make this day a historic occasion.
Chairman of KNU Saw Mutu Saepo also delivered a speech.
He said: “The NCA is a new page in history and it is the product of brave and energetic negotiations. Moreover, the NCA was achieved due to unity and trust between the negotiators, a desire to compromise, collectively solve issues, and find answers to political issues through negotiations rather than force of arms.
More than just a ceasefire agreement, the NCA is the first step on the important road towards the establishment of a federal and democratic Union. I caution that we will face many challenges along the way.
We must all patiently and resolutely overcome these obstacles together.
Instead of only favouring one’s views, we must act in the spirit of mutual respect and national reconciliation to achieve positive outcomes for the peace process through an inclusive political dialogue.
Therefore, I call on all to banish the ills we have suffered as a result of armed conflict, and to unwaveringly lay the foundation for a democratic and federal Union.
U Aung Min and General Secretary of KNU Padoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win exchanged the NCA.
Following the signing ceremony, the government and armed ethnic groups held a meeting on the implementation of the NCA.
At the meeting, President U Thein Sein pledged the government would follow the points agreed in the NCA and held out the olive branch to those who have not yet signed the NCA.
The representatives from the government and eight armed ethic groups held a press conference after the meeting.
Following the signing of NCA, Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), Federal Democracy Alliance-FDA and Myanmar National Human Rights Commission issued their announcements, welcoming the NCA as a historic achievement of the country.
They all expressed hope that the remaining armed ethnic groups would sign the NCA as early as possible as part of efforts for building a union with a federal system.—MNA

President U Thein Sein (front row, C), government officials, ethnic armed groups and international witnesses pose for documentary photo after the signing ceremony of Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. Photo: MNA
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